Maybe you’ve found yourself in a huge mess of paperwork and wondered if everyone else has their files beautifully organized. Or maybe you’ve been at a loss for words when dealing with a teenager, and you assumed that everyone else knows instinctively how to handle the huffs and eye-rolling. Maybe you’ve been stressed out because you kind of snapped at your husband and you’re wondering if you’re the only imperfect wife out there.
I won’t say I’m the ultimate expert on this, but I can say that among the thousands of mothers I meet through The Power of Moms, I’ve never met a mother who has been alone in her struggles. The specifics are always unique, but the basic challenges are surprisingly the same.
At our Arizona Power of Moms Retreat in November, I participated in a lunchtime discussion about margins and boundaries. One mother confessed, “I don’t know if I’m the only one, but sometimes my children drive me crazy! They are so noisy, and they always want to sit on my lap, and they whine so much. Sometimes I just want to go hide!”
There was a brief pause, and then another mother replied with a dead-pan straight face, “No, I think you’re the only one who ever feels that way.” And then the whole group just laughed.
We love motherhood–don’t get us wrong, but of course there are times we don’t love the nuts and bolts of parenting.
So in case you’re ever feeling like “it’s just you,” here are a few ideas of comfort:
Idea #1: Ninety-five percent of motherhood isn’t glamorous.
I totally made up that percentage, but at this stage of the game (with four children under 12), that’s about how I feel. To prove my point, I’ve started taking pictures of the unglamorous stuff I rarely see on blogs or websites:
Like the laundry queue:.
The pile of stuff in the hallway that needs to be donated to charity:
The sink of dishes:
The blanket/pillow/towels/bowl in the corner of the bedroom for a child who has the stomach flu:
And the spaghetti on the floor:
If I could include audio clips here, you’d also get an earful of the following:
- He’s hitting me with his elbow!
- I need poster board from the store right now.
- That dinner makes me want to ‘frow up.’
And then, of course, there are all those underlying, personal, really hard problems that every single person has to deal with. Glamorous? No. Reality? Yes.
Idea #2: The five percent that is glamorous is worth the effort associated with the ninety-five percent.
If you scroll through a website like www.parenting.com, you’ll see hundreds of darling images–children laughing in the arms of their mothers, babies playing happily while their mothers exercise, and precious toddlers dressed in stylish clothes while utilizing the most trendy baby gear.
Aside from the fact that enticing photos contribute to high page views and potential purchases, I think the reason that print and online media sources focus on the beautiful aspects of family life is because the glamorous “five percent” (or whatever the number is) deserves to be shouted from the rooftops.
I peeked over the banister from our upstairs landing one day and saw my children having a “Daytime Camp-out”:
One evening, I slipped into my boys’ room and saw my husband reading, Going on a Bear Hunt from the crib:
And there are always those cute toy scenes that make me smile–like when the storm troopers take a rest under an umbrella:
There are tons and tons of beautiful moments that occur over the years, but we have to look for them carefully, and we need to realize that they come at a cost . . . the ninety-five percent.
Idea #3: The result of our mothering efforts will be greater than we think.
One day, I was taking a bath with my two-year-old, and we were playing with foam letters. He’d just learned to recognize each sound, and I was teaching him how the pieces fit together to form words.
I put up three letters, “R-E-D” and said, “Red.”
My son looked confused, and then pointed to each letter and said, “Purple, Blue, Yellow.” I mean, come on, he knew his colors, and there wasn’t a touch of red anywhere.
That made me smile.
And then, of course, I had to apply that lesson to my life.
Sometimes I look at the “throw-up” bowl, the dirty laundry, and the children who are arguing over who got too much “screen time,” and I think, “How does this add up to powerful motherhood?”
Or I look at all the projects and emails that have simply had to wait because I need to be present in the lives of my children, and I wonder if I should just give up on all the extra stuff entirely (I’m writing this post at 3:00 in the morning . . .).
But then I think of this photo (the R-E-D) and I remember that while the individual parts may feel unglamorous, ineffective, or even stagnant at times, all these individual weeks, days, and moments of deliberate mothering will combine to spell out our family’s story. And I have no doubt that the final story will make perfect sense once I can see it in its entirety.
So to answer the initial question . . . no. It’s not just you. Mothers worldwide share in our imperfections. The majority of our lives will be full of imperfections. But consistent effort creates beautiful moments and eventually leads to an incredible final life story we can’t yet fully see.
QUESTIONS: What helps you feel supported in your motherhood struggles?
CHALLENGE: Refrain from falling into the mindset that you’re the only one who feels challenged by motherhood. You may even want to start a Learning Circle, where you can meet each month with other moms who are working toward similar goals.