Like most things in life, there is a rhetoric for introductions. Names are exchanged, hands shaken, and then usually there is a repetition of names for those of us that need to say a name out loud for it to be committed to memory. And then the question usually gets asked, “what do you do”. What do you do? This is a uniquely North American way to get to know someone. I didn’t give it a thought until I started staying home with our daughter when she was 18 months old. And then I became highly aware of that question. See, we assume that living in North America means that we have manifested our deepest desires so that the “thing” we wanted to be when we grew up became reality. We think that by asking someone what they do, we will get a full and complete picture of who they are and what they love. And that is simply not the case. Because if I tell you that I am a stay at home mother who sometimes gets to lead people in spiritual direction, all you can determine from that is that I love my kids and I love talking with people about their connection to God. What you don’t find out from that question is that I have a bleeding heart for animals and orphans, adore thrifting, write poetry, sing, research every little thing to a fault, and that I am a sucker for a good hike in the trees. In fact, as I am still getting comfortable as me in this new skin that became mine when I became a mother, you might not even discover those things about me if we have had multiple conversations. Because all of us, every one of us, has fallen into the mindset that what we do defines who we are.
Today I woke up at 7am with my son attached to my breast. He is my happy co-sleeper so I am his happy co-sleeping mother. 😉 Whatever gives me the most sleep. I dozen in and out while he squealed happily and cooed and played with my hands and face until 7:45 when my daughter waltzed in requesting breakfast. I figured out breakfast for the two of us ladies while the babe teethed in his highchair. Breakfast was followed by a nap for Baby Bro and laundry for me, followed by a dance party for all of us which actually just consisted of Big Sister dancing and me recording a video. We somehow made it to the pool for lunch and swimming and then came home for naps, dinner prep, kitchen tidying, more laundry and a quick shower. My husband came home from work and quickly mowed the lawn before dinner. And then. THEN…I got to go to the gym! I go one evening a week and it’s bliss. So in a full, long day filled with activities and happenings, there was one hour that represented me and my heart. And do you want to know something crazy? I don’t feel like I have lost myself. I don’t. But I used to. I remember one night crying to my husband before going to a dinner for one of his golf events that I felt boring and completely inadequate to carry on a conversation with people who traveled and played golf and had jobs outside of their homes. At that time I was so consumed in my high needs 1-year old that I couldn’t have even pretended to discuss a political current event, a recent film, or an important designer. I was fully immersed in the world of cloth diapers, attachment parenting theory, organic baby food and babywearing. But time has a way of softening things and slowly, since that night, God has been showing me that the enigma that is each one of us does not exist simply in actions. Because today as I did the work of homemaking and mothering I was contemplating the ways that my deep and true self still lives in this season of sacrifice. While I nursed my son I dreamed about getting a double jogging stroller so I can get out the door and run whenever I need to. While I recorded my daughter rocking out to oldies I told her the names of the dance moves she was performing and remembered what it felt like the last time my own body created those same moves. And perhaps that is the greatest gift- being able to share my passions with the people I am most passionate about.
I think practically, that is what I am learning. I am discovering how to share who I am with my kids. Don’t think for a second that they don’t care. They do. My daughter can tell you my top three favorite colors without skipping a beat, can pick out clothes in the store that I would like to wear and knows when a song comes on the radio if it’s one that I love. She knows my favorite flowers and animals. And when I see her reaction to a beautiful poem and how she feels when an animal is hurt or neglected…I see myself. My mom has probably felt like all of us have, that she lost a part of herself when she became a mother. But by the time I was 8-years old I lost count of how many times I heard the words, “you are so much like your mother”. Had she simply been a shell of a woman there would have been nothing to pass on. Mamas, we do not lose ourselves to motherhood. Even if you haven’t taken a shower in three days, read a single word of something you care about, or had one moment to yourself since your babies were born, you exist. You exist in the way you carry your body and all that it has known and accomplished. The experiences that made you the woman you are boast forth in the way you sing lullabies to your baby and tell stories to your preschooler. The way you kiss away boo-boos and laugh at silliness. If you’re a mom who is prone to story hour at the library or frozen yogurt and the park. Those things, those motherhood nuances are you. Still you and always you. And someday you will get to walk up and down rows of a tiny used bookstore for hours, peeking curiously at covers and breathing in the musty scent of 40-year old leather bindings. Someday you will grab your yoga mat and head to a 90-minute class that makes you drip sweat and feel completely at peace. Someday I will wake up, lace up my running shoes and head out the door to hit pavement for 45 minutes without having to push an extra 45 pounds in the jogging stroller. That day will probably not be tomorrow. But in the meantime I can keep telling my children about the things I love. I can take them hiking even if my daughter starts to whine about half a mile in and by powering through I can teach her about her own strength and resilience. What can you do to let You shine through? Read them books you loved as a child. Play your favorite songs in your home. Have a movie night with your favorite childhood movie. Show them who their mommy is besides the woman who plays with them, makes sure their clothes are clean and makes them take three more bites of green beans. And on the really hard days, finish it by drinking a big old glass of your favorite wine.
Cheers, my dears.