I’ve never been more aware or more shame-filled of how drastically imperfect I am. My flaws and quirks and and downsides are so highlighted as a Mom. At the same time, though, I see more good in myself than ever. More potential for change, more kindness and patience than I knew I held.
Mom is a synonym for sacrifice, I’m sure of it. I always saw how giving my Mom was, but I never realized how heavy that must’ve felt sometimes, maybe because she was never selfish. I don’t know how, but she truly never let the heaviness show.
We sacrifice tiny pieces of ourselves every day.
We skip our shower to give them a bath.
We give them our warm food if they ask, even if we haven’t eaten yet and they have.
We give them the tiny umbrella and stand on the other side of it while we get soaked.
We clip their fingernails and toenails and bite ours down while we cook dinner.
We stand up to get them a second drink although everyone else started eating ten minutes ago and we finally sat down.
We aren’t first anymore, because that’s the job of a Mom, to put them first and ourselves second… And we do, genuinely, happily. I would rather them be clean than me, more full than me, I would rather them be happy than me.
But you see, that last one is tricky.
Because there’s such a thing as too much sacrifice. If we don’t put ourselves first in SOME situations, we stop showing up how we want to because we’re too tired, too resentful, too burnt out. It gets scary, how heavy that can feel. I’ve felt that lately if I’m being honest.
I stopped going to the gym the last few weeks because my family needed me and at the end of the day, I was too tired to go. I don’t usually use that excuse, but I was.
When everyone was asleep, I stayed up to make lunches, pack snacks, make sure homework was in the folder, do the dishes, tidy the always messy house, and clean the table for breakfast. If I wasn’t exhausted after, I may hop in a shower so I could use naptime the next day to work.
When I stopped going to the gym, though, I stopped doing that one thing for me. That one sacrifice in a day that I keep so that I can happily put them first the next day. The only quiet I get in a day. The only adult music I get to listen to. The only drive without siblings fighting. The only time I honestly, really, think about just… me.
And after getting grumpier and snappier and more irritable little by little over that two week span, I finally snapped. I yelled. I threw a Mommy tantrum. The kids had been fighting and fussing all evening and all I wanted was a warm shower. So I started dinner and Kurt told me to escape for a shower. After putting Porter’s laundry in so she’d have clean clothes the next day, after my husband came home from a long day of work and immediately, with a smile, started in on the dishes I didn’t get to.
Finally. A shower.
At my very wits end, I hop in and it’s cold. The warm water was preoccupied with the clean clothes and dishes. And I didn’t focus on the fact that my child had clean clothes or that I have a husband who is willing to help without complaints.
I focused on me.
Because I hadn’t been focusing on me when I needed to.
Standing in the cold water I heard one kid crying immediately followed by the oven beeping. And beeping. And beeping.
And I. Lost. It.
I sat down in the cold stream of water and I cried that cry when you can’t catch your breath. The ugly, deep, cry that comes from the utter exhaustion that easily overwhelms you if you let it. And I did.
When I gathered myself and came back downstairs, do you know what my kids did? One gave me the biggest, tightest, bear hug ever. The other looked me dead in the eye after I had everyone’s dinner placed in front of them and she said, “You’re such a good Mommy.” She’s two. I didn’t even know she knew that sentence. They didn’t know that I’d just ugly cried, but they could sense somehow that I needed something extra that night. They didn’t send me to time-out for my Mommy tantrum. They didn’t shame me that I should know better, or ask me to use my words or take a deep breath. They just showed me more love.
Recently, I’m realizing that when we give new parents advice, solicited or not, it’s coming from a shallow place of:
1. Not wanting to scare them with the depth of what is about to change for them
2. Not knowing how to explain or understand it fully ourselves
I think when parents tell new parents, “Enjoy your sleep now,” or, “You won’t sleep for the next year,” it’s really our shallow, socially acceptable way of saying: Your life is about to have an exhaustion filling it that you didn’t know existed, both from lack of sleep and deep in your soul.
But we don’t know how to explain it like that, or any farther than that, really.
When we say, “Come over if there’s ever a day when you need company,” it’s a shallow way of saying:
The highs are higher than ever. The lows are lower than ever. And the in betweens are lonely. But lonely doesn’t mean the same thing anymore, you have more company than ever. You’re never alone anymore. Loneliness is actually the grief filling the fact that you can’t be alone even when you want to be. You’re lonely because you kind of just wish you could be normal-lonely again. But you can’t. So on the days you’re feeling that deeply, come sit with me and I’ll understand. We can be lonely but not lonely together.
Saying, “Don’t stop doing what you love,” or “Make sure you fill your cup so you can fill theirs,”actually is exactly what it sounds like. But the reason is because if you stop doing the things that make you feel excited to be alive, you stop showing up and sacrificing how you need to. You stop being happy to do it. You become resentful. You get burnt out on a level of burnout that is impossible to pull out of. Keep doing something for you so that you can happily do things for your family, it’s important. If you stop, your focus settles on counting the things you’re sacrificing… rather than being grateful that your job is to sacrifice. The latter is a way better place to be, and for me, is directly corelated to the question: “Am I doing anything to take care of me?”
But I think the most shallow one of all is: “When your baby is born, you will feel a love that you didn’t know existed.”
There is no possible way to explain this one. It’s not just a love, it’s a complete overwhelm of feelings. Our kids are born alongside all of the things we buried deep down that need love and nourishment. Our deepest guilt, trauma, sorrow, pain, our greatest love, happiness, memories we forgot about as kids. You feel it all so vastly, so hand-in-hand.
A joyous melancholy, almost.
They are all of those things in you, walking around in front of you all the time. They are our greatest and hardest teachers of all. Hard because you have to work at healing what you see in them that’s actually in you, without changing who they are. Because no matter how much they feel like a tiny you, they’re not. They’re a tiny them.
There’s this feeling I have at night when I sit with their tiny body drifting off to sleep, rubbing their insanely soft hair, staring at their perfect little face, that often makes me hold back tears when I’m in the moment and makes me cry just to type; because how do I explain that without being shallow? How could I possibly just say that it’s awesome? It’s deeper than that. It’s life-changing every day. Every. Day.
They’re older right before your eyes.
They make you aware of mortality, mostly because you don’t want to be aware of either of your mortality. But there it is, bigger and scarier than ever.
And how do I say all of that to a pregnant person, giggling through their nerves, saying, “Got any advice?”
They don’t want advice, they want to know that the nerves they feel are going to be okay. And they will be.
So if I had to give one incredibly shallow piece of advice about motherhood overall, it would simply be:
It’s always worth it.
In the cold shower cries. On the days where all they do is fight. In the darkest days where you find yourself on the floor. In the loneliness you didn’t know existed. In the 15th time you’ve woken up in a night. After the guilt of raising your voice due to your own impatience and not their behavior. It’s. Always. Worth it. They are always worth it.
I believe that our kids pick us and we pick them. I heard a story once of a little girl who told her Mommy, “I’m so glad I picked you.” The Mommy said, “What do you mean picked me?” The little girl responded, “In heaven, when God told me to pick my Mommy. I’m so glad that you’re the one I picked.”
And no amount of hardships can take away the feeling of their sweet little souls picking my extremely imperfect self to relearn life with them.
Parenting advice is shallow because we don’t say the deep stuff. Maybe we don’t know how to say the deep stuff.
My favorite parenting advice came from my favorite show. This guy just found out he was going to be a Dad by surprise and he was terrified. He was asking his friend all this advice about diapers and sleep and finances. His friend cut him off and said, “Can you love the kid? That’s all you gotta do, man. You’ve just gotta really love them.”
More love is always the simple and right answer. Always.
If I had to give one piece of advice that isn’t shallow… the deepest advice I have, after being a stay-at-home-Mom for five and a half years, after a lot of trial and error, and a lot of cold sobbing showers if I’m being honest, it would be:
Follow their lead.
We look for our advice in so many forms. Podcasts, books, Instagram accounts, endless resources that teach us about gentle parenting. How to be a parent, how to raise capable kids, etc etc. I find it unironic that the advice is always for us and never for them.
They already know. We’re told to love them, to be gentle, what discipline is right and wrong, how to do this and do that, to say this and say that.
They have it all right already.
They wake up happy not thinking of yesterday’s problems.
They say when they’re happy, sad, angry, hungry, without holding it in or thinking of reasons not to.
They come to us honest and gentle.
Patient and kind.
They don’t pout when it’s raining, they jump in puddles.
They cry when they need to cry, sleep when they need to sleep (sometimes).
They don’t care what they look like or what other people think.
They’re born with all of the things that we are continuously, trying so hard to find again.
They have all of the answers we’re searching for in our books and podcasts.
They ARE the answers we’re looking for.
Can I tell you a secret? I believe that when our kids are born, a piece of us comes out with them. What comes out is the piece that is filled with all of the things that society has changed in us since childhood. If we can be vulnerable and open and grow alongside our kids, rather than pull them to where we are too quickly, I believe it’s one of God’s greatest gifts to us. It’s this beautiful chance to fill that hole with our child-like tendencies again. The positivity and capability, not holding back, not taking everything so seriously.
I believe we love our children so vastly because they bring sunshine back to our lives that we didn’t know we had anymore. Sunshine we had in us as kids that we see in them again.
They get to grow up slowly and we get to grow up again with them, if we’ll just follow their lead instead of the other way around.
A second chance.
Of course you’ll feel everything bigger. Of course the advice related will be shallow.
How in the world could you put into a few words, something that phenomenal?