What I needed to hear
The photos in this post were from a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park
Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and in light of that I wanted to share with you a few lessons I would have loved to hear when my three babes still had fingers that looked like little sausages.
Even if you don’t have small ones I think there are lessons here that are still very applicable. And really, the truth is, I’m out of those very intense days of the younger years and yet I remind myself of these truths on a daily basis.
If you don’t have kids and are just simply trying to adult, there’s truth in here for you too. Because I get it. Gabe and I are so tired of “adulting” lately. So many times we’ve looked at each other with drooping eyes and said, “how do other people do it?” The more I talk to other adults I realize we are all in the same place; we’re all just trying to figure it out and so often we feel like we aren’t doing it right. So in my pursuit to share some truth in this perfection-seeking, social media driven world let’s get real! Adulting is hard. Truth. Parenting is ridiculously tough. There is no right way to do either. We do the best we can in a way that feels right to us, we make mistakes and own up to them and we celebrate our wins. And I hope that the more truth and honesty we share the more we can move away from competition and into celebration. We can all do hard things!
The following is adapted from a little talk I’ve been giving to mom groups around Seattle. I’ll break the talk down into three posts and I’m hoping that perhaps by posting these on Sundays you’ll have a bit of time to tuck into the words. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.
I’m sitting in heap of laundry. The teetering tower of clothes threaten to defeat me while one toddler is running through the house wearing cowboy boots, cowboy hat and nothing else and the other lays on his play mat attempting to roll over in order to get his sausage-like fingers on the herd of dust bunnies lying next to him.
Looking over at the sink I see the mess from breakfast lying dormant as I have to start thinking about lunch. I’m lost in the mess, lost in this new reality. Alone. Tired. Depressed. Tears stream from my exhausted eyes as I sink into my current reality. I always wanted kids but really? Is this what I signed up for? I was lost, had no perspective, was trying to do it alone and in a way that wasn’t me.
My shoulders slumped and I curled into a small ball – my physical body matching how I felt on the inside. I closed my eyes while the tears slipped down my cheeks. I took a deep breath and whispered to God. “When this is all over.” I began. “No more diapers, bibs, highchairs and potty training, use me.” I didn’t even know what I was saying. Why that was my prayer in the midst of such darkness? But I started to think, what if other women felt the way that I’m feeling right now? And that was too much.
God doesn’t forget – even when I do. This year I’ve been asked a number of times to talk to a groups of young moms. This is what I’ve said God in response to these invitations. “Cool. I totally meant it when I said I wanted to be an encouragement and a voice to women raising young children but surely you don’t mean now. I’m not ready. I’ve not ‘arrived’ as a mother yet. I still feel inadequate in my parenting, the house is still constantly a mess even though now I make the kids do the laundry and my parenting skills have yet to be proven. Who am I to stand up in front of these women of little ones and say anything?”
When I finally force myself to dig into the reality that I was indeed going to have to say something coherent to these women I frantically started to Google Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle Melton hoping and praying that they had some sort of a transcript for me. One that I could you know just do a little copy and pasting to form the ULTIMATE-destined-to-go-viral Mega- mom- encouragement speech. Until a soft voice whispers, “but what do YOU want to say?”
So you to you young mama’s out there I want to say to you the things that I needed to hear. I want to be the voice that I needed as I lay in a puddle of tears with three little ones running amid a scene of chaos. I want to say that you’re okay, you’re doing a great job and even when you’re not it’s still okay.
Throw away the idea that ‘savoring every moment’ is actually possible.
Regardless of how frazzled I looked in the grocery store there was always some lovely well-intentioned women with silvery hair and creases around her eyes from years of life. Her eyes never left the soft, rounded skin of my baby’s face and I saw the light her eyes brighten as she caught the gaze of my child. “It just goes so fast.” She would say like clockwork. “Savor every moment.”
I knew it was coming and yet every time I heard those words I felt the punch of guilt in the gut. Was I savoring this time enough? Will I be wrecked with regret because I sat my kids in front of the tv in a moment of weakness (there were so many of those moments. Who am I kidding? Still are). Will I loathe that aching feeling to escape when there were endless tears and sleepless nights? Can I really possibly savor the changing of diapers, lack of sleep, dried up food on every surface, laundry piles that never shrink?
Somewhere along the way I realized that those ladies probably just forgot the drudgery of the day to day. What they meant to say – and what I now say to mother’s of babies is savor what you can. Inhale their heads as often. Commit that smell to memory. Believe me when I tell you that they won’t always smell so sweet.
Take pictures, videos, sound clips, etc. You’ll return to them again and again and yes, there will be a bit of an ache for those days but we aren’t meant to exist in one place forever so you preserve what you can and live in the present with as much mindfulness as we can muster.
Keep a little journal handy and write down a few of the day to day mundane because one day your mundane will look different and those little notes – like what words they pronounce in an adorably wrong way, or how their hair looks in the morning, or what their sweet mannerisms are as they drift off to sleep or in an attempt to ward off a nap. Those little notes will trigger a flood of memories when you otherwise thought you’ve forgotten it all.
Don’t for a moment live in a puddle of guilt fearing that you aren’t savoring it all enough. The work you are doing is incredibly hard, exhausting and with little immediate reward. Wander through your days with the perspective that it will pass, and yes, much quicker than you can imagine. Forgive the unsavory moments and somehow cement into memory a few things that you hope to not forget when this season has passed. And then promise me and all the future young mothers that you too won’t heap the impossible task of savoring every moment on to them.
Next week let’s talk about how we all need be a better boss.