As a little girl, I loved to play with dolls and pretend I was a mom. I would change their diapers, take them to the pool with me swimming, feed them and put them down for naps. I couldn’t wait to become a mom one day. It was truly all I wanted to be when I grew up.
Thirty-something years later, my dreams have come true … well … kind of. Motherhood and marriage aren’t nearly what I romanticized them to be. In many ways, it is much more rewarding than I could have expected, but other times, if I’m being honest, it’s far from it. When spending time at the pool, I realize I would much rather be in the sun with a good book than in the water swimming and spending time in the pool with the kids.
We grow up dreaming about what our lives will look like, yet sometimes it can feel as if the walls are closing in on us. The enchantment we envisioned begins to feel more like enchainment.
I’ve experienced this struggle firsthand, though it has looked different depending on the season of motherhood and life I am in.
These days not only do we carry the weight of raising respectful kids who hopefully follow the Lord, but as we scroll through our phones, we are also constantly reminded of all the areas we lack.
We let ourselves believe the lie that most other moms have it more together.
Their kids are constantly colored-coordinated, matching, their freezers stocked, their pantries organized and their houses beautifully balanced in a decorated, minimalistic way. Oh, and the laundry … they have oversized laundry rooms and systems to keep up with this never-ending chore. However, no matter how hard I try, my kids are frantically looking for clean socks every morning as I try to get them out the door for school.
It’s easy to take these failures personally as if we have failed. The reality is we all struggle sometimes, even if it doesn’t show on our Instagram feeds and reels.
When I first became a mom, I didn’t experience the flustered new mom cliche, so many women face. My firstborn came ten weeks early, after a week alone on bedrest while my husband was away in the Air Force. Instead waking n the middle of the night by a newborn cry, I had to set an alarm clock just to wake up and pump, hoping my milk would come in, as I called the NICU night shift nurses for updates on my baby.
Many moms struggle in the beginning years. For me, the first five years of motherhood felt like a blur. Instead, I struggled as our kids began to get older and our calendar overflowed with sports and school commitments.
We all struggle differently, and these days with more connections and community happening online than in our actual lives, it’s easier to hide.
Satan would love nothing more than to make us feel like we are failing as moms, and we need to look to encourage fellow mom friends who need this reminder too.
What to look for in a mom who may be struggling:
1. She withdraws.
She begins to distance herself from those she used to spend time with. As moms, our days don’t always go as planned. Maybe the kids woke up throughout the night, or someone peed their bed, creating more laundry than was already there.
There are many reasons a mom friend may have to cancel plans or a playdate. However, if this becomes frequent, or she is no longer showing up at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), Bible study or your usual get-togethers, she may be hurting.
When we find ourselves hurting, sometimes our knee-jerk reaction is to push those who are closest away. We need someone to pull us in. You can be that person for a mom who is struggling.
2. She is experiencing significant changes in her life.
Almost any time a mom walks through a significant change, she is a candidate for some kind of struggle – whether that be moving her family, a career change, a new baby or some other kind of loss.
My husband spent 11 years in the Air Force, and we moved often. I would have considered myself a pro. However, one of our moves wrecked me. I felt so overwhelmed, more so than in any other move. I was experiencing so much change at once because our daughter started kindergarten a week after we moved. After a decade of being a stay-at-home mom, I no longer knew what my days would look like.
Change can be challenging, even if it’s good. If you have a friend walking through a significant change right now, chances are she’s struggling, whether she shows it or not.
3. She is physically showing it.
Maybe you can see it in her eyes. Perhaps it’s in her facial expressions and her body language. We can only hide our hardships and struggles for so long. If someone feels like they have been treading water for too long, they can begin to feel like they are drowning.
I’ll never forget when a dear friend came over to visit a couple of months after the move I mentioned above. When she asked me how things were going, I threw up a jumbled tumbleweed of words describing every emotion I felt, while trying to fight back the tears. She could see the struggle surfacing in my eyes.
When you know your friend well and take the time to stop and ask her how she is doing, you may see it in her response physically.
So how do you help?
If you have a mom friend you believe is struggling, here are some things you can do:
- Drop by her house, and check in on her.
- Offer to babysit and give her a break.
- Bring a meal.
- Ask her how she is doing.
- Listen well.
- Pray, for her heart and her hurt.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 ESV).
Motherhood is beautiful and challenging. It is a gift and a tool that God uses to grow and bless us.
May we stop striving for perfection in this title we have been given and instead, let the reminders of areas we fall short in lead us to lean on Him more, inviting our mom friends to do the same.
Sarah Nichols is a writer who loves encouraging women by sharing hope-filled stories that point others to Jesus. She lives in Tucson, AZ, with her husband and four kids. You can find more from Sarah at http://sarahnicholswrites.com.