Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An Invisible Mother

Gramma Barp just set me an email, which turns out to be written by or based on the book "The Invisible Woman" by Nicole Johnson.
Here is the message in the email she sent. It's so plastered across the internet, I hope I'm not stepping on any toes by posting it here.

Invisible Mothers
"It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.
Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?'

Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible - The invisible Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more.
"Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?"

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?'
I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?'
I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. 

It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:
'With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.'
And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.
No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.
The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime
because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at four in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand-bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'You're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women."
I'm not very religious, but religion still moves me. People's faith moves me. And the sacrifice people make for their love of God and their faith moves me. And the sacrifice people - often especially mothers - make for their families moves me. Even though I don't worship God the way many of my friends, mom club moms and the bloggy moms I follow do, this story still speaks to me in a very powerful way, and I wanted to share it with all the moms (and dads!) out there. 
Whether you are constantly questioning yourself as a person or as a parent. Constantly doubting whether you are doing the right thing, or whether any of it matters. I always tell anyone I hear asking these questions: You matter. You are amazing. You are making the right choices and best decisions you can for your family and your situation. And whether your child grows up to become a scientist, a janitor, or a sociopath; you did the best job you could with what you had, and you did it beautifully.

This story is just a beautiful, stirring and poignant way of reminding us how important and valuable our thankless jobs are! I love you all, and I hope this has touched you or helped you in some way.

(I know, right? No cute food. No humor. No kitchens aflame. And no pictures of The Princess. Maybe next time!)


  1. Love this, love this, love this! Thanks for sharing, and I totally agree with you, we only do our very best to raise our little ones. The rest is in a Higher Hand.

  2. The most beautiful story I've ever read. Just in time for mother's day. Thanks for posting!

  3. ThAnks for this Mama. Just amazing.


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