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“Just a Mom?”

By Tammy Darling

A while back a good friend confided in me that she was struggling with being “just a mom.” I knew exactly what she was talking about.

Our circumstances were vastly different; she was a young mom with four children close in age, one of whom had special needs, and I was a decade-plus older with five children spread out in age, one of whom was internationally adopted.

My struggle with being “just a mom” started early in the parenting adventure. How could it be that I was a wife, homeschool teacher, and freelance writer and yet I still felt like I was “just” a mom?

I believe the reason is that “momming” is all-consuming. It’s a 24/7 deal. Even with a break, I’m still Mom-on-duty, and being a mom tends to overshadow all else.

There were days when I found myself struggling to put a decent dinner on the table and take a shower in the same day. When fishing toys out of the toilet or picking peas out of ears, “well-behaved toddler” is an oxymoron. Life gets real in the Parenthood.

One day, I arrived home with two of my middle-school-aged children and a “concerned neighbor” was calling my number the moment we walked in the door of our veryrural home. This woman’s house (or anyone else’s) is not even able to be seen from our 62-acre home, and yet she wanted to know if I was okay and if I wanted her to call the police. Apparently, she was hearing someone screaming and thought I needed help but was afraid to say so. No one else was home, and I literally just pulled up our quarter-mile driveway.

My kids might be loud sometimes, but they’re not that loud. I may even want to scream occasionally, but not at that moment, no matter how cringe-worthy the situation. I seriously just wanted to get the groceries in the house before the ice cream melted. I certainly was in no danger, but it took some convincing to assure this neighbor that I was perfectly fine and no, the police did not need to be called.

Try explaining that conversation to the kids and husband. Geez.

So, when my kids got a bit farther up on the parenting spectrum and they were pre-teens and teens, I was even more ready to scream. But I didn’t, lest any neighbor hear me and call the cops without asking first. Or my husband and children have me committed. Whichever would come first.

Intrinsically, I know that motherhood is a noble calling, and yet I so often feel lacking, less than, incompetent, and unqualified. That, and so much more. Sigh.

I long for a clean house, a clean car, and clean kids—and not necessarily in that order. Clean anything feels like a dream of a dream, a distant memory that I just can’t grasp a hold of.

Some days I wonder, do my children ever truly hear or take to heart anything I say? Am I making a difference in their lives at all? Am I just wasting my time, energy, and sanity?

Break up a sibling squabble. Discuss the issue. Administer discipline. Repeat as needed—and it will be needed. On and on it goes, day after day, year after year.

This right here is why I think so many mommies believe they’re “just a mom.”

And still, there are days when I wonder if anything I say matters. (It does). I worry that I’m raising the next prodigal son. (Maybe, but he can still return to his senses). I hope there’s more to life than just mommying. (There is, it’s a matter of perspective).

I must be honest, even on their worst day—and mine—I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything in the world or even the world itself. I would not, however, be opposed to swapping for a day or two. Just saying.

All kidding aside, my kids are true gifts; sometimes I just lose sight of that fact. I mean, why else would I receive a rock for Mother’s Day? Yes, I truly did. “Mommy, it’s so beautiful. Just like you.” Just a mom? I don’t think so. That’s priceless stuff, right there.

The fact that my idea of the perfect meal is one I didn’t cook doesn’t make me a bad mom. There are moments when I feel invisible; some days I wish I were. But my children love me, and I love them. For the first five years of their life, I couldn’t even go to the bathroom by myself; that’s how much my children love me.

The problem with labeling myself “just a mom” is that a label doesn’t define who I really am. In an age where value and worth are determined by how many social media “friends” I have, being a mom seems so common, so ordinary. But truly, I know better.

I may not have a college degree, but I have plenty of experience in kissing boo-boos and making them all better. I refuse to let the world define success for me.

The fact that I don’t check off every item on my daily to-do list isn’t going to affect the world’s equilibrium or prevent my children from becoming what they’re destined to become. Those other moms that seem to have it all together? It’s an illusion. People wear masks and portray what they want others to see. What a blessing it would be if moms everywhere took off the masks and would just be real, openly sharing parenting struggles and encouraging one another.

When I look in the mirror, I see a mom who doesn’t have it all together. During these mirror moments I take the opportunity to tell myself what I told my friend: “You are not ‘just’ a mom. You are so much more.” And then, I receive it. I believe it. I repeat it as often as necessary.

I cannot imagine a life where my children do not exist. Just a mom? I don’t think so.

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