I’ll never forget the first time we took the whole family out for Mexican food. We had four little men ages 6 and younger, and I was pregnant with number five. (Seriously, what were we thinking?)

The service was unusually slow, so the kids munched on stale raisins from the diaper bag. After an hour one kid had fallen out of his seat and had a bruise to prove it. One had spilled water all over the table; another had choked on a tortilla chip and thrown up on his plate. And the food still hadn’t come. When it finally arrived our order was all wrong. All in all, not an unusual experience for a young family trying to have a meal out.

Except . . . it was Mother’s Day.

And every little inconvenience, every spill, every fuss, and whine weighed extra on my heart. This was Mother’s Day. My day. The day my husband had thoughtfully set aside for me to enjoy being queen for a day. But I didn’t feel like a queen. I felt like a worn-out mommy.

This Mother’s Day, thousands of moms will be disappointed because the day didn’t turn out the way they expected. But there is hope. There’s a way to have a disappointment-proof Mother’s Day. And it starts with us.  

Day for Compensation

First, let’s back up a little. Where does our disappointment come from? There’s a popular meme floating around Facebook that describes a mom’s job. It says something like: “I’m a chef, chauffer, nurse, counselor, maid . . .” And the point is always, “Don’t tell ME I don’t have a job. I’m a MOM.”

I used to find these lists amusing and affirming. Now I think they can be damaging. Without realizing it, we start to measure our worth by these lists. And we want others to notice and show appreciation. But this only makes us defensive and bitter. How can anyone ever thank us enough? No Mother’s Day card, no fancy brunch, and no bouquet is enough to repay us for these jobs.

If we fixate on being appreciated, we’ll always be let down. A day of celebration becomes a day of compensation. It’s our chance to get a little payback. “Finally,” we think. “The kids will recognize all I do around here.” And yes, it is good and right to honor mothers. It’s right to say, “Thank you for all you do.” But if our identity is tied to how well we’re appreciated, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.

Day for an Identity Check

The problem with the “mom job” description is that it boils down my worth to the sum of my to-do lists. It might make me feel more important for a little while, but soon I’m empty again.Lightstock

The solution is to remember who I am, not what I do. As a Christian woman, my identity is united with Jesus Christ—his sinless life and perfect righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). The beauty about finding my identity in Jesus is that I can stop obsessing about my identity altogether. It’s not about who I am. It’s about who he is. Jen Wilkin reminds us

As long as we keep the emphasis on us instead of on a higher vision, we will take small comfort from discussions of identity. Our primary problem as Christian women is not that we lack self-worth, not that we lack a sense of significance or purpose. It’s that we lack awe.

Do you want to have an incredible Mother’s Day? Stand in awe of the One who made you a mother. Let each sticky kiss and messy card remind you of a few things about God: Every good gift is from the Father of lights (James 1:17). God’s strength is perfected in weak moms (2 Corinthians 12:9). He gives us the wisdom we so desperately need (James 1:5).

Now those are reasons to celebrate.  

Day for Celebration

This outward, God-centered focus knocks our expectations for Mother’s Day back into place. It relieves the pressure of expecting a day that lives up to our valuation of motherhood. This day is about God’s faithfulness, not mine. Motherhood isn’t a job I’ve been hired for. It’s a calling I’ve been entrusted with. This turns a day of compensation into one of true celebration.

This Mother’s Day, I’m going to step down off the pedestal my kids so sweetly and clumsily set up for me, and celebrate alongside them. My value is in Christ, not in this day. So give me the breakfast in bed and all the spills that go with it. I want every messy reminder that God made me a mom.

Except for the restaurant experience. I can wait a few more years for that.