What A Mess.

I jolted upright in my bed awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of crying. I clumsily got up and walked down the hall in a stupor. The crying was coming from the Pepto Bismol pink bedroom of my girls. As I entered I continued to hear wailing sounds, saw two pj clad girls writhing on their beds and I smelled vomit.

What was happening here?

I kept blinking my eyes and tried to get a clear view of the situation. Had my girls gotten sick at the exact same moment? Who had tossed their cookies? Why were they both crying? What time was it? Why did it smell so awful?

I was so confused.

I continued to stand there assessing the damage. I tried to shake the fog of sleep out of my head.

The reports were coming in now and I was beginning to get word that one daughter had gotten sick and had made quite a go of it and had sprayed both beds. The other daughter was (understandably) crying because her pillow had been hit. As I continued to stand there looking back and forth from bed to bed the crying children got up and walked past me downstairs to get a drink of water. Thirty seconds later the youngest came back upstairs and said, “But Mama, where is our water?!”

At that moment I wasn’t really sure either.

Motherhood is like that for me. At times I see it with bright clear eyes and I feel like I’ve got things figured out for the time being.

Other times I have no idea what is going on.

Just the day before I had a brief moment where I felt like I not only had my head above the motherhood waters, but I was actually swimming along quite nicely. I had the laundry done, the house cleaned and my children were playing together outside in the sunshine. Yeah, I felt pretty good. I’ve got this.

And then the Pillow Puking happened and started a chain of events causing me little sleep and much frustration. One kid sick on the couch, laundry in nasty piles, a little one wanting another breakfast and a son asking me questions about the Iroquois Indians for a school project.

I go from feeling like all is calm and under control to feeling stretched thin. Sometimes in a matter of minutes. Okay… seconds.

But I’ve been learning that it’s just going to be like that. I’m never going to have it “done.” I’ll never be “all caught up.” It’s not like I can accomplish all the needs and demands of motherhood and then just sit back and feel the wind on my face as I smoothly sail through these years.

On the contrary, it’s a bumpy, smelly, mess.

I don’t want to wait to feel good about my life and my role as a mom until my kids are grown and the laundry piles are small and simple.

I don’t want to feel like I’m failing just because my kitchen table is covered in toys.DSC_0717

I don’t want to base my worth on appearances-whether it be of my home or my family, but instead I want to realize how much the mess is worth to me.

So I roll up my sleeves and hold my daughter’s hair as she looses her lunch once again. I act like I care deeply about Native American festivals and I put peanut butter on crackers for yet another snack time.

This place is a mess and there’s much work to be done. That’s the way it’s going to be.

And what a privilege it is to be the mom of this mess!

Do what?

He stared at me, waiting for an answer. I hesitated. His pencil remained poised in his hand, ready to fill in the blank. I hesitated some more. “I don’t know,” I said, “what do you think I like to do?”

My son shrugged and said, “I don’t know either but I have to write something. How about cook? Do you like to cook?” I nodded slowly. Yes, I admitted I like to cook, but I don’t love it. I mean, I do it all the time but I don’t know if cooking is something that should be written in #2 pencil on a homework assignment meant to discover more about a student’s parent and their hobbies.

Finally I gave my son a few ideas of things that I “like to do.” He chose one, basically because he wanted to get on with his evening, and scribbled it on the blank line. He was done and had moved on to something else. But I remained there in my chair and my thoughts. Is it really that hard to think of something that I like to do?

What do I do?

I feel like I do a lot.

I do actually cook. I clean up messes and mop floors. I do hair. I fold laundry. I have dinner with imaginary parrots (when instructed by my daughter that they are in fact at the table.) I drive my minivan to the library and grocery store. I read. I help with homework. I check Facebook. I support my husband’s work. I drink imaginary tea and change real diapers. I dress people and kiss “ouchies.” I pull weeds and get mail and do dishes. I meet up with friends. I laugh. I cry. I drink coffee. I snap pictures and watch as little hands draw pictures of their own.

I do a lot of things. But my son couldn’t think of anything that I like to do. This bothered me.

Days later I was still mulling over that conversation. Isn’t it apparent what I like to do? Doesn’t my family notice all that I do? If I didn’t do any of it would it even matter? How do I know if I’m doing well at what I’m doing if they don’t even know what I like to do?

This isn’t a new question to me. Years ago, I explained to my husband that since becoming a wife and mom I miss being evaluated. That may sound crazy, but I was just so accustomed to it up until that point in life. In school you get report cards multiple times a year telling you exactly where you stand in each subject. In my jobs, my bosses would make their expectations of my role very clear and then periodically evaluate my performance. Once I became a Mom, I was on my own. No one sits down with me and gives me a report card.

One year my husband tried. He took a passage of Scripture, Proverbs 31:10-31, and wrote out his thoughts on how I compared to the woman in the passage. It was super sweet and he even signed it at the bottom of the page. I loved the gesture and adore my husband. But when I read about the Proverbs 31 woman again, I saw verse 15,

“She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.

Wait, what?! Female servants? She had servants? Ok, this isn’t an even playing field!

Nonetheless, I appreciated knowing for a time how I was doing. My husband’s poll was drawn from a relatively small sampling; one. But that one is pretty crucial. My man and our three children who, by the way, are the only reasons I do “get up while it is still night” are the only ones who truly matter when it comes to my evaluation. They don’t perform much formal critique of my work, but I’m starting to learn to take what I can get.

I have not yet received a report card or heard much constructive feedback from those I supervise. My underlings instead give feedback in the form of blunt food critique, bear hugs and butterfly kisses. They don’t really seem to care exactly how I’m doing what I’m doing. They are not even sure what I do. They don’t applaud me for a sparkling floor, drawers full of clothes or coupons clipped. They don’t care if I am the best in my field or climbing the ladder of success. They just want me. They want me to do life. And even more, they want me to do life with them.

That’s what I do. Life. I do whatever my hands find for me to do. And in doing those things, I strive to honor my Lord and my husband and children. I do each mundane task to the best of my ability. Sometimes it deserves an A. Sometimes I flunk. But most of all, I just do life. And I’ll have you know I like it. I like it a lot.

It was just hard to fit all of that on the blank line.