I was chatting with my sister the other day. She is honestly one of my favorite people on the entire planet. And, as usually happens, we got to talking about our lives as moms.
Sure we talked about all of the nitty gritty. Her with her toddler and baby and me with my gaggle of big kids, we have plenty of real life details to hash out in regards to bedtimes and eating habits and whatnot. But this time, we veered into more emotional territory. Somehow, we started talking about how we are both feeling a bit overwhelmed at this stage in our parenting games. And how, really, only another mom can understand.
There are so many buzzwords now about the plight of our motherhood. Are we invisible? What does that actually mean, anyway? What’s the difference between being a keeper and being the default parent? And are we possibly (probably) some combination of all three?
Can you see me now?
Think about the million pictures we moms take in a month. How many of them are we actually in? How many pictures will our kids be able to look back on in their adulthood? Shockingly few, I’d wager. Is our lack of self-esteem or our dislike of what time and inattention has done to our bodies keeping us literally out of the picture? Are we maybe making ourselves invisible parts of our children’s pasts? Something to think about, yeah?
You can read all about the “invisible work of motherhood” check out this article if you’d like…or this one from a dad’s perspective…this one is great, too). It basically boils down to a give a moose a muffin theory of motherhood. Say Mom has to make sure her oldest gets to marching band practice by 5:30 pm. That seems pretty straightforward, right? What’s the job? Take kid to practice. But what about all the invisible work that goes along with that one task? Well, Mom realizes that said child needs to eat dinner by 5:00. Then she takes into consideration when she needs to cook, what she needs to get out of the freezer, when it needs to go into the oven, how that maybe is or isn’t affected by picking up the other kids from school, and so on and so forth.
In motherhood, every singular task we accomplish is actually the sum of a million other decisions we ourselves may not even recognize we’ve made.
Mom, Keeper of All The Things
Moms are keepers of dates and times, preferences and needs, wishes and dreams, schedules and memories. We know that this child prefers the blue plastic cup for her milk and that the other one only likes the water poured gently over her head after being shampooed. We remember when to pay the electric bill, exactly how much a gallon of milk costs, and that the US History test was moved from Tuesday to Friday.
The other night, Greg and I took a rare opportunity to just sit on the back porch while the kids cleaned up the dinner dishes. For a while, we sat in silence. Then, he put his arm around me and asked, “So, what do you have going on this week?”
I went into Keeper Mom mode without batting an eye. Instantly, I started listing off our entire family’s schedule without blinking, including letting him know what day I planned to go to Target and what day he could expect the laundry to be done. The mental energy it takes to keep track of all of that is just exhausting! God bless him, he listened and nodded. So, when I paused for a breath, he put his hand on my leg and said, “That’s great. I know you’re going to be super busy. But I wanted to know what you had going on. What are you looking forward to?”
I honestly didn’t have an answer for him. And it truly made my breath catch. I honestly couldn’t think of one thing! And I’ll tell you this… That is no one’s fault but my own. Just because I keep everything in line for everyone else, it doesn’t mean I need to let myself fall to the bottom of the list. Shoot, at this point, I’d say I’d let myself fall off the list entirely! And who is that going to benefit? Absolutely no one.
It’s My Own “Default”
I remember this time I was sneaking taking a shower. You know, moms. Dad and kids are all outside and the house is quiet, so you take 5 minutes to clean your body in private. Shoot, maybe you take 8 minutes and wash your hair, too! You rebel, you!
Well, there I was all shampooed up when my 5 year old daughter saunters into my bathroom just as bold as you please and asks me for a pack of gummies. As the Pantene dripped into my eyes, I asked, “Where is your daddy?” She answered, “Outside with us.”
“Do you mean to tell me you walked right past your father, into the house, up the stairs, through my closed bedroom door, and into my bathroom…instead of asking him?”
I am fully convinced that, in that moment, my daughter didn’t realize that she could ask her dad for a snack. It’s not his fault or her fault, and it certainly isn’t my fault! It’s just the way it goes. Nine times out of ten, who do our kids turn to when they need food or drink or clothes or any number of their needs met? Mom, that’s who! And I’m not kidding when I say that it’s both an honor and a trial. Wouldn’t you agree?
I’m just thankful that I am no longer the default homework helper for my oldest boys…their engineer father has taken that over, thank you Lord!
All this to say…
I see you, Mom. I see your beautiful face, your body that has loved and worked hard. We see each other, don’t we? All of the invisible work it takes to have a home and family life that not only functions but flourishes. The million and one decisions and memories we make in a day. I know how you simultaneously adore and abhor being the one that your children come to for each and every one of their desires.
And, do you know who else sees and loves you for it? God does. And your family does. So trust in that on the hard days. Trust in the fact that you are loved ferociously by a God who created each and every atom in the entire universe and knew that it wouldn’t be just right without you in it. And trust that you are a bigger part of the hearts of all of those people that you lay down your very life for time and time again than you can even imagine.
Because motherhood? It’s the hardest job we would never, ever trade.