A friend of mine invited me to tag along to her mom’s group this morning. It’s a large group of women at a local church, and it’s set up quite nice. The morning starts off with breakfast and then there is a speaker before it ends with small table discussions.
Today’s presentation was about a mother’s need to take care of herself. It fit perfectly for me as one of the reasons I chose to go was because it would mean an hour and a half of adult time all by myself as the church provided day care. An hour to myself is basically unheard of for me. I do have about an hour at night before I go to bed, but I’m usually so exhausted by then that there’s not a whole lot I can do besides knit. I could count on my fingers how many times during the day I have been by myself for even an hour since Magoo was born.
So today was awesome. Mae only lasted for about an hour in the daycare before she freaked out and they had to come get me, but still… an hour to talk with other grown ups about grown up things without having to rush off every five seconds to catch someone trying to run into the street or stick rocks up her nose.
The speaker spoke about how necessary it is that we refill our buckets so that we have something to give to our families. She told stories about her own life, and she gave us some tips for bringing balance into our lives. But it was one thing she said that stood out to me, and she said it almost in passing and about another topic. She mentioned the idea of being seen.
Now I think people probably think I’m very well composed because I don’t cry in public very often. That’s all because of a silly anxiety issue I have with it. I actually start to cry in public at least once a day. And at that moment, when she mentioned the concept of being seen, I felt the sting in my eyes.
To be seen… Is that what we are all searching for?
I think about my day to day life. I think about all that I do for the kids. I think about how much of a struggle it can be some days just to get all three of them dressed and fed, and then when you add up everything else that constitutes a day with three small children, it can get overwhelming. Often, by the end of the day, my thoughts are swirling all around me because I passed overstimulated about an hour into my day and I have spent the rest of the day just trying to catch up.
And then I think about what I do, or at least try to do, for my home. How I try to maintain certain standards, how sometimes the standards of orderliness conflict with the standards of freedom I hold for my children. I think about how much this little nest means to me and how sometimes (meaning all the time,) my needs for a calm nest butt up against their needs for an inspiring nest, and we are all left confused and overwhelmed.
And I thought about what I try to do for my husband. And what I more often than not fail to do. How I try to support him in his work. How I try to do as much as I can so that he can relax a little when he gets home. (Which never happens by the way.) How I try to be there for him and give to him emotionally and almost always fail because I am drained myself without much more to give.
I think about all of this, and I realized that if someone came and said they could take part of it off of my plate, I would say no. If someone said I could bypass three things that I do with or for my children and they would turn out just fine, I would still do them. If suddenly someone offered to come into my house once a week and clean up and make it comfortable and homey and inspiring and clean, I would pass the offer up.
Because the thing is that despite how overwhelmed and overstimulated and overbooked I am, everything I do is to show love for the people I love. Every task I complete is a gift of myself that I give freely and willingly and in the name of love.
I don’t do what I do for outcomes. No moms of young children can. Most of what we do is undone within moments, and our most important work takes years to see results.
We don’t do it for money or power or accomplishment or pride or really for any worldly reasons. We do it because of love. But…
That doesn’t make it any easier.
And I realized at this event this morning that what I really want isn’t for someone to lessen my load. All I really want is for someone to see my load. I want someone to see what I do. I want someone to appreciate what I do. I want someone to see that there is a person who is behind all of this doing and that she actually is about more than just laundry and diapers.
In short, I want someone to see what I do, and I want someone to see who I am.
And the rub is that children can’t do this. Children are biologically wired to be self-centered. It’s not their job to validate us.
So I think what we are left with is a need to validate ourselves and a need to see ourselves in all our complexity and diversity and messiness.
I am remarkable at seeing what I don’t do. I see my failures. I see the times I lost my temper. I see the times I let things slide. I see the times I forgot something that needed to be done.
But I don’t always take the time to see the rest. I remember the lost sock but forget all that is found. I see the books I failed to read to them but turn a blind eye to the dozens in the already read pile. I recognize where I don’t stack up, but I am utterly blind to the ways that I do.
And I spend all my mental energies focusing on seeing them. I see their looks of disappointment when they can’t have something they want. I see the joy when they complete a task well. I pay attention to their reactions when their sisters treat them certain ways. I look closely at their faces as they leave school so I can read how the day went.
I see their struggles. I see their triumphs. I worry about their futures and I fret over their pain.
But in all that seeing of them, I fail to see myself. I fail to see my own triumphs and disappointments and joy and pain.
Sure children don’t really see their parents as people. They are too young for that. But we aren’t. We can see ourselves as people if we want to, if we choose to. We can focus on our feelings and our goals and our beliefs and our values if we give ourselves permission to be seen and understood even if it is only by ourselves.
Seeing ourselves, validating ourselves, isn’t a luxury. It’s not selfish. It’s not self-centered.
If we want to be balanced, it is absolutely necessary.
Parenting young children is a unique season in life. Very rarely is so much expected of us. Very seldom do we give so much. That’s a blessing and a challenge.
I postulate, however, that the challenges might seem slightly more bearable if we vowed to see ourselves truly for who we are and what we do. If we listened to our hearts and we bypassed judgment and instead learned to embrace who we are. If we learn to validate that which we do well. If we realize that mom is a person no more or no less than every other person in our family.
We can’t expect all of who we are to be seen out there. But we can work hard to see ourselves.
And my hope is that through that, we will give those around us light to shine as well.
Like what you see? Head on over to the right side of the screen and either follow this blog on Facebook or sign up to receive my new posts via email.