Mommy Wars Abroad
I am not a mommy; actually, I am not even a woman. (Okay, that was one of the weirdest sentences I have ever written.) Despite my obvious shortcomings, I am still going to write this article.
I look around and see young moms and experienced moms who are serving cross-culturally, and they are all under siege. I see them, battle-weary and bleary-eyed, burdened by expectations that would crush the strongest. I see them wrangle toddlers and tonal languages. I watch them brave open-air markets with raw meat hanging on hooks and open-air homes with neighbors peering in through windows.
Global moms are exposed on all fronts, and they feel it. Everyone is watching them. The local people watch every move, confused by the foreigner and her progeny; when she returns “home” for a visit, she feels watched just the same. (Just for the record: jet lag does strange things to children, so any misbehavior can and should be blamed on jet lag … for at least the first two months.)
The mom on the foreign field is stretched thin. Simply to take care of her household, she must figure out how to do all the stuff she used to know how to do. She must learn the local language and culture, educate her children, communicate with senders, support her husband, save the world, and convert everyone through her calm spirit and mild demeanor.
I am speaking with slight hyperbole—sort of. However, if you pause and observe, you too will see that global moms, especially the newbies, have a whole lot on their plate. It is stressing them out big time.
Global dads are expected to do “the work.” Period. They are judged, for better or worse, on their work product: how well the ministry is going. It is not so with moms. The global mom is judged by how well her kids behave, how well her kids transition, how well her kids are educated, how healthy her marriage is, how well she knows the local language, in addition to how well the ministry is going.
It is not fair, and I am calling it. We need to pause and care for the women among us who are being crushed by unrealistic expectations.
So can we call a cease-fire? Can we stop taking aim at global moms, expecting them to be EVERYTHING and then criticizing them when they fail to accomplish the impossible? Can you, global mom, stop taking aim at yourself? You cannot do it all, and that does not make you weak; it makes you human. Besides, you are not called to do it all.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:16, He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. No part does ALL the work. Each part does its own work, and that work is special. What is the special work to which God has called you?
Maybe your primary task on the field right now is taking care of your own little people. That is special work that helps the whole body to be healthy and growing and full of love. It is not less-than. Maybe your task is leading an entire mission. That too is special work that helps the whole body to be healthy and growing and full of love. It is not less-than (nor is it more-than).
When global moms, due to external pressure or internal insecurities, try to do EVERYTHING, the whole body ends up being hurt, not helped. The most important thing for you to do is the work God has called you to do.
I will say it again: a healthy field does not depend on you doing it all. Health and growth and love come when each person does the work that God has asked them to do—no comparisons allowed.
The mirage of the perfect global mom is alluring and dangerous. If you try to follow her, you will be perpetually discouraged, depressed, and exhausted. On the flip side, if you feel like you are the perfect global mom, you will be perpetually arrogant, haughty, and annoying.
What would change if you forgot the mirage of the perfect mom and started remembering the Perfect One instead?
Remember, His burden is light.
He is the Lord of Rest,
the Bridegroom, longing for His bride.
He is not a taskmaster,
demanding more widgets.
He is a loving Husband,
pursuing His favorite girl.
He is a tender Father,
splashing in the ocean with His children.
He is a Warrior,
protecting His people.
He is a Comforter
who really sees.
He knows you are human,
and He is glad about it.
He knows you cannot do it all,
and He is okay with it.
He is jealous for you,
longing for your whole heart.
He wants your gaze fixed on Him,
not the mirage.
The next time you are tempted to criticize another mom, lay down your weapon and state what she is doing instead of what she is not doing. The next time you are tempted to criticize yourself, identify and declare what you are doing instead of what you are not doing. Are you doing what you feel God has led you to do? Wonderful! The body of Christ needs you to do that. The field needs you to do that. Your family needs you to do that.
So here’s to the global woman mom,
the one in the trenches with the toddlers.
The one who raises kids abroad
and then sends them “home.”
Here’s to the global woman mom,
far away from pediatricians and emergency services,
who lives with constant awareness that help might not be coming.
Here’s to the global woman mom
who lives in a glass bowl, aware of the stares.
The one who liked shopping
when shopping was simple.
The one who would really like a Starbucks coffee.
Like, right now.
Here’s to the global woman mom
whose children experience more goodbyes than most.
The one whose kitchen looks more like Bear Grylls
than Martha Stewart.
Here’s to the mom on mission,
the one who rocks the cradle and changes the world.
Questions to consider: Are you doing what you feel God has led you to do? What would change if you forgot the mirage of the perfect mom and started remembering the Perfect One instead?
About the author
Jonathan works in Southeast Asia, serving through teaching and heart-focused lay counseling. Before moving abroad with his wife of fifteen years and their four kids, he served as a youth worker in the US for ten years. He enjoys walking with people through their stories, and eating imported Twizzlers. | facebook: trotters41 | twitter: @trotters41View all articles by: Jonathan Trotter
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