Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Technically, it was my eighth Mother’s Day if you consider my very first Mother’s Day the one that happened in 2009 when I was pregnant with my oldest. It was my fourth Mother’s Day since I met my husband and my second since I married him. This was my first Mother’s Day, however, that I was the mother to his biological child. My kids are 6 and 3 months. Their presents and thanks to me for being their mom are mostly school projects and extra hugs and giggles. And what more could a mom want or need from her little ones, right? But what about their dad?
A few days ago, I wrote on my own struggle with comparison. I’d be lying if I said the battle was over and I had it all figured out. On the contrary, it’s still a very real battle for me, personally, and yesterday, I was hitting the comparison thing, and I was hitting it HARD.
Both my husband and I have living mothers, and I actually have two because my dad remarried many years ago and my step mom is very much a mother to me. Aside from that, my husband has stepped up to take over a position at church that is very demanding of his Sunday mornings (and truly, I’m so proud of him for doing it and I love that he’s so involved). With his church schedule, we had to be out the door super early with both kids, to have him there in time for set up, and then we had to stay late for tear down (our church meets in a middle school so it’s a lot more work in that regard). After that, we only had enough time to visit with his mom and mine – my step mom so graciously agreed to be celebrated belatedly. We left the house before dawn and we got home late. After the kids were put down, my husband stayed up for a while with our dog who had been home penned up all day by himself and I went to bed, exhausted from a busy day. Before I fell asleep, I checked Facebook. I opened it to see countless photos of moms and their babies, Mother’s Day presents, and so many posts by husbands praising their wives.
As I lay down last night though, and my head hit my pillow, it occurred to me that not once, from the moment we got up until then did my husband utter the words, “Happy Mother’s Day” to me. We’re currently trying to buy a house and we’re trying to be careful with our money, so it’s not that I expected presents, and with such a busy day, I definitely didn’t expect any grand gesture of any kind, but not so much as a “Happy Mother’s Day” really hurt, especially in light of all the bragging so many people did on Facebook.
I felt so sub-par. I felt like a bad wife and a bad mom because I wasn’t recognized or hailed in any high regard. But then, I knew that wasn’t it because my sister had honored me on Instagram and a friend of mine posted on my Facebook this really beautiful thank you for what a good friend I’d been lately, and what a great mom he thought I was because of it, but the man I married, the man I created a little life with didn’t even wish me a happy day.
In my own head I was raging. I wasn’t mad that my husband worked for our church, or that we had moms to celebrate. I was mad that he didn’t even acknowledge that I mother our kids. I was mad that he didn’t recognize how hard I work to parent, the time I invest trying to be a better one every day, and the things I sacrifice so that they have clean dishes to eat off of, clean clothes to wear, and a tidy house to do it all in. I was mad I’m a working mom against my own will and it didn’t cross his mind that I might want to hear a ‘thank you’ for it.
He’s the one who sees me and sits with me in the trenches of parenting, my comrade of sorts, and I wanted to know he thought I was doing a good job. Or to at least hear that he knew I was doing it at all.
I wanted to scream and yell at him. I wanted to let the feeling simmer until Father’s Day and pretend he didn’t even exist the whole day. Then I wanted to bury my feelings because I knew they were wrong, but I didn’t want to deal with them either. So I went back to what started the whole thing in the first place: Facebook.
But what’s funny is that the Lord met me there. I get notifications whenever someone posts in this group page for Christians like me who have postpartum issues, like depression. And I’m paraphrasing, but one mom posted about really struggling because she felt so unappreciated but that she’d had a great experience with God at church that morning that took her focus off of herself and projected it back to the Cross. People had expressed so much gratitude in prayer for Godly women raising the next Godly generation. She encouraged each of us that, even if we feel like we’re working in vain sometimes, and feeling undervalued by our families in anyway, to remember that God sees our hard work and rewards those who labor humbly.
The greatest among you shall be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12 NIV).
In my desire for recognition for my husband, I really had exalted myself to be renowned as this wonderful wife and mother, and when it didn’t come, I was so let down and disappointed, but really, it was the grace of God. It was His way of humbling my proud heart. It pushed me to confront the real issue: me, and to look to Him.
And once I did, He so lovingly encouraged me. Just re-read that scripture, unthanked mothers and wives: “the greatest among you shall be your servant.” If you find yourself as the servant of your family, know that you are, by God’s great design, the greatest among your family.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4 NIV).
Jesus also says to those that are persecuted for His sake – not that I was persecuted, but I certainly wasn’t praised for my service, so there’s the application here – Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. (Matthew 5:12a NLT).
What we do in secret, in the quiet moments for our families – every dish washed, every meal cooked, every folded t-shirt that goes unnoticed by our husbands or children is noted by our God in heaven. He sees and He’s prepared to reward you for that.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart is also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV).
Oh, how I had put so much stock in myself! Oh, how I had made myself so much more important that I ought! Oh, how I had put too many eggs in the earthly life basket!
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourself by the faith God has given us. (Romans 12:3 NLT)
The truth is that I am not a perfect mother, nor am I a perfect wife. I love them and I’d give anything for them, but I’m not perfect.
The truth is: my husband honors me constantly.
He shows his confidence in my mothering by working so hard to hit bonuses and taking overtime to make me a stay-at-home-mom to our kids.
He displays his appreciation of my hard work by defending my right to take an uninterrupted shower or letting me spend a day at Cedar Point Amusement Park with my best friend.
His gestures are being willing to make bottles, throw away diapers, and check closets for monsters when I just don’t feel like getting up.
He affirms me as his wife in that he is quick to say ‘I love you,’ ‘Please forgive me,’ and ‘You’re beautiful.’
He’s imperfect but gentle, gracious, supportive, loyal, creative, hard working, encouraging, and unconditionally loving.
If I’m being totally honest, the best Mother’s Day gift I ever could receive is to raise my kids with a man like him.
For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did not receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:7 NIV)
In my selfishness and pride, I compared my husband to those of other woman and it made me forget what a gift and blessing he really is. I started to look at things like Mother’s Day and what real love looks like in the way that the world does, rather than what the Lord really values which is a loving and humble servant.
But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man see, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ (1 Samuel 16:7 NASB)
I pray that the Lord and my husband would forgive me. No doubt my heart was an ugly place last night thinking about all the ways I imagined being slighted by this amazing husband of mine. Sure, he forgot one little phrase, but does that phrase really matter in the grand scheme of the way he loves me? He’s called to love me like Christ loves the Church, and I imagine that when Christ walked the earth in flesh and bones, He didn’t always say exactly what people wanted to hear. I know that His love and His way of establishing the Kingdom wasn’t what people thought it should look like, but ultimately it was perfect. And in that way, I can’t imagine a more suitable love from my husband. He loves me in all the way that it really matters, but not always like the world tells me he should.
So, honey, if you’re reading this, I love you and am immensely grateful for you. I have the utmost respect for what you do for me, and our family, and I am honored to be your helpmate. Please continue to forgive me of my pride.
And sisters, mom-friends, if you’re feeling unappreciated, please find the encouragement I hope to share by sharing this testimony here: God first. Realign your heart and give it back over to Him. Allow Him to humble you, it hurts but only because your heart will swell with gratitude and joy. He will show you all the ways you have been SO blessed and are so favored, both in the gift that is Jesus alone, but also, in the family He provided you with here on earth. Much love to you, and in case anyone forgot to say it to you, too: Happy Mother’s Day.