I saw a mom, much younger in her years than me, in a store the other day. She had three little ones with her, oldest maybe four, youngest maybe 6 months (of pure lovely irresistible baby chub, I had to do the leg squeeze). We met each other briefly before (so leg squeeze wasn’t super inappropriate?). She was juggling a cart with two kids in it-a late morning run to get something essential I am sure.
And the baby was starting to whine, and the toddler was asking again and again for something (those darn candy aisles!) and trying to crawl out and she was a little frazzled and she apologized. And I told her how cute the kids were and off she went to start her day.
But I wish I would have told her that she didn’t owe me an apology. In fact, I think she is awesome. I think she is EXACTLY what motherhood in that stage should look like.
Because she is doing the work. She is doing hard selfless 24/7 work. And sometimes I find that rare today. She isn’t decked out for an expensive exercise class sans kids, she didn’t spend the time it takes to do her hair all up and apply makeup, she isn’t dressed up, ready to start her day, the children tucked away elsewhere conveniently. She is WITH her children. She is probably pinching pennies and wearing what is in her closet, because she is making the sacrifice to find a way to be present. She looks nothing like the latest celebrity mom, and I bet she has to search hard for the “comrades in arms”, the friends that give her support because they are doing the same.
And she is tired. She has circles under eyes. She was up at night with the little one, who wasn’t left crying in his crib, and then up again with the older ones at the crack of dawn I am sure. She threw her clothes on (maybe the ones on the floor from the day before) and started her day, knowing where her priorities lie. Yes, she is disheveled because she put little people first before herself and there is NOTHING wrong with that, it’s admirable, despite what she will be told today, it is darn admirable. It is the way it should be.
But she doesn’t know it. She doesn’t know it yet, but she will some day. She probably feels like she is doing it wrong, she doesn’t “have her act” together. Maybe she has feels she baby weight to lose, she should snap back, take care of herself, put herself first. She shouldn’t let her career slip, or her fashion sense take a back seat. Maybe she wonders what “the secret” is, when it seems everyone else has seems all put together. She must be doing something wrong? She is told she should ask for help, lots of it, raising kids is hard work and requires “a village”.
I wonder if she feels lonely today, I hope she doesn’t, I hope she knows deep in her heart the difference she is making in those children, her incredible importance in being there all those days, every day, putting herself aside and finding joy in those little ones even just a glimpse in those hard days. I hope she knows how much her children are learning being with her, their mother, at the store, or wherever she goes and how much she is strengthening that bond of trust. I hope she knows how fast this stage will be over, and how plentiful the rewards will be knowing that she gave it her all and saw every stage and sweet moment. I hope she knows she will look back on the tight budget with nostalgic fondness, wondering how she did it and feel pride that her and her husband made it work. I know she will not regret one thing that she couldn’t purchase or had to put off till later-she traded that for moments that can’t be bought.
I know she will figure out “the secret”-that we learn as we go and we learn as we do the work, and the more we are there, present for our children, the easier it gets. The more we embrace the “mess” and stop looking for the answer outside ourselves (where we will certainly get every answer but the right one) and do the work at hand-dive into the work at hand, surrender to it all and heck squeeze those baby thighs, she will hit a stride and come up for air-and maybe go under for the next one, yes, but she is smart and she will learn to trust herself. She will figure out that the more we embrace the need for unselfishness and sacrifice, the more we stop wanting something “else” that we are told we must have to be happy and whole as mothers, be it a career, or a sofa, or a body shape, we will finally mother with joy instead of resentment, instead of being inconvenienced by our children.
What a beautiful thing to embrace-our children’s childhood-fleeting, precious, and never to be seen again-there won’t be second chances to live it all over again .What a beautiful thing to find joy in. The truth is, that “secret”? “The mess”, the work, is what gives the greatest reward, no other accomplishment or life experience will compare, and it needs no apology.