My 4 year old started school this week. It’s the first time ever that she’s done anything more than a part time Mother’s Day Out program. It’s a big deal for her and it’s a big deal for this stay-at-home mom. For the first time in four years, I will have 23 hours of my own time every week. TWENTY THREE HOURS. What does that even mean? It means I can have dental work done without finding a sitter. It means that I can grocery shop in silence and without so much as a glance in the direction of the toy aisle. I means that I can listen to a podcast with grown up words. It means I can visit friends and have uninterrupted conversations. It means I can write and read and lots of other things that are hard to do when a wondrously inquisitive little girl wants to know if bats have feet or how Jesus is alive if He died or if twenty minutes is a long time. It means I have time to miss her. My kid being in school for 23 hours a week means a lot of things. It also means that people want to know what I’m going to do.
For months I’ve been asked what I was going to do when she started preschool. It’s an innocent question that I always answered with polite truths about how it’s never as much free time as you think it will be (can I get an Amen on that, mamas?) and then filled the space with idle talk of this responsibility and that obligation and maybe a cute joke about finally having time for a pedicure. I wasn’t offended by the question, it’s a normal thing to ask when a person is anticipating a change in routine or responsibility. Still, I couldn’t help but feel like others would expect me to fill those extra hours with something as equally valuable as full time motherhood.
Now here we are. It’s day two of preschool and I have yet to have time for a nap or a massage or bonbons or soap operas (are those still a thing?). I have done a handful of things in my handful of child free hours thus far and for some ridiculous reason I thought I’d tell you about them today. That quickly went from a witty story to a resume of respectable things I’ve managed to accomplish. It didn’t take long before I began to feel annoyed with myself for justifying my use of time and energy.
I want to do a lot of things, but voluntarily propping my self-worth on the opinions and my perceived approval of others is not one of them.
I want to be intentional when it comes to being me. I want to be a kick-ass wife and mother. I want to finish writing my book. I want to be a good friend, a faithful believer, and a liver of life. Those things are important to me. Most important. No part of who I am is dependent on the approval of another human being. Why would I spend precious moments justifying my responsibilities or time to others?
Would it make you feel better to think that I packed my day full of accomplishments, valuable activity, and work? Would it lessen your own value to hear that I succeeded in marking more things off my to-do list than you did? Would you feel more validated in your own life if you thought that I dropped my kid off, brought myself home for a four-hour nap, and got nothing else done all day? Why? Why would my successes or failures today make you feel better about your own? Why would your successes or failures today make me feel better about my own?
Motherhood is not a competition.
Hey moms, let’s do a thing for each other. Let’s stop waving the banner of justification as a measure of our worth. Can we do that?
Working mom, stay-at-home mom. Mom of many, mom of one. Mom of big kids, mom of littles. School bus mom, pick-up line mom. Full hair and make-up mom, just rolled out of bed and may or may not be wearing a bra mom. Home cooking mom, drive thru mom. Hot mess mom, polished mom. Bubbly mom, shy mom. Manic mom, Zen mom.
Are you doing what you need to do and trying to do it well? Me, too. Are you loving your family and tending to your responsibilities? I am, too. Do you blow it out of the water some days? Feels good, right? Does it all blow up in your face sometimes? Been there, scraped that off the ceiling.
I am not you. You are not me. We are not her. She is not us.
We’ve got this. Each of us. There are a lot of things worth spending your time on, but justifying your time, energy, and approach in your current state of motherhood isn’t one of them. Please don’t waste a precious drop of energy on justifying your time or energy to me or anyone else. Especially the internet. Do not- not for one split second- equate the approving nod of another with your self-worth.
So, hi. This is me owning me. I’m owning my time and my efforts and my energy. If I mark everything off the to-do list, run all the errands, pay all the bills, and then serve a home cooked meal on a pretty platter then I’ll own it. And if I forget my daughter’s blanket and grubby little baby doll at home on a school morning then I’ll make the trek home to retrieve it, take a weird selfie in the driveway, deliver it to school before rest time, and I will own every last unplanned minute of it. I’m pretty good at being a mom and I don’t have to justify that. I bet you’re pretty good at it, too.
For more stories on standing happily in the awkward middle of life, love, and parenthood, follow Happy Like This by Mandy McCarty Harris.