He came home after being at work since 9:00 AM. I handed him leftovers and watched him walk towards the door for his second job. As he kissed me and said goodbye, I rolled my eyes at the sound of one of the boys beginning to cry. Unable to shake my frustration, I sent him out with a heavy sigh and clenched teeth. He had to work and he was doing it for us. But I was annoyed...at him. What was that?
Two days later. I'm sending emails when my sweet two-year-old crawls up in my lap with a book. Peering over his head to finish what I'm typing, I click save on the message and release a frustrated breath as I close the laptop and kiss his head. There it is again.
We used to dream about what it would look like to have kids. I imagined my children standing at the door and waving goodbye to daddy in the morning. I expected play-dates, cups of coffee and car rides with babies in the rear-view mirror. I expected squishy cheeks and dirty diapers. I expected giggling and tantrums. I expected a messy house and days without showers. But in all of that, I did not expect resentment. Ugly, sinful resentment.
I did not expect to look at my son as if he interrupted my plans. I did not expect to snap at my husband when he told me he had to work. I'm married to an incredible man. He bathes our boys, sings to them, and kisses their sweet round faces. He loves me, encourages me, and rubs me feet at the end of the day. Our children are a gift beyond our brightest dreams. The abundant blessing we were given with their births is not lost on me. So what is going on in my heart?
re-sent-ful (adjective): feeling or expressing bitterness or indignation at having been treated unfairly.
Have I been treated unfairly? Absolutely not. Do I sometimes act as if I have been treated unfairly? Unfortunately, yes. Nobody forced me to birth these babies and spend most of my days at home. I chose those things. And at the end of it all, that's what I want. I want other things too, and the truth is I can't have all those things right now. But I get to have my boys. And my husband. And that's what I want the most.
A Google image search on the word "resentful" reveals that I may not be alone. The results are divided into six categories, with the third category as a collection of memes on resentful mothers. Let me say that again - an entire category on resentful moms. Google auto-fill also offers three variations of the term.
Perhaps many of you carry deeper grace than I do. I know women who humble my heart time after time with their joyful, sacrificial love. I'm not saying I don't sacrifice - I do. Throughout the day and into the night. But sometimes, I also keep a little list of all the things I've done. The things I've given up. And I pout when I don't feel like the scales are balanced. I'm guessing that at least a few of you can relate...because if I'm the only one, then Google has placed an inappropriate level of attention on just me.
We don't sit around the house complaining about our lives. It's unlikely that we talk openly about sometimes feeling that things aren't fair. And there is no question that we are deeply grateful for our families. But maybe we toss around sarcastic jokes with our girlfriends, reflecting this subtle condition of our hearts; laughing tends to make the questionable feel excusable. Maybe we roll our eyes while "sacrificing" for the ones we love. Maybe we do all of it with a smile, while quietly letting bitterness simmer within us. The moments are small and quick; but they are not holy.
Let me be the first to say that this is me. It's subtle, but real. And I've decided that it is not a part of the language of love.
There are thousands of beautiful posts about the grace we need to extend ourselves as mothers. I have been and will continue to be a loud cheerleader for that message. We need to hear it on a daily...sometimes hourly basis. We battle enough guilt as women and mothers, we don't need help adding more. But sometimes, we also need to take a conscious look at our hearts and simply pray "Search me God. Change the places that don't look like You." We can say "yes, this is the messy truth of motherhood and it's hard. At least we're honest about it. Grace abounds." OR we can say, "yes, this is the messy truth of motherhood and it's hard. Change my heart Lord. Thank You that grace abounds. Thank You for loving me deeply in all the mess." We can feel justified in those little moments or we can recognize them and whisper a prayer for change. A prayer for broken hearts and renewed minds.
I'm working this out through the process of motherhood, but as a good friend reminded me today, "resentment is ugly for all of us." Maybe you feel traces of the same condition, even if it looks different in your story.
Bitterness has nothing to do with Jesus. Whenever I think I know a little something about sacrifice, I am reminded of what He knows about sacrifice...and He has given no foundation for the "holiness" of resentment. Instead, He offers love that does not keep count. It is a love that doesn't roll eyes or snap sarcastic passive-aggressive quips. Praise be to God that this love is big enough to cover my stubborn heart and that it means grace truly does abound. My prayer is that I will grow to better reflect this love and that it will in-turn spill over into the way I love to my husband and children. A love that is quite literally full of grace.
Cara is a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom living on the East Coast with her husband and two sons. After years of working in student ministry, she has come home to raise her boys and begin tackling grad school. She loves hanging out with college students, watching Parenthood and eating chocolate like it's one of the food groups. In addition to iBelieve, Cara is a contributing writer at RELEVANT and Today's Christian Woman. She writes about faith, marriage, motherhood and intentional living at www.carajoyner.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.