Monday, February 28, 2011

The Invisible Mom

Not long ago, I asked a question on my Facebook status. "Do you ever feel invisible?" I was actually feeling a bit invisible because I had sent some texts and some e-mails to different friends that had gone unanswered. But really, don't we all feel invisible at times?

The next day one of my cousins posted on my Facebook page that I needed to read this. I tried to find an author but all I could find was "author unknown". The only thing I can guess is her name is "Charlotte" based on this essay. So to Charlotte, wherever you are, thank you for saying this for the invisible moms (and dads) of the world!

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 .. Janice 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 Janice 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: ‘To Charlotte , 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 saw 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 legendary story 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, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make everyday, 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.’

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. 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 child to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 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 can't figure out how to go back to the margin I had at the top. Oh well. This is Reba speaking again...

I just loved this when I read it.

Sometimes as moms, we do feel invisible. Or at least I do. I do all of these things like handle the kids' schoolwork (which can take a long time), plan birthday parties, buy Christmas gifts, plan Valentine's treasure hunts, etc. And often, it feels like it goes unnoticed. Just like I know that I have missed many of the things my own mother has done for me (though I recognize those more and more).

I won't lie. On occasion, I don't mind getting a "thank you". (Even Jesus appreciated that after healing the lepers) Or having my husband compliment me for something I have done.

But in the end, it is okay if my efforts go unnoticed. That is not my purpose.

My purpose in life is to build great cathedrals. Or at least give the four that I am building a good foundation.

It is okay if nobody else notices. God does.

And for me, that is what truly matters.

More later,


  1. I love that. It is so true about most moms, too.

  2. Reba, this is sooo good and such a timely post for me :). Thanks for sharing and encouraging!

  3. Perfect I feel a lot better. Thanks for sharing I have felt that way a lot lately this came at a perfect time.

  4. LOVED this! Thank you I really needed this. :-)

  5. I've read that story before, but thanks for reminding me. I had forgotten about it. Great message.

    A thought came to mind as I read about some of the special things you do for your kids. They don't realize how very cool and special the things you do for them are. To them, it probably seems like all moms are like that. Someday, they will understand how much effort you put forth, and they will rise up and call you BLESSED!

  6. I am either invisible or being yelled at. Nice. I have convinced myself that someday they will all be sorry and regret treating their mother this way. Hey, I can hang onto that if I want to!

  7. Reba, this is beautiful.
    Thank you for sharing.


Sweet Words of Wisdom