The photos in this post were from a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park
Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and in light of that I wanted to share with you a few lessons I would have loved to hear when my three babes still had fingers that looked like little sausages.
Even if you don’t have small ones I think there are lessons here that are still very applicable. And really, the truth is, I’m out of those very intense days of the younger years and yet I remind myself of these truths on a daily basis.
If you don’t have kids and are just simply trying to adult, there’s truth in here for you too. Because I get it. Gabe and I are so tired of “adulting” lately. So many times we’ve looked at each other with drooping eyes and said, “how do other people do it?” The more I talk to other adults I realize we are all in the same place; we’re all just trying to figure it out and so often we feel like we aren’t doing it right. So in my pursuit to share some truth in this perfection-seeking, social media driven world let’s get real! Adulting is hard. Truth. Parenting is ridiculously tough. There is no right way to do either. We do the best we can in a way that feels right to us, we make mistakes and own up to them and we celebrate our wins. And I hope that the more truth and honesty we share the more we can move away from competition and into celebration. We can all do hard things!
The following is adapted from a little talk I’ve been giving to mom groups around Seattle. I’ll break the talk down into three posts and I’m hoping that perhaps by posting these on Sundays you’ll have a bit of time to tuck into the words. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.
I’m sitting in heap of laundry. The teetering tower of clothes threaten to defeat me while one toddler is running through the house wearing cowboy boots, cowboy hat and nothing else and the other lays on his play mat attempting to roll over in order to get his sausage-like fingers on the herd of dust bunnies lying next to him.
Looking over at the sink I see the mess from breakfast lying dormant as I have to start thinking about lunch. I’m lost in the mess, lost in this new reality. Alone. Tired. Depressed. Tears stream from my exhausted eyes as I sink into my current reality. I always wanted kids but really? Is this what I signed up for? I was lost, had no perspective, was trying to do it alone and in a way that wasn’t me.
My shoulders slumped and I curled into a small ball – my physical body matching how I felt on the inside. I closed my eyes while the tears slipped down my cheeks. I took a deep breath and whispered to God. “When this is all over.” I began. “No more diapers, bibs, highchairs and potty training, use me.” I didn’t even know what I was saying. Why that was my prayer in the midst of such darkness? But I started to think, what if other women felt the way that I’m feeling right now? And that was too much.
God doesn’t forget – even when I do. This year I’ve been asked a number of times to talk to a groups of young moms. This is what I’ve said God in response to these invitations. “Cool. I totally meant it when I said I wanted to be an encouragement and a voice to women raising young children but surely you don’t mean now. I’m not ready. I’ve not ‘arrived’ as a mother yet. I still feel inadequate in my parenting, the house is still constantly a mess even though now I make the kids do the laundry and my parenting skills have yet to be proven. Who am I to stand up in front of these women of little ones and say anything?”
When I finally force myself to dig into the reality that I was indeed going to have to say something coherent to these women I frantically started to Google Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle Melton hoping and praying that they had some sort of a transcript for me. One that I could you know just do a little copy and pasting to form the ULTIMATE-destined-to-go-viral Mega- mom- encouragement speech. Until a soft voice whispers, “but what do YOU want to say?”
So you to you young mama’s out there I want to say to you the things that I needed to hear. I want to be the voice that I needed as I lay in a puddle of tears with three little ones running amid a scene of chaos. I want to say that you’re okay, you’re doing a great job and even when you’re not it’s still okay.
Throw away the idea that ‘savoring every moment’ is actually possible.
Regardless of how frazzled I looked in the grocery store there was always some lovely well-intentioned women with silvery hair and creases around her eyes from years of life. Her eyes never left the soft, rounded skin of my baby’s face and I saw the light her eyes brighten as she caught the gaze of my child. “It just goes so fast.” She would say like clockwork. “Savor every moment.”
I knew it was coming and yet every time I heard those words I felt the punch of guilt in the gut. Was I savoring this time enough? Will I be wrecked with regret because I sat my kids in front of the tv in a moment of weakness (there were so many of those moments. Who am I kidding? Still are). Will I loathe that aching feeling to escape when there were endless tears and sleepless nights? Can I really possibly savor the changing of diapers, lack of sleep, dried up food on every surface, laundry piles that never shrink?
Somewhere along the way I realized that those ladies probably just forgot the drudgery of the day to day. What they meant to say – and what I now say to mother’s of babies is savor what you can. Inhale their heads as often. Commit that smell to memory. Believe me when I tell you that they won’t always smell so sweet.
Take pictures, videos, sound clips, etc. You’ll return to them again and again and yes, there will be a bit of an ache for those days but we aren’t meant to exist in one place forever so you preserve what you can and live in the present with as much mindfulness as we can muster.
Keep a little journal handy and write down a few of the day to day mundane because one day your mundane will look different and those little notes – like what words they pronounce in an adorably wrong way, or how their hair looks in the morning, or what their sweet mannerisms are as they drift off to sleep or in an attempt to ward off a nap. Those little notes will trigger a flood of memories when you otherwise thought you’ve forgotten it all.
Don’t for a moment live in a puddle of guilt fearing that you aren’t savoring it all enough. The work you are doing is incredibly hard, exhausting and with little immediate reward. Wander through your days with the perspective that it will pass, and yes, much quicker than you can imagine. Forgive the unsavory moments and somehow cement into memory a few things that you hope to not forget when this season has passed. And then promise me and all the future young mothers that you too won’t heap the impossible task of savoring every moment on to them.
Next week let’s talk about how we all need be a better boss.
Beautiful words-all true. You are wise and doing great work!
Thank you Mary. I so appreciate the encouragement.
So lovely – made me cry with its tender honesty. As an “older mom”, I still recall those days of exhaustion. And yet, you have hit on the truths for that time – savor what you can – put down the “to do” list as much as possible – and document with photographs, video, and writing all the preciousness that disappear and change all too quickly. From what I see, you (and so many others) are absolutely wonderful mothers – especially for the fact that you ARE asking the questions. In truth, we are only human and are fallible, but as long as we are questioning, growing and trying, isn’t that all we can ask of ourselves and one another? (OH, and one tip – there is a reason for a day of rest in the week – no matter which day you pick, do your best to pick one and rest. It really helps!). Thank you for this post – so wonderful!
Thank you for your wisdom and adding your sweet voice to the conversation. I love love love learning from other mothers and really value your tip. Thank you so very much.
When my baby was born, I quit my job to freelance, so I could have a flexible schedule (and no more 16-hour days). I hate freelancing–the clients who don’t pay, the unsteady work–but I loved being boss of my time. When my kid started preschool, we allowed for half an hour to walk the few blocks (it got faster over time, and was five minutes by fifth grade). I didn’t want to start the day stressing over being on time, pulling my kid away from those sparkling-eyed moments of marveling at a rock, a bug, a flower. I was lucky to be able to schedule time to savor. My stress at that period was not from my child but from finances. It is really hard to get a balance, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do. As you say, put the phone down and enjoy what you can get.
I love this. I’m so grateful for my flexible schedule. I knew I always wanted to keep working but I also really wanted to be home when they got home. I realize that it is such a gift that I get to do both. And as I’m now on my computer while one child waits for me to come tuck her in and the other wants to snuggle and watch the new Bill Nye show, I appreciate your reminder to “put the phone down and enjoy what you can get.” Thank you.
So good Ashley. So good.
And this is why you’ve always been my hero and role model and hoping I’ll grow up to be a mother like you.
Thank you for it all Ashley. All these years you’ve always known what to say.
I love this. I’m not a mom yet, but I think this applies to everyone.
This is so beautifully honest! I remember so vividly those feelings. All of them! I believe I am also one of those who spoke those words to a young mom as I was going through the difficult years of kids in high school. Forgetting that I had felt the sting of those words myself. The feeling I wanted to convey to this young mom was how lovely that time was now that I was in a different “trial”. Yes, it’s true I had conveniently forgotten the isolation, lack of sleep, goopiness everywhere and the Laundry! Thank you for sharing as I would love to be an encourager to young women as they go through these years and brighten their day with true words of love!! Words that everyone needs to hear! Every day!
Thank you for your incredibly beautiful honesty. I so appreciate it and am honored to have your voice heard in this space. I forget so much of it too. I am that lady with the twinkle in her eye staring longingly at the babes in her arms. Meanwhile she’s half asleep and living on coffee. But I made a promise to remember the good and the bad so I can speak of the beauty and the hardship.
Really beautifully written, Ashley. I’m really struggling through this season. Most weekends, I find myself in fetal position a few times, exasperated. I question everything, but more than anything, myself. I want to punch those little old ladies in the face when they tell me to savor every moment. And I loathe the women who make it all look so easy and enjoyable. We need more women like you, who are willing to speak out and be honest about the fact that it’s so damn hard. But we’ll survive the hard stuff, and we’ll be better for it. And so will our little people! xo
Kasey, I want to punch them too. And I think everyone handles it differently as well. I was like you, in a fetal position a lot of the time. I mean don’t get me wrong, I still can get there but the demands are different these days. It does come naturally to others, although I’ve never met a mom who at some point will admit they don’t always like their children. Honesty in the good and the bad is so needed.
This! “I want to say that you’re okay, you’re doing a great job and even when you’re not it’s still okay.” I honestly didn’t think I needed to hear it but I so did. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Lisa, thanks for pulling this out. I need to remind myself of this too. haha. It’s still okay. Thanks for reading and commenting.
what a humble prayer. you are a bright light.
Thank you sweet friend.
I’m not – and can’t ever be – a mom, but I am a stepmom to a wonderful, fascinating, frustrating, infuriating, and amazing 8-year-old girl. Being a mother is not my calling, and I was happy with my life before I met her and her dad – being a mother didn’t complete me – but I have faced challenges that I didn’t know could even BE challenges in the past few years. Most of all, I feel a pressure that I never felt in any other part of my life – no one told me to savor getting my PhD, or to enjoy the crappy parts of my career, and no one scrutinized me the way strangers scrutinize mothers (and stepmothers, to an even more extreme extent in some way) – and I am often sending up silent prayers that this can’t be all there is, that there has to be joy as well as hardship. This is exactly what I needed to hear today, that there are moments of joy in the mundane, and that “savor the moment” is great advice if you’re eating French pastries, but not really applicable to everyday parenting.
What a stunning observation. Parenting is such a strange thing. I think for so much of it we all feel so insecure and with insecurity comes judgment, comparison, angst, and all sorts of other not so healthy emotions. I love love love this: “savor the moment” is great advice if you’re eating French pastries, but not really applicable to everyday parenting.”
Thanks for this! With a one and a three year old, I want to enjoy and savor, etc, and feel guilty when I don’t but. ….so much work and so little rationality!
So so so little rationality. hahaha.
This is beautifully written and you are right, has applications far outside of parenting. On an unrelated note, how did I not realize that you were also from Seattle?!
Ohh, being a mom… the hardest thing will ever do, it will push us to do and give our best, it will exhaust us, it will help us develop talents we didn’t know we had, it will drain us, it will help us become humble, it will bring the greatest joy into our lifes. Mothers, women, don’t compare your abilities with others, we are all different, encourage each other, help each other. Happy Mother’s day!