Confession: When it comes to my children I have control issues.
It’s not that I think that other people aren’t capable of caring for my kids, it’s just that I want to be the one to do everything. And also, my way of doing things is far superior to that of others. This is a fact, just ask my husband…or not.
When Maggie was little and I was still teaching, my boss’s wife, Tristan, was generous enough to offer herself as a babysitter while I was working. It was a huge blessing and help to us, but I really did struggle with jealousy. I knew that Tristan was capable, I mean, she’s got five kids of her own and is pretty much one of the most phenomenal mothers I’ve had the privilege of seeing in action. It’s just that I wanted to be the one to take care of Maggie and I was completely paranoid that I’d miss something, a laugh, a step, a cough, something.
Meanwhile, I was teaching high school, coaching kids through English class, but more often coaching them through the chaos that is being a teenager. I spent many hours calming fears, explaining “why”, and talking through the tough stuff at the behest of parents who informed me that, “he/she’ll listen to you better than us.”
Eventually I realized that all kids need more mothers than the one they’re given at birth. I finally saw that Mags really would need more mothers than just one; more women than just me. When life wasn’t flexible enough to allow me to spend every waking moment with my baby, Tristan stepped in and mothered for me, just as I was mothering my students.
When I look back at my own life, I see many, many mothers. From my best friend’s mom who we called Polly Boss to my college mentors, Retta and Dorothy, I’ve been constantly surrounded by incredible women who took the time to invest in me, to mother me, even though I wasn’t technically “theirs”.
And all that time there was my mother. Patiently letting me figure it all out and gracefully letting others step in. I think that’s the real trick: being a good enough mother to accept the help of other women when schedules, jobs, snotty teenage attitudes, geography, whatever step into the picture. Because, like it or not, we can’t do it all.
Nobody will ever love my babies the way I love them. I’m the only one who nuzzled their soft heads in the middle of the night and I’m the only one who will know them in that deep, personal way. But I know good and well that relationships grow and change and evolve and that, at some point, I won’t be exactly what my children need. They’ll need the guidance, wisdom, and perspective that come from an outside point of view. And that’s okay.
It doesn’t make me any less of a mother to step aside and accept some help. Shoot, it probably makes me better. It’s okay for me to take a break. It’s okay to understand that I can’t and shouldn’t be my kids’ whole world their entire lives. It’s completely acceptable to understand that I cannot be everything to everyone all. the. time.
So, I pray for the grace not to be jealous or to feel left out and I pray that the right people come into my children’s paths so that they may be shaped into the women and men I know they have the potential to be. I pray that I might be open to the children put in my path, that I would have the ability to step in and love them and not overstep my bounds.
And I pray with great thanksgiving for the women who mother my kids right now. For my sweet neighbor, Connie, who is literally at this moment making scrambled eggs for my three-year-old so I can get some time to myself. For my dear friend, Melissa, who steps into the role of mom like a champ, so much so that there’s not even a ripple in the pool when she’s around, I just feel the relief of a second set of hands and a kindred spirit. For my sweet sister-in-law, Lauren who loves my girls in a beautiful quiet way, and loves them enough to speak up when discipline is needed. For my mother-in-law and my own mother who simultaneously mother my kids and me, up close and from a distance, neither of which is easy.
And I’m so, so grateful for the women who shaped my life, who taught me what it truly means to serve others, to stand up for truth, to work hard, to be feminine in a really badass kind of way.
So, on Mother’s Day, I’m always humbled by the fact that I’ve been chosen to be the mama to three incredible gifts. But I’m even more humbled by the gift of other women around me who I know will leave their mark, who will pick up where I leave off, and who will be the hands and feet of Christ to my kids, a gift I know I’ll never be able to repay.