My friends laugh at me sometimes when we take pictures.
They know I’ll joke about having a better side and I’ll move so I stand in a certain spot and look a certain way. I joke along with them, but seriously, deep down, I only like pictures that way.
My couch in the living room has this deep tear down the left side cushion. It’s like the seam split from years and years of use and decided one day to spill the yellow foam out for all the world to see.
I have a strategy for that too.
I hide it. Or maybe don’t hide it, but artfully arrange the clearance throw pillows from Target with an afghan over that spot just in case someone would accidentally come over.
There’s a bit of rust on my van.
My new to me van which I love. Like I mean I love it – I’ve been without my own vehicle for a long time and have been borrowing one and this is a gift. And then this morning I got thinking about how I was thankful that when I dropped the kids off that side was the rust free side. Even though I’m getting the other part painted I still thought about it. And it really bothered me that my mind even bothered to go there.
Sometimes when I take photos I’ll retake them because I don’t like the stuff behind the picture. In fact, I wrote an entire post about trying to celebrate the behind the picture stories of life and yet I’ll find myself wondering why in the world my counter has 829 things on it.
And then, well then this.
This morning, my five year old Samuel came to sit with me on the couch and asked to cuddle with him.
I obliged. Gladly.
I smelled that five year old hair and the whiff of baby and toddler was still there as my littlest one morphed into the school age child. I held him and loved him and teared up when I saw how he still perfectly fit in that space in my arms. And when he said take a picture of us, momma. I did. I wanted that moment.
With that old couch in the background. And my face without makeup.
Because in that moment I didn’t care.
It was about that moment with him and not having stuff perfect and me just being the mom. In the moment. Without the cloak of expectations and to-do lists and social media quality images.
But it got me wondering why in the world I care so much about all that other stuff?
And I humbly realized that sometimes it’s not really me caring about me.
It’s me caring way way way too much what others think of me.
I just said it out loud.
I’ve begun to believe that I think it’s easier to just put stuff out there so that there can be freedom. In fact, sometimes I think chatting about that silly caring about what others think like that helps others be free too. You know, deep down, I care but then I really think about it and I realize that I waste too much time thinking about things that don’t really define motherhood. Or self. Or life. Or any of it.
Those are externals.
We’ll grow old, vehicles are vehicles and couches couches and on and on and on. But moments? Moments are there forever. And most moments – the happy one, challenging ones, great ones, medium ones, and all of them aren’t dependent upon externals.
So think about this. Those pictures where I turn just so also are a moment in time of life with friends and work. My couch with the foam bursting out is like that because it has been lived in. The vehicle moves us to and fro and memories are made there. And behind the picture? Well, that’s the life I’m blessed to walk this earth and live.
Same for all of you.
I know it’s hard to stop the comparison thing. Especially in a world filled and bursting and expecting so much out of us moms at times. That part is exhausting. Like so tiring that sometimes I just need to close Facebook (and never open Pinterest) and simply shut it and look at all the good that is right in front of me. It’s easy to stop seeing it and to look at it a good life defined through the lens of carefully curated digital success.
But at the end of my days and when we look like at our motherhood journey it’s not going to be a single status update that defines our life.
Instead it will be this collection of stories and moments woven into the most imperfect of times and things that we will look back and remember.
Cuddling on the couch. Coffee made in the morning and left in the microwave and heated a dozen times. Playing slapjack and letting them slap first. Shoveling snow and throwing snowballs. Wiping handprints off the windows again and again. Deciding to finally throw out the lone socks only to find it stuffed in the corner under the bed. Being free enough to admit that this is the way I am. Just like that viral bikini picture. Just like the fruit cup videos. Or all the times where we just invite someone in – whether our house is immaculate or a mess or crazy – and we just be.
We’re mothers in real worlds with real lives with real stuff.
And you know, one other thing. I think we’re too hard on ourselves sometimes for those moments when we do compare. I am just going to say that as well. Sometimes I think that we read all these expectations about how we shouldn’t compare and that comparison is the death of contentment and that it really doesn’t matter and that we need to embrace the moment and let the mess be and then we find ourselves in this place about feeling just a bit of guilt because we compared.
Because here’s the deal: we’re all real people.
And some of us like having an immaculate house and have a hard time playing with the kids unless it’s in order and some of us can play freely with the kids and are okay with clutter and some of us know which side is the better side for taking pictures (ahem, like me) and some of us just have those moments where we think about all of those things and we wonder why it’s hard for us to play with the kids when it seems like everyone else can just play and we’re mulling over the to-do list instead.
That doesn’t make us bad moms. Or not intentional moms. Or moms who don’t love the moment. Or moms who aren’t grateful. Or <insert any other thought> that we use to define self.
It just simply, plain and simple, makes us absolutely real.
I wish I could write the magic 18 step program for getting through motherhood without comparison. But, I can’t, and that would be foolish. And then, you’d be comparing yourself to me who supposedly has crazily found the perfect 18 step program for perfection. (Which, if you’re looking to order it from me, does not exist.) Sometimes comparing isn’t bad when it simply shows we care.
So why in the world do we really care about those externals so much?
I don’t know.
I simply do not know.
But I do know that we love our kids.
We want to be happy. Make a difference. Maybe, just maybe, that caring is loving. It’s of us wanting to be the best moms that we can be. It’s of us pulling up those well worn boot straps and trying again. It’s of us being proud of our stories. It’s of us looking at the other moms and realizing that they too care about silly things and that we all have those things like ripped couches that we tuck away and hide but we all have them and those things do not define worth.
Worth. You are worth it sweet mom. Even if you feel like you’re stuck in a world where the comparisons leave you on the side of the fence that isn’t as green. Listen. The fact that you mother over and over again. That you do little things that weave to create your story. That you mess up but try again. That you love.
That is beautiful.
That matters most.
That’s why we care.