It’s been almost 20 years since I became a mother, but I still remember with startling clarity driving away from the hospital and saying to my husband, “They’re just letting us drive away with this baby? How do they know we’re going to be good parents? What if we need help? Who will help us?”
Help is one of the hardest things to both admit we need, and also have the courage and vulnerability to ask others for.
As a young mother, I possessed neither of those things, and instead rode out those first years exhausted in my home, and struggling desperately to keep my head above water and to simply do it all. And I felt compelled to do it all without complaint or assistance, because that’s what grateful, faithful, and modern mothers do, right? We are taught to believe that complaining is a symptom of ungratefulness and perhaps a lack of faith, not as a clear and obvious symptom of burnout.
I’d had two babies in two years, and sat alone inside the four walls of my home wondering if there were any other moms out there like me that I could lean on and possibly commiserate with, and most importantly, allow myself to be truly vulnerable in their presence. Surely my neighborhood wasn’t full of all supermoms, and somewhere out there amidst the rows of cookie cutter homes, stroller exercise groups, and shiny minivans sat someone who felt as I did—that I needed another mother to share my burdens with.
New moms are masters of putting on a good face for everyone. To family, friends, but mostly to other moms we’ve just met, we practice perfection and wouldn’t dare admit all the stresses, pressures, and anxiety we face weekly, daily, and often by the hour.
But is that how God wants us to present ourselves? To constantly pretend? We know He sees our all faults and imperfections and loves us anyway, so why can’t we do the same around our peers? And when we do, what does that look like?
It looks like what Paul said to the church in Galatia, when he spoke the words, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2.)
You see, God gave us a solution to the burdens and problems we face. And yes, caring for young (and old) children can and will feel burdensome at times. But we’re not to feel guilty or ungrateful when we look at our children and feel burdened, we are to reach out to those who share the same burdens, and ask for and receive relief.
For many (myself included many years ago) it’s a very vulnerable and daunting task to ask for help. New mothers may find it especially hard to put into words what kind of help they need, because it can change day to day. This is why it’s important to share those burdens with those who are at the same stage in mothering as you, because they know all too well what you need.
It’s also crucial to realize that sharing your burden’s doesn’t mean you’re burdening someone else, it means you are giving one another the opportunity to minister to each other. When I am at my lowest, the last thing I know my friends feel when they help take away my burdens is resentment. Rather, I know their hearts are filled with empathy and compassion when they’re able to serve those that need it most, and that includes me.
Sharing one another’s budders doesn’t have to be a grand gesture (and who with babies and toddlers would have time for something like that anyway?) It can be as simple as what I recall doing with a good friend years ago, when collectively we had five kids under five. One day while discussing all the errands we needed to run, and what an exhaustive chore it was to haul infant carriers and double strollers in and out of cars, trunks, and stores, we realized we could do those tasks together. And by together, I mean we would pile all the kids in the back of her minivan, and drive around town running in and out of stores, banks, and dry cleaners alone—because someone was able to stay in the car and watch the kids while the other did what they needed to so. Simple, efficient, obvious, and yet so full of burden relief we ended up having standing weekly dates for our errand running together for a long, long time. “Why doesn’t everyone do this?” we would ask ourselves while we watched weary moms dragging toddlers into stores, and all while sitting in warm vans drinking hot coffee and sharing each other’s burdens.
I realize everyone doesn’t do this because many are still too ashamed to ask for help. If you are that mother, pray on the fact God doesn’t you want to carry your burdens alone anymore. And I bet if you look around your peer group right now, there’s another mother with a minivan who is just waiting (probably starving) to be asked to run errands with you. Tell her you’ll buy the coffee and bring the laughs, and you can promise there won’t be any heavy lifting involved—because burdens (and car seats) always become lighter when shared.