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It’s Time to Bench Supermom

Supermom of the highest order.

That’s what most of the woman’s friends called her. The queen of containers, laminated instructions and over-the-top family management, she could seemingly do everything that her busy family required with great organization and the ever-intimidating ease of a Martha Stewart look-alike. In addition to a full-time job directing the local preschool, chairing several prominent committees and shuffling her children to gymnastics and soccer, she was an outstanding cook, had regular date nights with her husband and still had time to send thoughtful notes to her friends.

End of story, right? One amazing mother holds her life together with skill and finesse.

Not exactly.

I met the woman in a hotel lobby one night after a conference. She wanted to speak to me privately, so we huddled together at the end of a long table in a conference room. It was there, safely behind closed doors, that this all-together woman let herself fall apart.

"I didn’t want anyone else to see me like this," she whispered. "I cry so rarely."

The tears fell, and I held her hand until she found her words.

"Tonight when you began describing your years as a supermom wannabe, I thought, Hey, I could be friends with this woman. We speak the same language. We want the same things for our families. I am a supermom, and I run my home like a CEO manages a corporation. But the truth is that I stress out my husband and my children. I have been able to keep all the plates spinning, but I’m tired. I’m not sure it’s worth it. I am realizing that my soul has been empty for a very long time."

The woman continued, "When you began to question the condition of our souls and the priorities of our hearts, I felt a lump rise in my throat. When you talked about your spirit being lulled to sleep in motherhood, I felt like you were talking to me. I’m not sure, but I think the Spirit of God is nudging my soul, and I am beginning to wake up."

She was waking up, indeed. I knew because what was happening to her had happened to me a few years earlier.

Nodding-Off Spiritually

There was no particular reason that my soul fell asleep, and yet there was every reason. I had lived most of my life as a spiritually enthusiastic woman who desired the holiness and passion of God. And then I had four children in seven years. Four amazing blessings. Four people I adore. Four inquisitive needy little squirts who wanted hot meals, clean clothes and answers to a million questions every day. Not necessarily earth-shattering questions, just ones like:

"Will you braid my hair?"

"Can I have a snack?"

"Who took my crayon box?"

"Where are my shoes?"

"Can Haley spend the night?"

"Can Tyler spend the night?"

"What’s for dinner?"

"How do you spell February?"

"Do I have to wear a coat?"

"Can I have another snack?"

Anyway, in the midst of unloading the dishwasher, matching a hundred white socks every week and giving more explanations than required by legal counsel in a deposition, somewhere my soul fell fast asleep. It happened so slowly that I didn’t even know I had been tranquilized by the joys and the monotony of motherhood.

The blur of my real life with a husband, children, school and church had come roaring in like a major league fastball. I had proudly stepped into the batter’s box wearing a brand new uniform with SUPERMOM on my back. I may have been a little unsure about which way to run, but I was determined to knock the ball out of the park. I was intent on doing whatever necessary to be a great mom. I would show those other women a thing or two about packing diaper bags and making cupcakes for 50. I thought I could be the room mom, the bleacher mom and the family-manager mom. And some days I really could.

But stress and deep anxiety filled most of my days. I was shackled to my commitments and a mom image that always seemed to elude me. I let my children become overinvolved and modeled for them the fine art of overdoing. Have you ever seen the T-shirt that reads, Stress is when your gut says no but your mouth says, "Of course, I’d be glad to."? I should have bought that one. My to-do list was in control of my days and my to-be list had gotten lost in the pile.

Fast forward several years. The Supermom uniform is ripping at the seams and stained from all those efforts to slide across the plate. I don’t swing at the ball with quite the same gusto. I strike out a lot, and I’m bruised from stepping into the curveballs. No one is in the stands cheering, "Come on, Mom, you can do it! Put a little power to it!"

I wanted to knock the ball out of the park, but someone kept moving the fence. It was always a little farther than I could hit. I began to question my life and my purpose. I don’t ever seem to measure up as a mother; maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. I am trying so hard but feeling so lonely, so inadequate, so hollow.

My body was weary, my spirit frazzled. My soul had become empty and sleepy and finally began to snore. You know how it is with snoring. Everyone else knows that you snore long before you’re convinced. When I’m in a full-blown, dead-to-the-world snore, my husband has to give me a gentle nudge, wake me up and tell me to turn the other way. God does a similar thing when He calls to our souls.

The Brutal Math

Mothering requires everything. But eventually, everything given plus little replenished equals desperately empty. I held the empty cup of my soul out to my husband and begged him to fill it. I held out my cup to a bigger house and a minivan. But only Jesus could fill my soul. I tried my children and my girlfriends, but again, they could not fill the place designed by God for Himself.

Then I came to a day like the above-mentioned supermom, a waking-up day. After I had failed at filling my own emptiness, the Lord came in His tender mercy, gently nudged my soul and called me back to Himself. As I began to wake up, He adjusted the gaze of my heart. I had been looking so intently at myself and at my family, but my Father lifted the eyes of my soul and let me see Him afresh. He invited me to rest in His great love. And there, in the gentle embrace of God, the Good Shepherd restored my soul. He made me lie down in the peaceful pastures of His provision. He made me thirst after His righteousness. He filled the cup of my soul until it overflowed.

God took one worn out woman who lived in the land of Supermom and graciously loved her back into the land of the living.

In John 15:4 Jesus says, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." There they are—three little words that I had slept through. Three words with the power to fill my soul, to take me by the hand and lead me toward great mothering: "Remain in me." I had been mistaken. I thought that the goal of motherhood was to be a Supermom. But in fact, the goal of mothering is to be a woman of God to your children. A woman of God is intimately connected to her Savior. A woman of God can love and give from the overflowing cup God has filled.

Dear Mom,

My sister in the pursuit of quick meals and clean laundry,

My co-laborer in raising good kids who grow up to love Jesus,

Let us not become weary or distracted in the care of our souls.

This is the one thing that really matters. Wake up and rub the sleep from your eyes. We will not know the life God has intended apart from a passionate pursuit of Christ. We function poorly apart from His power. Let Him bring the patience that you lack. Let Him carry what you struggle to bear. Let Him fashion you into a mother of virtue.

Hear the tender mercy of Jesus calling you to come and remain in Him.

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This article appeared in the May 2001 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2001 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Next in this Series: Where Is God in the Midst of All My Troubles?