I was chatting with my darling neighbor who has 3 tiny kiddos, is pregnant with her 4th, and in the middle of tearing up and remodeling her home. She’s feeling a wee bit stressed.
Soon tears were flowing and she said, “But I shouldn’t complain. You’ve got twice as much going on as me and you are always so pulled together.”
Ha! Me? Pulled together?
I told her: “I sincerely and honestly apologize if I’ve ever given you that impression. I would never want anyone to think that about me.”
As the mother of five wild boys and one crazy little princess, I am not trying to create any illusion of perfection. 10 days out of 10 I have moments where I simply CAN’T HANDLE life. And I also have really great happy moments 10 days out of 10. I choose to believe that’s a normal part of motherhood.
My friend Missy told me a story of hiking with her dad when she was 8 years old. The hike was easy and fun for the first few miles, but as the elevation increased and Missy’s energy wore down she struggled for breath and fought to keep up with her father. Convinced that something was truly wrong with her body she called to her dad, “I can’t do it. You go on. I’ll wait here.”
Her father stopped, sat her down and gently explained, “You’re OK. We’re higher on the mountain now and the air is thinner. You have to take deep breaths and I need to slow down and walk slowly with you. You’re going to make it. You’re going to be fine. This is normal.”
For Missy, those words made all the difference—there wasn’t anything wrong with her; it’s normal to struggle when you are not getting enough oxygen.
And I guess that’s my message to all my fellow mothers. None of us are getting enough oxygen. Every mother I know, whether she has 10 kids or 1, is pouring every bit of her energy into the bottomless pit of motherhood. It’s meant to be hard. This is normal.
I don’t ever anticipate being the pulled-together super-mom. I don’t want to be. Forgetting a birthday party or serving cereal for dinner is fine with me. If I ever get too organized I may not have time to sit and hold my Gabriel while he tells me about last night’s dream or I may not be willing to leave the beds unmade and go on a walk with a friend. Inadequate, imperfect, scatterbrained, messy—it all makes me a better mother.
I should stop here but I won’t. My cute neighbor said she tried to explain her stress to her mother but her mother’s reply was, “You have no idea how lucky you are. There are so many people in the world with bigger problems than yours.”
I beg to differ. My friend is a nurse in a child abuse unit; she served an 18-month service mission in Guatemala. She is acutely aware of the problems in the world and often expresses her profound gratitude for her husband, home, and children. Just talking about her blessings throws her into guilty worries that she isn’t grateful enough.
But taking care of 3 small people, growing a new one in your belly and picking out tile for the kitchen are exhausting, oxygen-depleting tasks. Not life threatening, but exhausting. It’s OK to be frustrated, it’s OK to be overwhelmed. This is normal.
Michelle Lehnardt never folds laundry and her car is a mess. She runs through the streets of Salt Lake City, UT, takes lots of photos, plays Uno with her 5 fabulous boys and buys way too many dresses for the little princess. Her husband is the most romantic man in the world because he does all the Costco shopping AND hauls it into the house (sorry to make you jealous girls). She writes at Scenes from the Wild.