I used to think I knew what being a mom was all about. Eleven years ago, we held our firstborn baby: a beautiful girl who weighed a mere 6lbs 3oz, but whose spirit more than made up for her size. Deep within her heart there has always been a spark. It lights up when she sees you, and her heart wraps around life like a hug. More experienced mamas always told me to “enjoy every moment” because they pass so quickly. I believe them now, as I stand eye-to-eye with my curly-haired beauty of a daughter and discuss things like marriage, boys, friendships, and other adult-like topics. I’m reminded of it when I root around in her drawer to borrow one of her shirts, or when she grabs my sneakers as we head out the door. I’m reminded of how fast time flies, but I’ll also never forget those first few months.
She was about a week old when God gave my husband an epiphany. This revelation truly changed how I have viewed motherhood the past eleven years. We were visiting my sister and brother-in-law, and the first night there our little peanut of a daughter just wouldn’t stop crying. She wore little grey footie pajamas with a trapdoor covering its bottom. She was beyond cute. But she wouldn’t stop crying. I nursed her, rocked her, and the tears fell from my exhausted eyes. Eventually, I handed her off to Matthew and told him how I couldn’t do it anymore. This mom stuff just was beyond my ability. I was angry, confused, and tired. That night God spoke to him.
He said, She’s not trying to upset you. Just love her. Here I was, thinking this one-week-old little baby was on a mission: Upset Mom. She had no more of an agenda to make me angry than I had to give birth again. Yet I viewed her wailing as a personal vendetta against me for something I had done. Frustrated, I expected her to know how much I needed to sleep and stop crying.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that my second epiphany came. It was more like a bullet shot straight at me, knocking me over with its force. We were driving home from somewhere and my husband told me flat out how he didn’t think I liked being a mom. My attitude and actions showed a shoving away, a pushing aside of what I was called to be and do. I couldn’t have verbalized it as succinctly as he did. Most likely I would have labeled my behavior as “exhausted mommy syndrome”. When I let myself in on my own secret, however, I knew he was right. I didn’t like being a mom. I wanted to be just ME again. No strings attached at my hips, my tummy, my breasts, my hands, my shoulders. I was so tired of being needed every minute of every day. I had bought into the lie that children are inconvenient and draining me of my very life.
There are many chapters to be written from that moment to today, but I want you to know how raw and real motherhood is. It’s way more than a baby registry, leggings, and wall decals. It’s more complicated than a birth plan or a nursery theme. Yet it’s as simple as a bedtime story, a back-rub and knowing your child’s favorite color. It’s not about the jogging stroller you use, it’s about the time you spend with your children. It’s not about whether or not your tummy goes back to its original shape and size. It’s more about tickle fights and soothing scary dreams. Motherhood isn’t about you as much as it’s about who needs you. Your worth isn’t found in how you measure up to anyone else, it’s in how much you love. You will be depleted and exhausted to your very core, and then you will be filled up again and again with a love as strong as death. All the tough answers won’t be found in textbooks or parenting seminars, but rather in your child’s heart as you get to know them.
By the time our fifth baby bettered this world by her arrival, I was given yet another epiphany. It was almost too simple of a thing not to have realized yet. It dawned on me that the best possible way to enjoy the fleeting months of babyhood was to actually hold onto my baby. Not put her in something across from me, next to me, or in a different room than me. I held that sweet baby girl more than I ever held anyone. Not to say she never went to her bed or into a highchair, but I wasn’t so quick to use those things when I “got tired” of being needed. Heaven knows I get tired of being needed. But it’s not about me as much as it is about embracing how much they need me.
There is no such thing as a Supermom. There aren’t any secret capes to pin onto your exhausted shoulders. There aren’t any magic pills to swallow or programs to complete. Supermoms have everything together, and I’ve never met one yet. But there are moms whose kids hug them just because they know they won’t be pushed away. There are moms whose quality of life isn’t reflected in how pristine and organized her home is, but rather in how obviously used and loved her home is. There are moms who are secretly awesome. If your biggest fans are the faces who sit at the dinner table with you each day, then you are a super mom. If you love your children unconditionally, then you are a super mom. If who you are isn’t defined by how well you do things, then you are a super mom. If you allow yourself the grace of being imperfect, then you are a super mom. If you know how to say I’m sorry, then you are a super mom.
On the days when it’s hard, remember they are not out to get you. On the days you just want out of this job, hold them a little closer. On the days you’re running on empty, give just a little bit more. Children weren’t made to drain us of our life, but rather to enrich our life. I challenge you to be present more than perfect. I encourage you to love them right where they are today and not to wish away each and every stage of life for the next. It’s time to bury our selfish sleep-loving selves and give it everything we’ve got.
I used to think being a mom meant having a baby. Now I know it means a whole lot of simple, blended with the Divine, making the mundane beautiful. Welcoming your child into your family is what gives you the title, but it’s the everyday inglorious things which really shape you into a mother.
Amy shares her heart on her blog Grow Old With Me. A fabulously cozy place on the web.
This is part of the series 31 Days of Encouragement for Mama that is running through the month of October. Check out all the posts in the series here.