Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Invisible Mom

Sometimes I feel like I'm invisible to my children. Maybe I'm some kind of superhero with an invisibility cloak. That would explain why they ignore me when I'm telling them to clean up the socks they left in the middle of the living room. again. Why they ask me for advice on an assignment and then do the opposite of what I've suggested. Why the first words out of their mouth after school are "can I have someone over?" rather than "hi, Mom!"

I am certainly useful in their little lives--wiping up their messes, drying their tears, reading books to them, feeding them, taking them places, and buying them stuff. But I doubt they know my favorite kind of flower or care about what book I'm reading. It makes no difference to them that I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Wheaton College or at one time could write A-level papers on great works of literature. They don't ask about my day or think to offer to make me a snack.

It used to bother me, this invisibility. But now that I've given it some thought, I think that's the way things should be. If my children notice me, then probably I am drawing attention to myself rather than to the God I serve. When they think back on their childhood, I want my children to remember the happy memories I helped create, not my martyred look as I got up extra early to make cinnamon rolls and decorate the table. I want them to see a comfortable home, not a shrine to mom. I want their life purpose to be to love and serve God, not me.

Now, on some level I think it's appropriate to draw my children's attention to the service I do for them. It's not right for them to treat me--and later a spouse or friend--like a slave. Kids need to be taught to notice and say thank you when someone does something kind for them. But my overall goal should be to serve God by serving my children, not to do what I can to make myself feel loved and appreciated.

My mind is drawn once again to that email that circulated a few years ago about how mothers are building cathedrals. Just like the countless men who build the great cathedrals, our works--and sometimes we ourselves--are invisible, but we are building great monuments. Who knows whether one note tucked into a lunch box or one conversation on the way home from piano lessons will make all the difference in the lives of our children. The author writes,

"'No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.' At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my  life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride."

Jesus put it a different way: "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40). Every nose I wipe, every diaper I change, every late-night ride home from an activity, every load of laundry can be done as unto the Lord. Thinking about that infuses these mundane tasks with purpose. Jesus sees every thankless, boring, invisible task we do to serve others--and he is in the business of redeeming those things for his glory in our lives, in the lives of our children, and before a watching world.

Motherhood is, in many ways, a thankless task. And that's a good thing. 

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