The Pastoral Work of Being Mom

By Nicole McGlashen

“Enough! You get up to your room right now. There is no excuse for this.”

My four-year-old stomped and snarled past me as I sat on the last step of the staircase. Up she climbed and I remained seated. My hands and feet began to itch, tingly sensations ran from my face to chest, and I identified the chaos invading my body: anxiety had moved in.

I took a deep breath.

My other toddler whimpered around the corner as she consoled herself back to playing.

It had already been a day. The kind of day when you or your coffee aren’t cutting it. My patience was low and my kids were bickering as much as they breathed. The long minutes of constantly tending, never sitting, endless refereeing—and it wasn’t even noon.

But it got worse.

It had something to do with a highly coveted toy and a push of a sibling, then naturally, the earth falling off its axis. For several moments, my sanity free-fell into an abyss of no self-control. My mouth involuntarily screamed, sentencing my oldest upstairs to go think about her actions, partly for her, but mostly because I needed a break.

I took another deep breath.

Before I finished exhaling, the subtle whispers of shame began. Haunting and taunting my behavior; I started wishing I would have handled things differently. Why wasn’t I more patient? Don’t I know better? Did my yelling scar my daughter? Am I a horrible mother? Hasn’t my past taught me anything? The questions possessed my mind, covertly attacking my innermost parts. Still sitting on that same step, all I could do, out of desperation, and in my own isolation, was call out for my girl.     

“Eleanor, please come down. I want to talk to you.”

I didn’t know what to say, but I knew things needed to be made right.  

While I heard my daughter’s feet slog along the carpeted stairs, I prayed one single request, “Help me.”

I looked over my shoulder to find my sweet girl several feet back, standing on the landing, covered from head to toe in her favorite white soft blanket, sniveling the word, “Mama.”   

I asked, “Honey, will you sit by me?”

And at that moment it was like the switch had been flipped upward.

There was light. I could see. I saw her. I saw me and the space of separation between us was closing in.

The pastoral work of “being mom” was happening. This realization was my answered prayer.

The ceaseless, tireless activity, and even the struggles are all a part of the pull and tug toward something Holy--opportunities to rely on a Help that transcends any of us. What a gift.

The vision of my child and my desire for her to draw close was like an eloquent sermon but without words. 

I remembered and thought, Of course, this is a part of the story. The greater story, that is:

When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God. God called to the Man: “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8-9)

Then I uttered something familiar, “Honey, where are you?”

She made her way down to the bottom step.

I started to remove the well-loved blanket that was covering her up, and she put up a fight, “No, Mama!”

I remained seated, feet to the floor and said, “Okay. Just know I love you.”

It was quiet.

Then I embraced her and that tattered blanket.   

Nicole McGlashen.jpg

Nicole McGlashen is an ordained minister of the Wesleyan Church. She is a teacher of Scripture and believes writing has the uncanny ability to make the ineffable and highly personal both tangible and universal. When she’s not detailing the context of bible passages, she’s in the throes of motherhood caring for her three children (all under age four) in San Diego, CA. Since becoming a mom, her call to ministry has only deepened.