When I was growing up, my favorite Halloween costume was Super Girl. It was the first and only time that my very practical mother ever let me have a store-bought costume. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends that I would not be going as a gypsy (draped in scarves and grandmother’s vintage jewelry), a business woman (Working Girl, anyone?) or a princess in a flower girl dress from one of my many aunts’ weddings. I was thrilled that this year I wouldn’t have to wear my raincoat over my costume (rainy Oregon) because the entire full-body suit was made of plastic. But even more exciting for me was the mask. It was wonderful; with blonde, perfectly-styled, molded plastic hair, a porcelain face and a make-up job complete with ruby red lips. For the first time in my life I felt beautiful. But more than that, when I wore the mask, I could be someone different. It made everything perfect on the outside while hiding the real, flawed person underneath.
As I grew up, I realized that I could wear masks in real life, too. I became a pleaser, ready to do anything for anyone to win approval. I was perpetually sunny; the girl who was friendly and fun, but not close to any one person. A girl that held a lot of secrets and a lot of scars deep within. I learned to never reveal too much about myself, because that would give someone power over me and even worse, I worried that once someone knew what I was really like, they would be disappointed. And the fear of rejection was unbearable.
So I developed and wore many masks over the years. Masks I thought people wanted to see. I had a well-behaved daughter mask, an upstanding Christian girl mask, and as I grew into adulthood, I put on a corporate business manager mask and eventually, loving wife and doting mother masks.
It was exhausting keeping up every facade, especially when the person hiding behind all the masks was so broken from the years of pretending and keeping secrets. For most of my life, I had hid from my family the fact that I was sexual assaulted on two separate occasions; once when I was six and another at sixteen. Because of those, I feared true intimacy of any kind and went into a marriage where I never expressed what I was thinking or feeling. Yelling or even raised voices were traumatic for me and I developed a strong aversion to nagging or bickering. In my effort to please everyone around me, I lost myself and my own desires for the future, taking on everybody’s hopes and dreams as my own. I felt guilty when plans didn’t work out the way my friends or husband wanted them to; that it was my fault for not being able to please everyone.
When I was young, I had never considered having children. My own childhood was filled with pain, guilt and a load of responsibilities caring for my younger siblings and endless chores around the house while my parents worked full-time. I wanted to study music and perform, but when that dream died, I was lost. What was next for me? I thought God provided an answer when I met a man; so six months later we were married and I convinced myself that the new dream was to be a good, Christian wife, making and raising good Christian babies and baking cookies.
Unfortunately, the motherhood mask was the hardest one for me to wear. After five years of wandering in the infertility desert and all that comes with it, getting pregnant was the Promised Land. Or so I thought. Pregnancy actually ended up being one of the hardest experiences of my life at that time. Inwardly, I loathed every moment of it, but on the outside, I forced myself to be sentimental and “glow” like many of my friends had during their pregnancies.
When my son was born, I was secretly thrilled that my doctor told me he would be my only natural child. But three years later, I was devastated to learn that my month-long ‘flu’ would not be cured with antibiotics. At the time, I could barely keep up with my strong-willed, ridiculously active and verbal toddler, how on earth could I handle another one just like him? After a second high-risk pregnancy, ending with ten weeks of prescribed bed rest (impossible with a three-year old boy); I was relieved to deliver a nearly full-term baby girl. The doctor and I both agreed that I should never do that again.
For the next several years, I juggled raising two children, working a stressful sixty-hour a week job all while dealing with a husband who was becoming more and more detached from reality. Keeping my super-Christian mask in place was becoming too much and I knew that something had to give. I never anticipated it would come from another brutal sexual assault which would result in a complete mental breakdown and subsequent hospital stay.
My marriage, already badly suffering, could not survive the posttraumatic stress and eventually fell apart. The relationship with my parents became strained, and I could no longer be the cold-hearted executive at work anymore, so I ended up moving several hundred miles away, back to a place that I felt safe with just my children and me on our own.
After that, keeping up with all of the masks became impossible and I finally began to let some go. My motherhood mask was replaced by a new and much heavier one, single motherhood. Surviving each day as a child of God, saved by grace, became much simpler and more real than I ever thought I would allow. I don’t miss the married mask, but I sometimes long for something to hide behind when I walk in the church door without a husband and it’s obvious that life has gone awry for me. Showing even that much vulnerability is still something I struggle with.
I hate how much pain my personal agony has caused my children. They don’t know and couldn’t possibly understand what I struggle with daily, but it’s all I can do to try to keep things going and keep the mommy mask in place. I love my children with all of my heart, but I don’t love motherhood. I despise the never-ending monotony of chores and most nights I just want to go to sleep without my hands smelling like poop or bleach.
Both of my children have emotional delays and if I were really being honest, I think they would thrive and soar if someone else was their mother. A better mother would make sure that they get the structure and help they need. I’ve met so many amazing women that are unable to have children of their own or others whose kids cannot walk or breathe without help. And many who have lost their children entirely. I am awed by their strength and courage. But what I struggle with is why God didn’t give my angels to one of them?
I know that God has a plan for us and I hope that His grace and love continues to be sufficient so I don’t have to feel like I need to wear masks for the rest of my life. Perhaps one day He will allow me to forgive myself and help release the crippling guilt I feel every day about the choices that I’ve made. Sometimes seemingly small things have had big impacts and I find myself getting stuck playing the “if only” game. However, I know that is not healthy and I’m working on it. Finally, I hope and pray that my children will grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults and only remember the fun times I’ve tried to create on the days when mommy was not too exhausted to wear her cool-party-mom mask.
The author to this story prefers to remain anonymous, but I think she presents a wonderful opportunity to talk about the not-so-joyful parts of motherhood and, frankly, just personhood. It’s okay to own not loving motherhood. It’s okay to say you don’t always like your children. And it’s okay if you, as a woman, don’t even feel called to be a mother. We all have scars and ugliness that we would rather put a mask over than open ourselves up to the possibility of more hurt.
There is no judgment or condemnation here; just support, love and prayers. And hopefully, there is also healing. Healing in sharing our stories, our confessions. Healing in feeling camaraderie with others who’ve been there before or are there right now, too. And the strength to move forward toward a healthier future. And maybe, just maybe, some day we can all be released from the fear and bondage of wearing our masks.
Can you relate to this mother? Are there sometimes when you don’t enjoy motherhood? Do you put on masks to protect yourself as well?
Sarah @ The Gospel at Home says
Gosh, I wish I could just hug this woman and speak grace into her heart. If I could, I would say to her exactly what she needs to hear to help her be released from the guilt and condemnation she carries with her. I’ve been there. All I can do is to encourage her to continually go back to the Gospel – the truth that, when we trust in Christ, God completely and utterly forgives us our sin. She is forgiven. She is free. God does not condemn her. When we forget the truth of the Gospel, we keep ourselves locked in our own prisons and we keep Christ on the cross. I will pray for this woman and hope other women can encourage her with their comments. You’re doing the best job you can and God chose YOU to be your children’s mother – that was no mistake.
Amen! Thank you, Sarah! I hope she reads your encouraging words today
Laura Connell says
Jesus, bore your guilt on the cross so you don’t have to carry it around anymore. I hope you will embrace that truth and lay your child rearing at the foot of the cross – both for your sake and your children’s. I can relate to a few of your struggles. I’m also a single, divorced mom who has overcome abuse and addiction. My struggles are daily and my children are unaware of most of them. I give all glory to God that my children have recovered beautifully from all they have been through – and yours will too, only if you give it all over to Jesus. He is the Healer, Redeemer, Provider and Protector.
My mentor tells me to remember Roman’s 12:1 and it is my mantra when it comes to motherhood. Love is sacrifice. One of the greatest gifts I think I’ve given my children (and again all glory goes to God) is that life is NOT about being entertained. Life is about serving others and being a good steward of the sometimes limited resources we have been given. We look for free things to do and just being still is a huge gift in our society. Please know that not only are your children not being hurt by a lack of material things, they are being helped.
Thank you, Laura, for these encouraging words! I hope and pray that they are heard by this anonymous woman. Bless you!
Aimee Imbeau says
Stories like this break my heart. And reminds me so much of my own story. Luke 19:10 says “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The Greek word for lost mean the ruined, devastated, broken beyond repair. My sister, you are who He came for – to restore you and redeem you. He is the only One who can repair you. In Luke 4, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah. Jesus claims to have come to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. This is for you, my dear sister. He came to fix what you have been through. You no longer need to wear any masks.
With love from a redeemed mask-wearer, people-pleaser, survivor of sexual abuse, wounded beyond repair, broken child of God. There is Hope.
Thank you for your powerful words! I hope she reads them!
What an honest, heart-wrenching confession. I am a relatively new step-mom, after years of singleness and a disease that left me infertile. I found other ways to mother, but knew I would never be a mother myself. Being a step-mother was a dream-come-true in some ways, and the most difficult sacrifice I have ever made in other ways. I know my story is different that this author, but there’s a core to her pain that I connect with and ache over. Thank you for sharing this story.
Wow, what a story you must have! Thank you for stopping by M2M and letting her know she is not alone. Blessings to you!
Hazel Moon says
Even through the attacks, Jesus was there saying, “It was NOT your fault,” and although he was not able to stop it, he was there to tell you of His True love and acceptance. We tend to think life should be happy and full of excitement and never a problem, but the truth is “Stuff happens.” The healing of the emotions usually takes a Biblical counselor and time to reach a safe place. Thank you for sharing your lovely post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.” http://letmetelluastory.blogspot.com/
Wow. I can relate to much of this article although I am one of those mothers who was not blessed with natural children. My parenting of my adopted daughter has taught me that no one gets their child on accident. God has a purpose for why each child is given to each parent. My daughter is absolutely helping me understand my relationship to God and I think I’m the perfect parent for her because we are so much alike.
I think we all wear masks. And God tries to tell us to take them off. He doesn’t see them anyway. Just be the real you, for God’s strength is made more perfect in our weakness. Let God boast in His healing of your heart. Let the world see the real work He is doing in your heart. It will be a beautiful work. http://heavennotharvard.com
Amen! Thank you for dropping by M2M and your words of truth for this anonymous mother!
thanks for linking up with us. I love that you put yourself out there and shared your story. I think we all have our moments and go through these things and want to hide and just put on that fake smile and sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. Sharing this story is a huge step. Thank you!!
Rocio Chavez says
Great description of what so many go through – especially when we become parents – feeling responsible for other’s lives, but some of the burden can be removed when you really delve into Dr. Wayne Dyer’s theory that children choose their parents because they are the perfect ones to teach them the life lessons they’ll need. Although hard, we shouldn’t stress over the burden, but make sure that the lessons are clear enough to lead to learning. 😀
I really appreciate this mother opening a difficult conversation about hard realities of her life. It was a brave step, and, I hope, a healing one as well. Despite all her pain and insecurities, I’m SURE her children love her, and she is doing more good than she realizes. Motherhood is hard in so many ways, and we all feel inadequate. I echo the other comments that talk about the healing powers of Christ’s atonement. I hope she can personally feel that transforming power in her life!
Amen! Thanks for taking the time to stop by M2M and write more supportive words for this mom. I pray she is encouraged by them!
At some point we’ve all worn masks. I’ve learned that life is much healthier when I learn to live life without them. (It’s not always easier, but definitely healthier for me.
I’m so thankful for this mom being brave enough to share her story!
Thank you for stopping by M2M and for adding your voice!
I am praying for her. God’s grace, and unconditional love covers all. I pray that she will begin to enjoy her children…they will be grown in such a short time. I have worn mask and acted like things were okay when they were not and just being my real self is when I am the happiest.
Amen! Thank you for stopping by M2M and sharing your thoughts.
Kim Adams Morgan (@KimPouringdown) says
Stopping in from a Look at the Book and was about to say what each of the previous women have already said, but they have already said it so beautifully. Jesus has already covered all our sins as the cross. Lay all your guilt down at His feet, accept Him as your Savior, and know that you ARE forgiven. Then live each day with that gift of grace and mercy. Blessings to you.
Thank you for adding your voice of encouragement! There is power in numbers and I am so happy to see how much support there is out there for this woman! Thanks for stopping by M2M and I hope you come back again soon for more real stories by REAL moms.
So many people are uncomfortable with those who take off/don’t wear the masks – but God definitely wants those masks taken off – because then we can thrive. My boys do not understand the challenges of parenting – they don’t understand when I miss it – Mom’s supposed to be perfect – right? No – if we don’t miss it – how can we show them the way to the mercy seat for when they miss it – that’s what makes our mistakes so important – through them we show our kids how to repent – how to go to God and have Him wipe our wounds. Another thing – God’s not surprised – He’s got the plan, the solution – He knows how to take the mess of us and turn it into something beautiful! Praying this sweet mother takes off her mask and basks in God’s great love!
Amen, such truth! Thank you!
Thank you for sharing with us at the #WWDParty – Happy Summer Solstice 2014!
Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom says
Praying this woman could feel the true love of God. Some of this resounded with me… being a people pleaser, fear of rejection, both I identify with greatly.
I wish I could hug her.
Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the SHINE Blog Hop – I hope you will join us again tomorrow)!
Wishing you a lovely evening.
Thank you for visiting M2M and for hosting the Shine BH each week. I love participating every Thursday and seeing the other great posts from talented bloggers!
What a great post. Thanks for sharing this story. All of us wear masks at times and have to remind ourselves who we are in Christ.
Thanks for visiting M2M and thank you for hosting TT each week. Every Thursday I look forward to participating and reading the other great posts!