When we drive into the parking lot of our local grocery store, they swoop away in a nervous flapping of wings. Dozens of solid white seagulls, floating and landing around the asphalt like the pictures in children’s Bibles of manna in the desert. I guess that’s what they’re hoping for–manna. Or even better, a few stray french fries. They flutter around, up and down, always here in this parking lot, winter or summer. And I wonder, “why?” I don’t live near the ocean. I am a good 2-3 hours by car from the coast. I don’t know how they got here, and I feel sorry for them. I feel like rolling down my window to say, “Um, excuse me, but don’t you know you’re supposed to be on the beach? Why in the heck aren’t you at the beach?” If I were a seagull, I’d be at the beach.
Here’s the part when my husband starts to worry that I am going to give some kind of analogy about how I’m a seagull in a parking lot because we don’t live at the beach. Breathe easy, Mr. Mia, I’m not going in that direction. Not today, anyway…
Today I’m relating to those seagulls in parking lots when it comes to the mom life. Sometimes I feel kind of lost, like I’m not quite the right casting fit for this role. It’s not an overwhelming soul discontent; it’s a building up of little monotonies that make me feel like I’m losing my identity. It’s the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I ate for lunch (which I despise). It’s the sugary cereal I bought because I told my kids they could pick out one treat for being so good at the doctor’s office. I think sugary cereal is the worst possible way to start our day, but we’ll all be eating it tomorrow morning. It’s the four full albums of kids music in one day of errands. It’s the number of pictures of Strawberry Shortcake I’ve colored in the last week. Okay, I actually really like coloring. But it’s all those other things I do or eat or say that make me ask myself, “Who am I?”
And come Monday morning, when all of this crashes down as my husband heads to work and I struggle with feelings of inadequacy to fill this huge role in my children’s lives, the answer to the question of Who I Am is too often “Impostor.”
The definition of impostor is “a person who deceives others by pretending to be someone else.”
Yeah, that rings true on Mondays. Or Tuesdays. Or many other days in between. Days when a mom is just too tired to be enthusiastic about playing, even though deep down it’s really her favorite thing. Days when it seems like a huge, insurmountable chore to tidy up the living room and think of something to cook for dinner. Days when you’ve listened to your teenager’s music selection for weeks now and you have just had enough. You know, those days. On those days, I’m pretty sure my precocious daughter can see right through me as she thinks, “Hmph. You’re not fooling me.” Her eyes say it when I admit we’re out of milk again, or that we don’t have enough time to watch that video I promised her, or we didn’t get around to painting her fingernails like I said we would. And a voice in my head whispers,” She’s right. I am an impostor. I’m not really good at this whole full-time mom thing.”
Am I a little overly sensitive to a four-year-old’s unspoken (possibly, please Lord, imagined) criticism? Yes. Yes, I am. Because I know it. I know that I am not a natural at this. I feel like a seagull in a parking lot. Like I’m trying to get into this role I’m not really cut out for. If I fail so badly at this some days, it can’t really be what I’m cut out for, can it?
However. Those seagull-in-a-parking-lot days are not every day. There are days mixed in when there is a sense of rightness in my life as I butter the bread for grilled cheese sandwiches and wash and fold laundry. I can be doing the exact same things on different days and feel completely different about them. Possibly I’m an emotional basket case? Possibly. But I don’t think so. I think we all come at our days sometimes feeling like impostors, like this job, whatever it is, is too hard and too taxing and it can’t really be what we’re meant for. Compound this with the loss of a lot of things we used to base our identity on–careers, sports, friendships, charity work, and so on– and it really shouldn’t be a surprise that some days parents are sure they’re misfitted in an identity that is based so much on other people.
That feeling is an especially big deal to most mothers, and it’s hard to conquer those feelings that you’re lost in something too big, that you’re not suited for this mom-life, that you just want to feel like your contributing an intelligent thought in a conversation with other adults once in a while. Here’s what I and my fellow parents need to remember: who we are hasn’t completely changed, but it has altered in a lot of ways. I would be a pathetic mother if this gift-filled, hard, joyful journey hadn’t rounded off some rough edges and penetrated my heart. I wouldn’t be worth much to my children if I didn’t consider them worthy of a sacrifice in my likes and dislikes. I’m not saying you have to love reading “Moo, Baa, La La La!” five times in a row or that teaching 3rd grade math has to be your favorite pastime all of a sudden because it’s part of your life. Because you know that’s just dumb. But you’re not doing “worthless” things and you’re still you and you’re becoming somebody better than the “you” whom you used to be. And so am I.
The days aren’t always easy, but we are right where we are supposed to be. If God gave you these children and this infinitely precious opportunity to spend time with them, He made you for it. He knows you won’t always get it right, and He is okay with that. Can you and I be okay with that? Can we get our wings wet and still try to fly because He makes us able to do what He needs us to do? That’s my prayer for you and me and all the parents out there today who some days wake up feeling like they’re out of place in their own lives. You are “Mommy.” You are “Daddy.” You are right where you are supposed to be.