The comparison game starts early. As I drive into the preschool parking lot I lock eyes on an especially trim mom, with perfect shoulder-length waves and toddler on hip, styled as if she effortlessly selected the perfect look that morning.
I see my own coffee-stained blouse (at least most of my closet is black) and somewhat stretched-out slacks with a touch of dog hair 50,000 lint roll passes somehow didn’t catch, and think, “Geez, what a slob. If you could only lose 20 pounds and get up a half-hour earlier to make yourself presentable.”
Motherhood, as it is for many of us, has been the biggest transition of my life. The sleep deprivation alone has rattled my entire sense of calm and I feel like I’ve been trying to regain some level of control since having my first little person eight years ago — a pretty gargantuan feat when you throw in two other kids, loss of a parent, and a marriage that sadly crumbled.
I can’t help but chuckle when I think back to how I fantasized myself as a mother during my college days, with visions of a laidback, confident caretaker who took all the challenges of raising children in stride, and instead of constantly worrying threw herself headfirst into embracing the everyday moments that don’t last forever.
I’m definitely not the mom I thought I’d be.
All my granola motherhood aspirations were replaced by major anxiety (thank God for therapy) and a daily struggle to assume some kind of actual power over my kids’ behavior. Which we all know is pretty much impossible. If it were, our wine-centered mom outings would not be such a necessity.
But in every trial we know there’s a much deeper lesson to be learned. And in this season of understanding how to parent well, balance corporate life duties with school projects and soccer practice, and make space to grieve unexpected turns — I am learning to embrace who I am as a woman and a mom. Being proud of and owning the unique strengths and personality I bring to life’s table. I am not the “has it all together” mom I envy each day at dropoff, but as I celebrate who God has designed me to be, I get a little closer to being ok with that. And when my kids are grown, they will be stronger in having seen a mom who rediscovered her own strength.
So how do I best leverage my gifts to my children (and the world)?
I help them frame this journey through a creative lens. To see beauty in nature, and open up new parts of themselves by drawing and painting, and appreciating gorgeous music. To share the thrill of finally getting that new move down in hip-hop class.
I guide them in breathing in each new sunrise as a fresh bucket of opportunity, excited for what great joys might await us.
I share with them my own love for languages and foreign lands, hoping to expand their worldview and offer them a richer perspective of people and cultures of all types.
I dance when they succeed and soak up the best this life has to offer, and I experience their hurts and disappointment as my own — not downplaying their emotions but letting them know it’s ok to really feel when things are hard. And sitting with them when we both don't know why they're so hard.
I encourage them to seek out the broken, the hurting and needy, the underdog. I want them to know they have the power to change someone else's path.
I try (major work-in-progress here) to connect with, rather than control, them. Sometimes the hysterical is really a cry for focused attention and a comforting hug.
I let them know they are supremely loved. And when Mommy messes up, she is forgiven by her Jesus, because He loves her — and them — more than we can imagine.