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The Loneliest Job

The Loneliest Job

The bloodcurdling scream pierced the tranquility of countless shoppers. I swallowed hard and began the painstaking trek towards the automatic doors, which seemed miles away. It mightn’t have taken me so long had I not had 32 pounds of boneless dead weight to pull behind me while also holding 20 pounds of oblivious enthusiasm in my other arm.

As I stumbled along, nearby shoppers offered a variety of responses: eye rolls, disapproving glares, averted eyes, and an occasional sympathetic I’m so glad I’m not you smile. I met each gaze with a weak grin. “Don’t worry,” I said to one bystander, “He’s going to be a GREAT leader someday.”

Whether or not my quip was heard over the agonizing screams is debatable. Several escape attempts later (by my son, not me…although the thought did cross my mind), a kind stranger offered to help me get my children to the car. I gratefully accepted her help, and after wrestling the two beasts—er, I mean, lovely children—into their seats, I thanked the angel and watched her walk away, half wishing I could go with her, or just invite her to come home with me.

Hey, I know we just met and all, and you’ve obviously met my children, Miss Squirmy-and-Smiley and Mr. Meltdown-in-Target, but would you like to hang out for a while? A few hours maybe? Until my husband comes home? Please? PLEASE!??

Instead of frightening my good Samaritan, I sank into the driver’s seat and rested my forehead against the steering wheel. I realized that I was sweating and breathing heavily from the intense workout of venturing into Target for a box of diapers—which, in fact, I failed to get. So there I sat, no diapers and no energy. The screaming behind me made it very clear that I was not alone in the car.

But I’d never felt so alone.

Motherhood has been, by far, the most joy-filled experience in my life. It’s made me laugh harder, play harder, and give thanks harder than anything else.

And yet motherhood has also been, by far, the most difficult experience in my life. Because while there are as many parenting books as there are newborn poop-filled diapers, there is no book that prepares you for the isolation, loneliness, and utter sense of failure that often comes with this job.

The Pinterest boards and filtered Instagram posts never prepared me for the daily dying-to-self that motherhood demands of me. The baby showers and prenatal appointments didn’t include any discussions about the dangers of mom comparisons and the deep, gut-wrenching sense of failure that lurks ominously in the corners of my mind.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had someone look me in the eye and, with my children present, say in an exhausted and I-feel-so-sorry-for-you tone, “Wow, I’m never having kids.”

Talk about isolating. Talk about lonely.

But for me, this is where the beauty of the gospel message speaks life. Because regardless of what our culture says, the daily dying-to-self, the mundane, and yes, even the loneliness, all have purpose.

Do I get lonely as a mother? Absolutely. Do I get discouraged and exhausted and have days where I question if anything I do matters? Of course.

But by God’s grace, motherhood should be—and can be—more than just managed. It can be more than just a season to “get through.” Motherhood can mold me and shape me into a woman after God’s own heart. It can pound out the selfishness, anger, and complaining spirit that so easily bubble to the surface when the pressure is on.

Loneliness isn’t my enemy. Rather, it pushes me closer to the one who became lonely so that I wouldn’t experience eternal loneliness. It brings me to Jesus, who became sin so that I would not have to bear the weight of my own sin. And this is the beautiful truth that I’ve been given to pass on to my children. What an incredible privilege.

So if you happen to see a mom in Target with a screaming child and resigned expression, take my advice: offer her a helping hand and maybe even a bag of Peanut M&Ms. It may be just the thing she needs to be reminded she’s not alone…and to prolong her child’s life.

And those are both pretty good things.

By: Mary Holloman works and writes for Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center and also serves in her local church’s college ministry. It took her at least seven different attempts to complete this article due to diaper changes, meal mishaps, and games of Cops and Robbers that demanded her attention. She’s probably eating Peanut M&Ms or wishing she had Peanut M&Ms to eat. You can follow her on Twitter at @mtholloman.

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  1. Mary,
    Been there and experienced some of the same. With two babes just 15 months apart there were lots of times when tantrums /meltdowns seem to rule my life. Without God and a truly wonderful neighbor, I don’t know what I would have done. (Ask your mom about the one that had the most meltdowns.)
    Keeping you and your beautiful family in my thoughts and prayers.
    Love you,

  2. Thank you, Mary, for expressing so perfectly the struggle and beauty of this ministry called motherhood. I’ve been that mom so many times.

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