Invisible Growth

I’ve grown from being a mother of one child…

I love being a mother. I also find it all-consuming. It takes every ounce of my attention and energy. It stretches me in every dimension of who I am, every single day.

Yet, ironically, I often feel guilty that I am not pushing myself more. Everywhere I turn I hear about how mothers need to cultivate their talents in order to be able to help their families grow. I agree; but quite honestly, even the prospect sounds exhausting right now.

Worthy personal pursuits like learning the ins and outs of basic photography, entering the coupon world, creating a blog to be followed by thousands, or starting some non-profit all feel more like something I ‘should’ do rather than something I want to do right now. When I do take time for myself, my first choice of a free-time activity is usually sleep! (With grocery shopping alone coming in as a close second.)

On a day when I was feeling particularly discouraged about my lack of progression, I vented to my husband. I shared my emotions about feeling so stagnant–and yet so strained–during this chapter of motherhood. I explained the guilt that I felt for not even wanting to tackle the development of my personal talents right now.

As he listened, I defended myself. “Maybe I am growing and changing all the time. It’s just…INVISIBLE!”

We laughed.

Sure…I suffer from ‘invisible growth’.  Right…. (Too bad that ‘invisible growth’ wasn’t the leftover pounds from my last baby!)

…to a mother of two…

But then we came up with loads of flattering examples to support my “invisible” progress. For instance, I used to struggle to go grocery shopping with one child. Now I struggle to go grocery shopping with three children. BAM! Invisible growth.

I used to struggle to care for one puking child. Then I got to struggle while caring for multiple pukers. Yay me! See that. More invisible growth.

At this point in the conversation, I got more serious. What good is it if I am learning to make dinner while nursing my newborn, distracting my toddler from grabbing the knives out of the dishwasher, and spelling every word under the sun to my preschooler? I’m still counting down every minute until my husband gets home from work. How is that progress?

Invisible growth is just that, growth that I may not necessarily notice or give myself credit for. I may appear to be the same on the outside, but upon closer inspection…something is different. There is progress.

It’s like I’m a competitive diver. I keep diving over and over again, and only scoring a 5 out of 10.  It can feel frustrating–and at times I may feel like I am a terrible diver–but the reality is that I keep increasing the degree of difficulty of my dives. So although I may feel disappointed with the scores of my personal progression, I have actually grown in leaps and bounds. If I were to go back to that first dive, I would see my progression more clearly.

Instead of going back to the beginning, I need to watch for and recognize the invisible growth in my life, and give myself credit for the ways that I have improved and become more competent as a mother.

Satisfied, and giving myself a pat on the back for my newly discovered ‘invisible growth’, I went to bed that night with a small sense of accomplishment. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t as stagnant as I had previously thought.

Over time, as my husband and I continued to joke about my impressive invisible growth, I found myself pondering the concept on a different level.

…and now I’m a mother of three!

Perhaps invisible growth is also the progress that each of us is making in the things that matter most, but that aren’t blog or talent show worthy. Perhaps invisible growth is the recognition of the inner progress we make in the immeasurable areas of our lives. It’s growth that I can’t see or share because it may not be noticed or felt by anyone but myself.

For example, no one knows that I am becoming more calm during my preschooler’s tantrums or more loving in the way that I discipline. No one knows that I am becoming better at not yelling in my home. No one knows the way that I am becoming more gentle and forgiving of myself, less judgmental and more understanding of others, or more giving towards my spouse.

Discovering this aspect of my own invisible growth has helped me recognize not only the progress that I am making as a mother, but also the ways that motherhood and the daily experiences of raising my children are helping me become a better person; and that is enough for me right now. I feel empowered to let go of my guilt, celebrate the progress that I have made, and accept that during this season of my life–for me–motherhood is enough. In fact, my role as a mother seems intrinsically fine-tuned to help me improve and grow as an individual.

I may have the superpower to seem like the same frazzled mother today that I was a few years ago; but I assure you, I have changed.  Motherhood has changed me. I have become more competent in not only the skills of caring for my children, but I have also progressed in developing the characteristics that I truly want out of life.

In my quest to develop the attributes of patience, selflessness, and unconditional love, motherhood is stretching me and challenging me every day. That may not be something I can pin for the world to see, or jot down in a witty one-liner on facebook, but it’s true! And I wouldn’t change all of my invisible growth for anything.

QUESTION: In what ways are you experiencing ‘invisible growth’? In what ways does your growth make you a better mother?

CHALLENGE: Write down five ways you have progressed through ‘invisible growth’, and just like you would put a 100% test score on the refrigerator, stick it up so that the family can celebrate with you!

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Comments

  1. says

    What a great concept! I have thought about this too. Being a mother has made me more humble, less inclined to judge others (especially other mothers), and more accepting of the fact that I can’t control everything.

  2. juliajacobsen says

    I have had so many year of this invisible growth, though I didn’t always take the time to see it. Thanks for articulating my feelings for a few of those years when my kids were small and time for bigger projects disappeared. These are important years of growth in invisible ways.

  3. Grandmom Wallwork says

    One very proud and grateful Grandmom really likes this article. What a joy to see you reach and exceed your expectations for your life. Good Growth!

  4. juliajacobsen says

    I have had so many years of this invisible growth, though I didn’t always take the time to see it. Thanks for articulating the feelings for a few of those years when my kids were small and the time for bigger projects disappeared. These are important years of growth in invisible ways.

  5. Robyn Mackelprang says

    You shared exactly how I often feel, but I didnt realize I am having invisible growth too! Thanks Kendra!

  6. Shawna says

    This is a very well-articulated piece. In fact, I have been straining for over a year to describe exactly what you did so well here–invisible growth! And you give the perfect examples to illustrate it. I especially loved the diver analogy (and never could have thought of it myself–are you a diver?) because that’s exactly what going from 1 to 3 kids is. I shoulder a MUCH heavier load of work and responsibilities now, but I still come across just as scattered and frazzled as I did when I had only one child! So it seems like I’m not improving, yet I AM!!! I’m going to share this idea with DH and see if it inspires him as much as it does me :)

    Thank you so much for bringing this message to light!

  7. MJ says

    You have articulated this so well! I am no longer the Mother of small children, but I too am growing invisibly in my role as a Mother of adult children. Thank you for taking time from your mothering to buoy up a fellow mother!

  8. Sarah Crawford says

    Wow! You nailed it! I love your new phrase and hope I can borrow it. Of course I’ll credit the author! My kids are teens now with one in college but when they were little I was like you, just happy to get through the day but loving the role of mother with all my heart and giving it my whole soul. You’ll be amazed how quickly time flies and you will be developing and sharing talents in other ways and there is soooo many years to do that but the years when they are young are precious and fleeting. Recently I was at BYU’s Women’s Conference and during their evening program they did these cute videos highlighting some wonderful moms. Sometimes I dread those because it’s always someone who’s a mom but also the Mayor or an incredible photographer etc. but this time she was “just” a mom. They never highlighted anything but her total love and dedication to her children and hubby. They showed her on the floor playing with her children and not really caring about how perfect the house looked or what was going on in the works and I LOVED IT! That woman was doing the most important thing and making leaps and bounds of invisible growth. Can’t wait to think about and journal about my growth.
    Thanks so much!-
    Sarah Crawford
    p.s. You are a great writer and have a wonderful mother yourself! :$

  9. says

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post! I feel like I’ve made lots of “invisible” growth over the past 10 years, but from the world’s perspective, it probably looks like I’ve been pretty stagnant. My people-pleasing self wants to “prove” that I have worth and am productive! But if my goal is to please God and Him alone, than I think He is pleased with the work I’ve allowed Him to do in my life. I still have so far to go, but I AM growing!

    Thanks for this fabulous post — am sharing on my FB wall.

  10. says

    What a fabulous post! I love the idea of celebrating all the invisible ways I have grown and my husband and kids have grown. It seems so important to acknowledge this growth for myself and share it/celebrate it. I tend to withhold that celebration from myself and my kids and am happy for this reminder. Well done!

  11. Heather says

    I am the mom of a pre-teen with Aspegers syndrom, on the Autism spectrum. I feel like an impatient, imperfect mom in a battle to keep my head above water. Then i will have a friend tell me it is their goal to be as patient with one of their children as I am with my 12 year old. Invisible growth seen by someone else, and slowly becoming more a part of my self acceptance. I may not have shed baby weight of four kids, i may not have “moves like Jagger” any more, if I ever had them, but I am growing in ways that benefit me and my family in ways that are very hard to quantify or measure. Thanks for your perspective.

  12. happymommy says

    I love this post and can relate to it so much, esp. the part where you describe the personal growth one makes that is visible to you and make you feel proud in you day to day tasks, though are invisible to others. I think ts so important to acknowledge this growth to oneself. Very well written essay.

  13. April Perry says

    Kendra, I just love you. Beautiful words here! I so wish I’d had this article to read 12 years ago. I was going through the exact same thing but didn’t know how to describe it. You bring hope to all of us. (And even though I do a lot online and with social networking, those things don’t even come close in importance to what’s going on in my own family.) Thanks for being one of our authors! We are so glad to know you and learn from you.

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