The Bond and Burden of Motherhood
This week on Rooted Parent we celebrate mothers! Rooted Parent will share three articles from three mothers who are well acquainted with the “joy and pain, sunshine and rain” of being a mom. (Yes, we just quoted Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock.) We hope you will be blessed in remembering that Jesus sees you and understands you as you love and labor over your children.
After applying to a couple of graduate programs last summer, I felt like a high school senior again, waiting for the mailman each day in hopes of an acceptance letter. So, on the day I discovered an envelope with the return address from one of the schools I applied, I ripped into it, ready to post for the world to see, “Congratulations, you’ve been accepted.” Instead I was met with, “We don’t feel like you are a fit for this program.”
Immediately my mind raced back to my Skype interview. I had not been nervous; as a pastor’s wife I’ve “counseled” for years and as parents of three young adult and teen children we’ve dealt with our share of issues. But after the call I told my husband that I didn’t think my happy childhood, coupled with the facts my parents are still married and I haven’t known a day without Jesus, were the blessings they are in this context. Instead I felt dismissed as unable to identify with future clients in their struggles. Even after sharing how the agonizing effects of my daughter’s eating disorder and depression prompted my desire to become a counselor, my experience was diminished by the interviewer’s response: “I want to know about your trials, not your daughter’s.”
Perhaps this woman was not a mother. Personally, I don’t know a mother who does not feel every bit of the pain her children experience. Whether our children’s trials are big or small, a result of their own sin and rebellion or someone else’s, they take a toll on mom. Therefore, despite my lack of personal trauma, I’ve had plenty of burdens to bear. In the process I have discovered that in my children’s trials, God has also had my sanctification in mind.
For in their suffering, God has led me to deeper dependence on Him. He has uncovered my desire for control and my tendency to operate out of my own strength. He has grown me in compassion, taught me more about entering in to others’ pain, along with what’s not helpful to say or do when someone is struggling. Bearing the emotional weight of my children’s pain has narrowed my focus, drawing my eyes off myself and the things of this world. Walking alongside my children in their dark days has also served to strengthen my relationships with them.
But in the depth of those days, particularly in my daughter’s struggles, I felt isolated, misunderstood, scared and alone. There was never a time that her pain was not in the back of my mind, often keeping me up at night. Her trial was my trial.
Interestingly, in my human development class (yes, my aforementioned rejection led me to just the counseling program God had for me) I came across the biological evidence for what I felt in my soul. The emotional connection between a mother and child begins in utero as early as ten weeks. By six months the unborn baby experiences the mother’s emotions. After birth the baby takes his/her emotional cues from the mother in what is called social referencing.
As for the mother, research also shows that cells from her child live in a mother’s brain. This is the reason for what we call a “mother’s intuition.” Biological mothers actually have part of their baby’s DNA inside them, forever. What’s more, mothers who did not physically birth their children experience elevated oxytocin, the hormone associated with attachment, when bonding with their child, and therefore gain this interrelated connection!
Is it any wonder then that we mothers so deeply feel the hurts of our children when God knit us to them?
Because this is true, we mothers gain a fuller picture of what life was like for Jesus on this earth. He came to bear the weight of all the sin for all God’s children. Can you imagine what he must have felt bearing such burden? No wonder he was called “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief…” (Isaiah 53:3).
As our burden bearer who lived on earth, Jesus understands what it’s like for us. He faced all that we face so that he can enter in to all of our emotions with us. He knows what’s it like to feel alone, to be overwhelmed, and to be misunderstood. Therefore, others may not know the extent and the pain of the burdens we bear as moms, but God knows, and God sees.
The depth of his understanding though goes even beyond experiential knowledge. In the same way we mothers are marked with the very fibers of our children, God’s DNA is woven into us. In our mother’s wombs God formed us in his image, leaving on our souls his indelible stamp. Those who call him Father were marked before the beginning of time.
As his children, there is never a time that his thoughts are not on us, that he doesn’t feel what we are going through. To an even greater extent than a nursing mother does not neglect her child, he will not forget us. “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:15-16).
But God did neglect his child in order to make us his. And now his son Jesus is our guarantee that we don’t have to bear our suffering alone, and our hope that one day all our tears will be wiped away, and there will be no more suffering or pain. (Revelation 21:4)
Until then he says to us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Be sure to revisit the blog on Wednesday and Friday for more encouragement for moms.