The other day I was helping Charlotte learn how to wipe her own bottom when she goes to the bathroom, (you know, just one of the many glories of motherhood) when she grabbed a long, 20+ square length roll of toilet paper and bunched it up in her hand.
"That's too much," I corrected, "You only need a tiny little piece to wipe your little bum".
And Charlotte piped back in her high-pitched little voice, "And you need a big piece because you have a big bum?"
And that about sums up motherhood, I guess.
I didn't get any pictures on Mother's Day. We were all dressed up for church and even all COORDINATING, believe it or not, and I still didn't get any. But pictures or not, it was a lovely day. Randy blessed me with a coffee table that we had been needing for a long time, and I had been wanting and thinking about and of course never buying, and Mother's Day morning, there it was. I would have never known 10 years ago that something as functional as a coffee table could bring tears to your eyes, but let me tell you....it can.
The girls were just as excited as I was and picked out their own little succulents to grace the top and kept chirping, "Now when people come over they can set their coffee on it!!" Which is quite a step up from them setting it on the floor, which was our option before. Then he also made breakfast for me, which ranks up there on my love language list about as high as a massage. So, yeah, like woah.
Then we went to my sister-in-law's church for my nephew's baby dedication, and all ate lunch together with the in-laws afterwards. It was sunny and warm outside and the children played, and it was actually a rather idyllic day, after all.
But as all of us mother's know....every day ain't Mother's Day. Isn't that the irony? You get to be a mom every single day (and night) but it sure isn't celebrated every day. And that's OK. We don't celebrate fathers or veterans or teachers or doctors every day either, and they're all just out there doing their thing too, so why shouldn't we? But sometimes it does feel a little thankless. A little unnoticed. And it's easy to wonder what we're even doing at all.
When I was younger, I thought moms of 3 or 4 had EVERYTHING FIGURED OUT. And I do mean everything. I thought they knew who they were, what they were doing, and where they were going, and never had any second thoughts. I thought they woke up each morning bursting with purpose and ambition because I mean, they had 4 LITTLE PEOPLE looking up to them for all the answers, for Pete's sake! How could they not feel purposeful? How could they not feel driven??
But then I became a mother of one, and then two, and then three, and now soon it will be four, and something I've realized through it all is that children don't automatically bring a sense of self and purpose and fulfillment into your life. Sure they CAN, (just like anything else can) but it doesn't mean that they WILL. You are not guaranteed an undeniable sense of purpose in life just because you gave birth. If you've always struggled with feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and purposelessness....then 9 months of pregnancy and 3 hours of labor isn't going to be your Magic Bullet.
Randy and I were talking the other day about all these feelings (husbands, don't you just love it when we need to talk about ALL the feelings??) and I asked him, "What makes you feel successful?" He answered and then turned the question back around to me. And I really had to think about it. It's an interesting question, actually. What does make one feel successful? What makes YOU feel successful?
Is it money?
Because if it is, just a heads up for you....motherhood doesn't really offer those things. And so if your definition of success is wrapped up in those things, it's easy to feel like a failure. Or at the very least, just not nearly as successful as all of those around you. Especially the ones who ARE achieving some or all of those things. And so what then? How does one go about feeling "successful" in motherhood? After all, isn't most of it impossible to tell if it's successful or not until the children are grown? We look at mothers of adult children who are all walking with the Lord in their daily lives, and we praise them for their successes, but what about the mothers in the trenches? Are they just supposed to flail around blindly for 20 years hoping and praying that their efforts are amounting to something, without ever really knowing for sure?
Oh motherhood. It's a tough job description, to be sure. I mean, just imagine interviewing for a job and the person across the desk tells you,
"You're qualified for the position, everything checks out great and we really could use you as part of our team! But before we close, I just wanted to go over a few details of your new position: You'll be required to be on-call at all times. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, you get the idea. There will be no promotions, no pay raises....actually, come to think of it, no pay at all. You will need to fill the various positions of secretary, janitor, business manager, errand runner, accountant, teacher, nurse, photographer, chauffeur, decorator, cook, and primary child care provider, if that's all o.k. with you. There will be no paid vacations or holidays off, and occasional round-the-clock-shifts will be required. Your colleagues will be quick to point out anything you're doing wrong, and offer their many opinions on how to do it better. Judgment and criticism is to be expected. There will be no performance reviews, no end of year assessment, no tangible way to know how you're performing in your position. If you need a break or some time off, we will allow it, but only in small increments and you will have to pay someone to be able to do so. The physical requirements of this position are quite demanding as well. You will gain weight, lose weight, gain some more again, and constantly be going through extreme variations in shape and size. You will need to have high energy on low sleep, and good overall strength without time off for working out or a gym membership. But most importantly, above all, this is not a job where you can "clock in and clock out". I guess I already made that clear with the time requirements. But what I specifically mean by that is, a lot more is expected from you than just the actual work. You will need to maintain a cheerful disposition at all times, exuding patience and remaining calm, even in the most extreme situations. You will need to be positive and nurturing, striving to provide the utmost example of an honorable Christian temperament, all the while instructing those under your authority to follow your lead, and do as you do. And so because so much is riding on this valuable position, we need you to absolutely guarantee that you will at all times, try your absolute best to portray the best possible version of a graceful leader, teacher, and caregiver, while carrying out all of your other duties...simultaneously. I think that about sums it up, so we'll see you Monday??"
I mean....kinda makes you think twice, doesn't it? But let me be clear....I still love being a mom. Even with all that I mentioned and more, I would do it over again. And I know way too many people longing for a child of their own to ever be careless enough to take it for granted. I know how rare and precious and valuable the gift of a pregnancy is. The gift of a healthy baby. And I never want to minimize that.
But that is the difficult glory of Motherhood. It isn't one thing, it never will be. It is ALL OF THOSE THINGS, wrapped up into one, mysterious package. It is hard and it is holy, it is magical and it is infuriating, it is miraculous and it is exhausting. It is the hardest and the best, all in the same moment. It is more than you thought it would be....in every imaginable way, good or bad. It is life-changing, it is gut-wrenching, it is thankless, and it is the highest honor. It is way too many things to ever categorize, or sum up. It is impossible to label.
And it will be even more different for every person who wears the title. Some find purpose and fulfillment in motherhood, others struggle. Some feel tidal waves of love for that little person the moment their skin contacts their own, I know I did. But some takes weeks for that bond to form, and that's OK too. Some love the newborn stage, and struggle with toddlers. Some love the toddler stage, but struggle with teenagers. Some love all the stages, but struggle with the empty nest. Some love the empty nest stage, and not in a "thank-goodness-they're-gone" way, but in a "these-are-my-best-friends-and-we-do-adult-life-together" way. Some waited years for motherhood and it bowled them over with surprise when it finally came with how difficult it was. Some never saw motherhood coming until it showed up with two pink little lines but they adapted more quickly and gracefully than they ever thought possible.
It just is so different for everyone. And I am not sure what it is for you, and I don't think we can ever really know how it is for others. But I know what motherhood is for me. I know when it is the most breathtaking, glorious thing I could ever imagine, and I know when I just want to pull the covers over my head in the morning and fast forward to bedtime. I know when I feel absolutely, totally fulfilled, and like I've found the role that I was created to fill, and I know when I feel like I will never feel successful. Like I will never matter.
And we need to know that those feelings are OK. They're o.k. to feel, and they're o.k. to talk about. No one should ever feel that motherhood should look one way, and one way only, and if it doesn't look just the same for you as it does for her, you're doing it wrong. That is just ludicrous. It can never, and will never, look the same for all of us. We're just all doing the best we know how, with what we have, to love these little people the best we can. To point them to Jesus. Everything else? Just let it go.
Cue that Frozen soundtrack, and play it loud.
And I hope you all had a wonderful, magical, Mother's Day.
, by Shelley Smucker