When You Feel Like You’re Drowning

We all sat in a circle around a too-short coffee table.

I was surrounded by a bunch of young moms, most of them in their early twenties. I sat happily sipping my tea and visiting.

One mama bounced a fussy baby on her knee, nervously glancing around hoping the teething baby’s fusses weren’t bothering anyone. I mouthed the words, “It’s okay” when she caught my eye. I smiled reassuringly, remembering how unsettling it was back when my colicky baby would fuss. She smiled back, relieved.

Another mom admitted that she’d bribed her teenage brother with homemade cookies to watch her kids so she could have an hour alone for girl time. Alone wasn’t really alone, since she had a 4-month old strapped to her chest in a baby wrap. “It’s good to get away with adults,” she said, “even if it’s just for an hour.”

Another mama admitted to having been up all night three nights in a row with an asthmatic child, spending one night in the hospital. “I’m exhausted,” she sighed.

Another mom couldn’t find a sitter for her toddler and was trying to entertain and contain her budding escape artist who was far more interested in the fireplace and fountain in the other corners of the room..

One older lady sat down in our midst, and the younger women seemed to listen eagerly for tidbits of wisdom she could offer. I didn’t know how old she was, but she mentioned social security checks. So, older than me.

The conversation continued with stories of silly kids’ antics and stories of overwhelmed mamas facing everyday issues.

I had zoned out a bit, basking in the fellowship and giggles, when the older mom piped in and spoke.

“You know,” she said tartly,” most of the moms I know don’t try hard enough.  They’re just too relaxed about their parenting. It’s like they don’t even care.”

The group fell silent.

One mom rubbed the head of her moby-wrapped infant, avoiding eye contact.

Another shifted her gaze from mom to mom a little unsure of how to respond.

The mom who spent the night in the hospital with her child who was struggling to breathe looked like she was about to burst into tears.

The mom of the toddler returned from retrieving her little Houdini again and said, “What happened? I missed it.”

But no one answered.

If I had been sitting any closer to my older acquaintance, I might have been inclined to slap her.

I wouldn’t have, but I wanted to.

I wanted to rebuke her, saying, “What a horrible thing to tell these moms!” But I didn’t.

I looked around the around the group of down-turned and somber faces and replied gently but with conviction, “Not the mamas I know. The moms I know are pouring their hearts and souls into these little gifts that God gave them.  They’re overwhelmed, but they’re trying to find joy in it. They’re trying to be Jesus to their children.  They’re loving even when it’s hard and praying when life gets too hard. They’re crying and struggling and praying and hoping and giving their all. I know way more mamas who expect too much from themselves than who don’t expect enough.”

I stopped myself.

I could have kept going. I had a lot more to say, but I wasn’t sure if I could keep going and be respectful. My tongue might get the better of me, and I didn’t want to sin in my anger. I was raise to be respectful of those who are older –even if they’re not behaving worthy of that respect. That’s what scripture teaches.

There was silence again except for the sound of one mom –who had been holding her breath– letting out a long sigh.

The older mom glanced around awkwardly and excused herself.

Asthma kid’s mom grabbed my hand and squeezed it, whispering, “Thank you.”

This story is one of four or five different times recently that I have seen older women criticize the younger generation for not doing enough, heaping guilt and a sense of failure on women who already feel like they’re giving their all and they’re still drowning.

When someone is drowning the very definition of unhelpful would be criticizing the swimmer for getting into the water or criticizing how they were splashing around making a mess.

That’s how unhelpful this older women was.

She looked at the sinking swimmer and –rather than throwing a lifeline or calling 9-1-1 or doing something helpful– she told the drowning victim that her problem was she wasn’t trying hard enough.  

This is what our criticism looks like to those who are struggling.

I’m not suggesting that we should ignore actual sin in people’s lives, but most of what people criticize others it’s not about real biblical issues. It’s about opinions.

Out of control opinions hurt; they don’t help.

So, to you mamas who feel like you’re drowning and like you can never do enough or be good enough, take a deep breath.

Remember, God gave you these children and He knew every trial and struggle you’d face. He gave them to you with full knowledge of this. It’s part of His plan.

None of us are good enough; that’s why we need Jesus. Not just for salvation, but for grace to live everyday accepting the weaknesses and struggles that God allowed in our lives.  

God doesn’t expect perfection from you.  He doesn’t go around looking at everything you’re doing finding all the flaws. He looks at you and He sees Jesus’ goodness and holiness (look up imputed righteousness for more information about this). This is why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

Ignore the social media perfection and don’t believe the lie. No one’s life is perfect, and you don’t want the troubles that Perfect Social Media Mom is hiding. The problems you have are uniquely yours and uniquely suited to you.

Focus on eternity, on the souls of your children, and let the rest of the world (and even other Christians) bark and complain if they want to.

None of their opinions matter: you’ve got your eyes on Jesus.

The job you have is affecting eternity. Your children are the only part of your homemaking work here on earth that will last forever — the only part that really, truly matters. So, don’t worry about so much all the other stuff.

Rest in Him, mamas. Rest in Him.


Sarah Forbes


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