Death of a Mother

I used to think that when I became a mother I would be in control of my mothering-life.

I’d be in control of my kids, of my temper, of my laundry. I’d be the organized mom, y’all (how hard could it be?). I’d be the patient one, the one with crafty activities and delightfully playful discipline that my children would respond to without hesitation.

Last night I put the kids to bed by myself again.

My husband’s job demands his time at random and unpredictable hours. He is a flight instructor, and since he flies small airplanes (4-seaters, generally) and is teaching students who are just learning to fly, he is at the mercy of the weather.

I often don’t know if he will be home for dinner that night until 3pm or so, and I certainly cannot predict what the days ahead will be like. This is the case six days out of the week – he books flights as much as possible those days so he has the greatest chance of making enough income to pay the bills (he only gets paid when he flies, plus a little for ground briefings).

Right now, his students are working on their night ratings. It gets dark from about 5pm onward at this time of year, so while I’m bouncing the fussy 5-month-old in the Ergo on my chest and accepting “help” from the 2 and 4-year-olds in making gluten-free pancakes from scratch, tapioca starch goes poof all over the counter and my laptop.

I frantically blow it off the “asdf” keys whilst watching my last shreds of patience wearing thin and slipping through my fingers, melting like butter in the sizzling cast-iron pan, heating on the stove.

It was a slow falling, beginning earlier in the day. Heck, it began the night I woke up with raging heartburn in my first pregnancy and wondered what in God’s name I’d done to myself.

(My death began that night. A slow dying to selfish self. Stinking, gritty inward-gazing self. I had kept up appearances well, and still do, but now that I’ve been provided with three separate-human-being mirrors that reflect me back to myself, I can see a little more clearly.)

I breathe. In and out. In and out.

Motherhood is my calling. Motherhood is my mission. Motherhood is harder than my pre-kid self could have possibly conceived. The dirty nature of my self-centered humanity comes to a gory and terrible clash of metal scraping metal and wrestling of natures as I nearly lose it on a sticky-faced toddler staring me down, decidedly her own person separate from the one who birthed her.

Here, life goes to slow-motion and the battle commences. Usually I am too tired, too rushed to notice. To even see that I am under attack, that I battle with my own self instead of the perceived pint-sized target.

Aghhhhhhhhh! I beat my chest with tarzan-esque gutteral frustration and the epic battle comes to a head. I choose now, right now. Another moment of cosmic significance, and here times stands still for a few seconds. In the midst of my strangled and primal cry I am thrashed about and slayed down in my surrender. Bleeding and defeated, I have chosen other, died to self. Gasping for breath, I have just barely managed to thrown off Anger and Impatience and I stand up naked and weak and heaving for breath, dripping with the sweat of effort, glory hallelujah to the Christ in me.

The Imago Dei in me rises above the fray and I am grateful. I’ve won a tiny battle that is but one of billions more and it seems like nothing but it is everything and I can’t breathe for the gratefulness that winds its way into my heart and nearly crushes me in the glowing aftermath.

No time for glorying in my victory now though, little teeth need brushed and poopy diapers changed and wet bath-time eyelashes admired. And the girl-child is gearing up for another round with her (perfectly appropriate) childishness.

I have come to a certain conclusion, and it is this: that in this motherhood gig, I am doing a terrible job. Except for when I am dying. I die to selfishness and I glory in selflessness and it’s all a glorious mystery of Christ in me and over me and through me. One moment’s victory is worth a hundred thousand more battles and worth dancing for and I sing and sway and stretch my arms out and weep, thankful for the One who rescues me from myself.

I am a mother.

I am a good mother.

Breathe. Breathe. Patience. Breathe.

Later when bellies are full and jammies are on and sleep is in sight, I sit right where we are in the hallway, and read Little Blue Truck while wiping drool from the teething baby’s chin. I announce that it’s bedtime, they tumble into my bed while I sit in the chair and nurse the baby in the dark.

They giggle and roll over and announce in very loud whispers that they are “firsty” and need a “dwink”, then the firstborn needs to pee, and the baby is distracted and I lose my shiz.

Sighs and whispered yelling give way to arghhhghh and STOP IT RIGHT NOW AND BE QUIET and finally I stop, I pause, I sigh. I deflate like a pinpricked balloon, and I begin to die again.

Another minute, another battle. Each time is a teeny-tiny bit easier, and I breathe deep, more oxygen into this heaving chest that beats with this wretchedly gory love.

I am a good mother.

I carry on in this glorious mystery.


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  1. Kate says

    I needed to read this today, I had a rough day yesterday with the 2 & 5 yr olds. It’s nice to know I’m not alone!!!

  2. Handsfull says

    I get this. Really get it. And the comment from your mom made me cry!
    My problem is that I take deep breaths and take deep breaths and take more deep breaths… and then lose the plot and the kids look at me and wonder why I was fine one minute and yelling the next! I’m trying to remember to give them some warning that I’m getting cross so they can – hopefully! – start behaving better and we can all carry on with our day. My littles are older than yours (9, 7, 5 and nearly 3) and sometimes more information is better, with them.
    Blessings in your -no doubt – continuing battles :)

  3. Ruth says

    I happened to stumble across your site today looking for healthy snack recipes – this was your first blog post I read – Wow! You have captured what motherhood means in the most beautiful and brutally honest way. Thank you for putting my feelings into words. “I carry on in this glorious mystery.”

  4. Jule says

    Exactly. The Holy Spirit is moving amongst us! Death unto self, egos being eradicated– as the only way we can be truly effective and beneficial mothers and wives. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about the past few days. And we’re due with baby #3 the first of the year. It’s great to read your post.

  5. Steph O. says

    Wow! Couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page from the first word. It filled me with tingles then brought me to tears. Oh how often I have lost that battle…but what my husband keeps reminding me is what you said, “I am a good mother,” and I cling to it. Although my husbands schedule isn’t so unpredictable, there is shift work involved. Just last month he was on a 2 week training course in Ontario. I praise God that I survived that one in one piece, and it was also a learning experience! I can’t imagine how you’re managing with a newborn in tow. God is good!

  6. says

    I love your honesty, as always. Thanks for sharing your heart.. i’ve been on the hunt for posts like this, when it feels like I’m the only failure around. It’s good to know that this feeling is not exclusive only to me, but felt by most, if not all, mothers. I love this community. xo

  7. Addy says

    I am pregnant… In the ‘Lord, what have I done to myself?’ phase aka morning/all-day sick as we speak… My selfish self is resisting death right now… Kind of feels like all of me might be dying, which scares me a bit… Okay a lot. Seems like the world tells us to not lose ourselves in the throws of motherhood, to hold onto our style, beauty, careers, sexiness, and whatever you do make sure you are still intact no matter what little people come into your life. I know that you are saying this is wrong… Guess we can’t say Paul didn’t warn us when he said marriage was hard, guess we can assume being a mother is a result of all that. Great post, makes me realize that I am fighting God to save my measly self instead of just letting him do what he wants. Thank You.

  8. says

    Beautifully stated. I’ve been there, done that with little ones. As the mother of a 11, 13 and 20 year old I can tell you that new battles lie ahead, but the lessons you are learning now will help prepare you for what is ahead. Remember to remember to breathe!

  9. says

    I feel like I need to bookmark this for myself for when I become a mother (which hopefully isn’t too far away now). It’s honest, and while most people only divulge all the good parts, these little moments of frustration and wondering and reflection are what will better prepare me, I think. It’s realistic. It’s true life. Thanks for sharing this!

    • says

      Lindsay, I’m so glad I didn’t freak you out with the scary parts of motherhood. It really is worth every second of “blood and gore”… Hoping right along with you for you to join this crazy ride for yourself. Thanks for visiting, xo. B

  10. says

    Beth…seriously the best post you’ve ever written… and I can relate to every part of it! You put into words what I’ve been thinking on motherhood lately. Love you!

    • says

      Wow, just.. wow. Thank-you for reading, for hearing my heart, for commenting with love. Thank-you! Love you too girl. Hope your day is peaceful.

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