This morning I thumbed through Instagram’s Explore feed.
I shouldn’t have. At least not this morning. Not on the morning of crazy and school and homework and plates left out and me running behind.
The feed of inspiration left me with a bit of desperation.
As I sat there, looking at picture after picture, instead of inspiration I felt myself doubting the awesomeness of my life. I kind of felt like I was watching all the cool kids and here I was, just playing this game of motherhood with my less than glamorous and less than trendy home and self.
But instead of breathing deep, getting some coffee and embracing my life, I found myself clicking picture after picture of these stories of others – of their homes with white unstained furniture that toddlers play on and cute pillows with patterns that stay on the couch and kids that smile wearing unstained clothes while actually smiling while they do their homework and those that workout and can smile while doing complicated yoga poses with immaculate backgrounds – and I started to think mean thoughts.
Really really mean thoughts.
I started to wonder why my house didn’t have high enough ceilings for the curtains with the beautiful silver grommets that I saw this morning. I started to wonder about my wardrobe and instead of seeing this closet bursting with clothes I saw everything that was wrong and loathed the now unfashionable clothes I was wearing. I started to think about the need to get in better shape, and yet, hours ago I was totally content and laughing and happy drinking a caramel latte with friends at Panera.
I started to think I needed to change.
Wait. I started to believe that I needed to change my life to fit into a parameter of photo success.
All from looking at a bunch of random pictures from random families that are really not so random when they are put up.
I forgot it’s the highlights. The good stuff. The stuff that makes it onto the explore feed. Just like the stuff that makes it on television or in the middle of magazines or on those talk shows.
And my real life began to feel really really dull.
But guys, that’s the danger, well maybe not the danger, but the subtle hook of all of this information.
That’s what it was.
That discontent crept in so quickly that my life, my imperfectly beautiful life where I’ve given and fought for and done hard things, began to feel not worthy and not beautiful. And yet, I forgot. I forgot that success isn’t defined by an all white decorated home with twinkling lights on the mantle and a front porch and new pillows. It’s not defined by some type of letter board (hahaha, I don’t even know what it’s called) with cute sayings held by adorable children or by the front door. It’s not defined by always in-style cute clothes or kids that do adorable things. It’s not about diets or what one eats or how one can bend in a yoga pose or how big or small one’s butt is. It’s not about pictures on a fall day with the light flittering through the leaves as the sun sets and life looks perfect.
Do you know why?
Life is messy.
Let’s get that straight.
Messy. And just because something is a mess doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be appreciated or wonderful. I have a home that my kids walk through the front door every single day. Maybe it’s not the “ideal” home, but it’s a home. And there is a pantry that they open and complain that there’s nothing to eat and yet it’s bursting with food – just stuff they don’t like at the moment.
And maybe I don’t have ideal pictures and fancy stuff but I do have a whole bunch of love. You can’t buy love. You can’t manufacture love. You just give love.
Love isn’t in perfect lives and perfect pictures.
Love is in showing up. Love is in holding the puke pail for a five year old. Love is helping a sixteen year old and waiting outside their work while they finish a shift. Love is in working super hard. Love is in deciding that your life isn’t defined by a highlight reel, but rather is defined by the love you give and teach. Love is what we give. Love is what we are. Love is what makes people show up at our doorsteps and funerals when loved ones die. It is in waiting outside principal’s doors and doctor’s doors. It’s in searching for answers until the early hours of the morning. It’s in rocking babies despite having no sleep. It’s in praying and hoping and giving. It’s in having doors slammed in your face and tears falling down your cheeks. It’s in bills piled and homework in the corner. It’s in wondering if you’re really cut out for this mom journey and forgetting, just for a moment like I did this morning, that the external package of a home and life doesn’t define the love.
Love is the moms in Haiti that I saw wait six hours for a doctor to see their child.
Love is in us every single day despite oftentimes not one picture documenting those moments.
Love is sometimes Instagram beautiful and sometimes gut wrenchingly complicated.
Love is gratitude for what we have right smack in front of our faces.
It’s not bought, photographed, documented and so many many times not seen.
When that reality crept back into my once discontent with my life bones, I got up, walked over to that pantry door in my normal kitchen, looked at the food and the cans of food and the noodles and cereal boxes left partially opened by busy kids I realized it was well with my soul. I looked in my living room and saw the throw pillows on the floor and was thankful for the kids who threw them on the floor. I walked up the stairs and saw the pile of laundry waiting for me to fold and I was thankful. I looked in the mirror, at the me with the pony tail and same old clothes and I was grateful to be able to have another day with my kids.
I love my family the way we are – messy, not normal, crazy, chicken nugget eating on busy nights – and yet happy and a trying group of souls knit together by a bond stuff can’t buy and most might not see.
There wasn’t a picture of that.
But it was perfect.
Thank you for your messy, beautiful, undocumented love filled life.
if you want more real – grab my book The Brave Art of Motherhood
What a beautiful reminder. Love is living in the moment and not the material things.
I wasn’t content with my kids’ progress in school, or their messy rooms, or their lack of excelling in many things, but then today I read a story about 4 teens who had plotted to kidnap a girl, bind her father, and rob the house. They got caught. As I read that, my boys of that age were swimming in the YMCA pool with a couple of friends, behaving so well that the lifeguards are amazed and compliment me about it. Another was at home working, taking care of his disabled brother. I couldn’t imagine teen boys doing such a horrible crime as what those boys in the article were doing. My boys are good. I am happy with them, and proud of them.
This is the reminder that so many parents need in today’s age. Social media is a slew of all the positive moments in everyone’s lives. None of the messy, dirty, hard, or boring parts of life are published on people’s feeds. Only the, my house has this, or my kids are already doing this, or the mask of fake that is easy to overlook while we are surfing. Thank you for writing this as I, just today, was trying to remind myself that my children are happy and healthy so who cares that my 3 year old still has accidents and that my two year old is such a handful sometimes I question my reasoning for becoming a parent. Thank you for sharing your hardship and reminding me of what is REALLY important. My family, their happiness, and their health. All the other stuff is just unnecessary worry.
This post was so perfectly timed, it’s eerie. I am single parenting my 6 kids right now while my husband is working out of state. Today was especially hard and I wanted to throw in the towel and run away. I had just been holding the barf bucket for my 5 year old not 10 minutes before reading your words. This post helps give me courage to carry on, and accept life’s messiness, and mine and my children’s imperfections and “ordinariness”. I wish we all could be more open with our struggles instead of trying to uphold an image of perfection. Thank you for this and many past posts that touched my heart.
You are welcome, Jill. Thank you. I hope everyone feels better soon.