• It takes a lot to convince me to watch a movie classified as a drama.  Who wants more drama in their life??   But a comedy – that I’ll pay money for!  So when my husband suggested Moms' Night Out and my sister-in-law was already watching the kids, I was game.  Given the topic, I was only a little surprised to hear the characters say the words I’ve been rehearsing the past six years.

    There is a sequence early on in the movie wherein the mom (of 3 small children) is having difficulty keeping up with her kids – I don’t remember all the details, but one is playing in the toilet, one is writing on the walls, one is eating raw egg…  I just remember that sense that she can’t keep up.  At the end of the day, after racing to keep up, it’s utterly clear that she lost the race.  That sense - that no matter what I do I can’t keep up - is a feeling I experience pretty regularly.  The idea that I’m completely responsible for these kids – keeping them alive, helping them become reasonable human beings - clashes with the reality that I cannot do it.  The other day while preparing dinner, and after having set the table, and after coming downstairs from helping one child bathe, I found my 2-year old using a Cutco knife to cut carrots (helpful little tyke).  Yes, the carrots were red, yes it was blood.  Despite pouring out all of my energy and all of my attention, I can’t keep up.

    In a climax of the film, the main mom character admits, “I’m not enough.”  That phrase is a refrain that repeats itself in my head like Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega.  And like Suzanne, I don’t even need to use the words, it’s just a constant hum.  Those words – I’m not enough – sound an awful lot like shame.  It’s not just that I’m doing (or not doing) something that needs to change (which would be guilt).  I am the problem.  I am deficient.  That is shame.

    And when shame is involved, I look for the lie.  Shame lies – have I mentioned that before?  Shame takes a piece of the truth, so it looks convincing, and twists it or conceals a bigger truth to keep us under its thumb.  Could the lie be that we are supposed to be enough?  Maybe we (moms/humans) were never meant to be enough.  Maybe.

    If I were the only one who felt this kind of shame, I would need to get over it and that would be that.  I certainly wouldn’t be writing about it – because how embarrassing would that be to admit such an enormous flaw.  But a movie was made about this.  In the theater, a woman behind me did one of those deep inhale, louder-than-intended sobs during a touching moment.  It was made for moms everywhere.  If all of us are feeling this – then there is something more going on than just my neuroticism.  In our culture, moms swim in a billion expectations, many of them contradicting and impossible, many of them unspoken but loud and clear.

    •    There are little expectations – like our children have to be involved in sports from the time they are in our uterus so they can be allowed to play high school sports.  If you don’t get them in, your kid is missing out. 

    •    There are big expectations – like the pressure to keep our children alive, beginning even while in the womb.  Did you know that moms who have miscarriages often feel like failures?  America is a champion for the sanctity of life, but I wonder if we’ve gotten a bit out of balance (try reading: Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy). 

    •    There are confusing expectations – I’m supposed to discipline my child, but I’m only supposed to use time-outs (so says someone).  But when my child is disobeying during the bedtime routine…time-outs seem rather foolish.

    •    There are threatening expectations – I have to engage with my children for some unknown amount of time and quality so that they won’t be at risk to sexual predators.  Which means, I need to play these monotonous, boring, repetitive, shoot-me-now kind of games, even though I had hoped to have a hobby at this point in my life.

    This kind of culturally embedded shame has so many women tied up in anxiety-knots, exhausted, depressed, resentful, overeating, seeking escape.  How do we find redemption in this mess?

    The movie is a comedy, which means it ends in a fantasy-like fashion.  She comes down the stairs to her clean living room, sits down to her computer with a cup of coffee, and writes a blog based on a basic truth that sets her free from feeling like a failure.  In my reality, the living room still has Legos strewn about from the night before when I was too tired to clean them up for the third time that day.  The tea that I started to brew usually has to be reheated 3 times before I finally throw away two-thirds of it because I have a thousand other things to do besides sit.  And my computer has a homing device that calls my children to interrupt me within 30 seconds of me sitting down at it.  And the truths that I have heard over and over as an adult don’t seem to sink in and stay put. 

    Since I live in reality, my chaos is sticking around.  But I’m over the “trying harder” solution.  I’ve been down that road a number of times and it always leads to the “I’m not enough” pit.  What if there is an “I'm not enough” road that led to an “acceptance” meadow?   That is, maybe redemption is truly accepting that I really am not enough, and I never will be enough, and that there’s not something wrong with me because of that.  Rather, there is something that draws me into relationship with someone who is enough.  But it’s a relationship that isn’t demanding a snack, and kid music, and help with designing a lemonade stand, and help opening the conditioner bottle, and …  you get the idea.

    So for now, I think redemption has to do with looking up in the midst of all the chaos.  I am hoping that God feeds me with the truths that will set me free.  And I will be coming back again for more truths when I’m hungry again.  Because if the truths did sink in and did stay put, I wouldn’t really need God, would I?  Perhaps living in relationship with God - where he is enough and I accept that am not - might actually lead to… dare I hope it?... rest.