The Invisible Mom

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Wake up, wipe noses, wipe bottoms, feed kids, draw out Cheerios, dry eyes, discipline, teach, love, snuggle, hug, laugh, cry, wash and fold the laundry, cook, help with homework, run the bathwater, comb wet hair, snuggle in the PJs, fall over into bed.

I spend my day caring for everyone in my house—sometimes even for a neighbor, a friend, or a stranger. At the end of the day, I’m just invisible and exhausted. There is no time for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. I love caring for others. It makes me feel valued and wanted. Even on a bad day, I still feel special and important. It’s worth it to put myself on the back burner for a while. It’s okay to take care of everyone else but me. It’s just a season—a season when I am invisible. There isn’t much credit in my job, but there is the satisfaction of knowing that I am doing it.

But I slowly become too tired to get up early for my quiet time and too tired to get in that ten minutes of exercise I promised myself.

The kids were so hungry today that I scraped my own plate onto theirs so they would have plenty to eat. So I missed lunch. But that’s okay because when we were out running errands, I picked up a Snickers and a Coke. That was good. It kept me full enough that I wouldn’t hurt anyone. It’s worth it to me to skip a meal so my kids can have plenty to eat. I never loved anything more than I love them. I would give everything that I have for them.

Oh, these jeans—they are a little bit too snug. Maybe I’ll go up one size. The pounds have crept on over the years—just a pound here and a pound there. Before I knew it, I didn’t recognize myself in pictures. I would ask people, “Do I really look like that?” and they would always say, “No. Oh, no. That’s not what you look like. You’re much thinner, much smaller.”

Soon enough, I had traded my size 2 figure for a 10. How did that happen? Why did the waist of my jeans look so large? Surely, I was not any bigger than my teenager. Was the scale really telling the truth? That would be the heaviest I had ever been without being pregnant. I probably wasn’t that big. But then I asked the littlest voice in the house, and her voice rang in my ear: “When I used to hug you, Mommy, I could wrap my arms all the way around you, but now I can’t touch my fingers!”

Had I taken care of everyone else so well that I forgot about myself? What kind of example had I set for my children—take care of everyone else and never take care of yourself? For fifteen years, I never came up on the list of priorities. Sure, now and then I would go for a run or do an exercise video, P90X, or hit an exercise class. Yet the way I took care of myself, I never completely turned everything I put in my mouth over to God. I just continued to take care of others.

In my own pride and arrogance, I allowed myself to be invisible. I was the one who has no needs, no wants, and no desires. I was holier than thou. I was the perfect mother, set apart, who needed no care—who only needed to be pampered periodically with more rest.

At first I couldn’t figure out why my husband wasn’t pursuing me the way I wanted him to. It didn’t take long, however, to figure out that I wasn’t pursuable any longer. When you don’t take care of yourself, you don’t look your best on the outside, but you don’t feel good on the inside, either.

I found myself becoming more and more exhausted every day. I didn’t have the energy to do anything fun. I would take a nap on a date night. I lacked energy and strength to keep up with the man  God created my husband to be. I lacked the ability even to go race-car driving—fun stuff he wanted to do, that would engage him. Instead, I made him enjoy more womanly activities.

You can spend your life by laying it down to take care of others, but eventually, if you don’t take care of yourself, someone else will have to lay down his or her life to take care of yours. Refuse to be invisible. Live your life by example.

After I decided to come out from behind my works and into the light, my oldest child said to me, “Mom, you have always taught us how to live and how to eat. You have taught us that we should exercise and eat healthy and take care of ourselves. But you never actually lived it for yourself. It’s impossible for us to live what you don’t show us by example.”

Come out from behind all of those things you do to puff yourself up and make yourself feel good about yourself—including serving others constantly and sacrificing yourself. Your body is valuable, and it houses the temple of God within you, so you need to take care of it. You need to treasure what you have, the life that you have been given, and value it enough to take care of it.

When will you choose to stop being invisible?