To you, the mother, across from the screen wondering about all of the stuff. The toys, the crafts, the holidays, the birthday parties, the cooking, the doing, and the expectations.
There are words that I think you need to hear. Words about motherhood, worth, and value. Words about how amazing you are as a mother even though sometimes you might not feel that way. In fact, sometimes you might struggle with feeling like you don’t measure up, that you’re failing, and that you just want to quit.
Those feelings don’t define you as a mother. They are just feelings, sweet mother. It’s easy to race through life, and race through motherhood – even though on those days where everyone is puking or everyone is screaming you could bet money that the clock was moving backwards – and miss out on everything you do accomplish everyday. We live in a culture with expectations to do, be, perform, and look a certain way and after we achieve all of that with a smile on our face then we’re considered to be successful.
Motherhood is no different. In fact, motherhood has been put in the pressure cooker of expectations. Where we once were expected to just prepare dinner with the grace of what we’ve been blessed with now there is the expectation to create amazing pinterest worthy meals inspired by Food Network that the entire family will love using brussel sprouts and fresh herbs picked from your window herb garden in under twenty minutes. There are books about getting your prebaby body back within months of giving birth. There are classes upon classes upon classes that our children could be doing. Simply walk into Target or Walmart and it feels like you are missing out on doing something. Seriously, the feature aisles of necessities for holidays and seasons and birthdays has grown bigger with each progressive year. Do you want to know something? I do less each year. Less Easter basket stuff, no Valentines, no none of that stuff. And my kids are okay – they’ve in fact, learned to not expect all sorts of stuff all the time throughout the year.
But, it’s pressure. I’ll wander through and think that I need to get this or that or the latest video with the Disney Jr character celebrating Easter. It’s marketing, but it’s gone straight to the mother’s heart. I’ll see carts bursting with stuff – stuff that is loved for a moment and then will need to be managed the next. All of that stuff and doing it doesn’t define motherhood. Here’s a secret: we color our eggs – with Paas egg dyes. Would I love to try the cool natural egg dye thing? Yes, but it doesn’t determine my level of value or creativity. I’ll do a basket for my kids – with candy not all the presents – and I’ll hide it somewhere in my house. Instead of adding more things, I’ll take time and write out clues – not fancy, not typed out on glittery paper with sweet little ties – it’s just simple paper with my handwriting on it and a number on the outside. That’s it. They love the time given, not the stuff.
You see, sweet mother, I just want you to know that the world often wants us to think that we are good moms when we do x,y, and z and especially when we purchase all of these things. You know what? There have been years where I’ve stood in Target with a very specific list of what to buy and I’ve seen all of the stuff to buy for whatever – it could even be summer, Memorial Day, whatever the next event – and I’ve felt my heart well up with discouragement because I couldn’t afford the sidewalk chalk, glitter, t-shirt with the flag on it, special cookie cutters, themed glitter, you name it. I would start to believe the lie that my kids were missing out on life because I didn’t put those things in my cart.
That’s not true. And that’s what I want you to hear today as well. Here’s the reality – all of the things, the crafts, the amazing pins, gourmet meals, activities in Family Fun, amazing and super cute decorated rooms, super birthday parties, great toys, etc…they are just options, just things that we could do. But you don’t have to do them. And they do not define success. Success isn’t defined by a cart full of stuff, but it’s in keeping our cool when we say no and the toddler throws a fit in the store next to the stuff. It’s not the physical things, but in the giving of self.
Motherhood is so much more. Motherhood is waking up at 2:30 am and holding a child with a fever. It’s in making meals with food in a pantry that is beyond bare. It’s in counting to 100 with a five year old over and over and over. It’s in wet mittens in a pile by the doorway. It’s the toddler with the shirt on backwards and the mismatched socks that you let go because they dressed themselves. It’s in smiling in the morning when the preschooler gets up too early. It’s in scrawling notes on paper just to tell them you love them. It’s dirty dishes in the sink, laundry waiting to be done, toys spread on the table, and you sitting on the couch reading to them instead.
It’s an exercise in patience, strength, creativity, tenacity, joy, sorrow, worry, hope, optimism, and drive.
The stuff that we could do? It’s extra. A bonus. Somehow I’d like to pull the definition of motherhood out of all of those expectations. Redeem it, I guess. We’ve got motherhood, and the list of amazing real life things that we do, and then we have the other stuff. Let’s keep pinterest, Target’s holiday aisle, super birthday parties, and all of that – it’s all good. It’s not bad. It’s just not required to be a good mom. All of those things, if you do them, are like extras. You can make a fabulous Easter egg hunt, or cute birthday crafts, or amazing meals. In fact, if you love it – do it.
But did you hear that? All of that, the extra bonus stuff, is not required to be a good mom.
Motherhood is a tremendous exercise in patience, loving others when they don’t seem very loveable at the moment, creativity, and no sleep. Sometimes there’s only energy to get up, wash the dishes, change the diapers, drive here and there, work, vacuum, pick up the living room for the what feels like a millionth time in the day, wipe up spilled milk, pouring coffee, sorting toys, listening to reading, and giving of self. Those simple everyday normal things matter.
Hug your kids. Make your meals. Drive. Read the stories.