You know that thing where your kid poops in the tub, and earlier fought napping for two hours, and wailed that you betrayed him because you said no to another popsicle, and you yelled at the microwave because why isn’t more like the crock pot? You know? Because the crock pot keeps food warm and ready until you are, but the microwave presents both a crime-scene-like splatter and also gives you coffee that is no longer warm. And then you catch a glimpse of yourself in the bathroom mirror and you don’t even recognize that person. Like maybe she is a fatigued older sister of yours but you don’t have an older sister, so that's weird.Me, neither.
Anyhow...because my children can identify the scent of mommy getting something done like a hungry shark finds a bleeding surfer, I’ve composed a list to cheer myself up when I’m up at 4 am, or driving the minivan I never wanted, or washing a load of laundry composed entirely of soiled toddler underoos and questioning my life choices.
- I am beautiful because I say so. My opinion counts the most because I am in this skin and under this hair, and no one else is.
Sometimes I just want it acknowledged, in public record somewhere, that before I sweat my makeup off taking the kids for a walk, before I was spat up on, before my hair was ponytailed, after losing one handful after another to the clutches of a baby’s fist, before my necklace got in the way of breastfeeding, and before I had to physically remove the toddler from the sandbox, I looked cute today. This woman you see-- barefoot, in leggings, and a tank top over a nursing bra, that neither hides discreetly under tank straps nor is decorative on its own, with hair severely restrained-- is more than the sum of her parts.
2. It's okay that being a mom feels so hard. We can do hard things.
That woman in the minivan with the "mom hair", and the athleisure clothes, and the giant cup of coffee is often wondering how she got there. Even if being a mom is a dream she’s always had, there is just no way to predict what it's actually going to be like when you get here. I am the oldest of EIGHT children and I’m still surprised. Because even when I babysat, I eventually got to go back to my own room and my own bed, and no one interrupted me while I showered, and if someone knocked on the door while I was using the facilities, I never worried about what kind of destruction or danger might occur if I truly stood my guns and refused them entry.
3. My circumstances are unique and I cannot control them all. Neither can other mamas. We can all do hard things.
Let’s be real. Some kids require more work. Some don’t sleep at night. Some are stubborn as hell. Some have special needs. Some are chronically sick. Some have precious few people going to bat for them, and the ones that do are drained.
Some mamas haven’t slept through the night since 2009. Some have no choice but to stay home or no choice but to work. Some woke up to a toddler in bed with them, saying, “You’re so beautiful, mama. I peed.” Some found a secret corner today where their child was wiping boogers on the wall. Some made a sandwich to their child's exact specifications and then watched it be fed to the dog while trapped on the other side of the room, nursing a biter. Just random examples.
4. It is strong and smart to ask for help. It is strong and smart to take care of myself.
Humans are social creatures. We used to raise our children in VILLAGES. With TRIBES. Without the help of conflicting studies on the best time to introduce organic avocados for your baby’s optimal gut bacteria. Trust me, I want the studies. I do. But I also want the village. And in the absence of a practical way to manage the latter, I’m going to unabashedly drive my minivan, take my Zoloft, and eschew my housework in order to meet up with friends at the park. Because we can’t be all things to all people. But we can be OURSELVES and we can give OUR happiness as a gift to OUR people. And happy people can help people. Healthy people can raise people.
5. Everyone feels like this. Comparing is a waste of energy.
Metro Detroit mamas…...if you see me, say hello! I’m the one chasing a toddler while holding a baby and listening to a first grader tell a really, really long story. I have red hair and spit-up on my nursing tank. I’m your tribe! If it isn’t me, the girl you flagged down is probably also drowning in car seat regulations, mosquito-borne illnesses, spelling lists, appointments, and dear-heaven-the-laundry.
So let’s make a top-ten priority list, put ourselves ON IT, and as for the rest, make like Elsa and let it the F%$# go.
Rachel Roth Tapling is a wife and mom in Metro Detroit. Like no one else you know, she’s a former social studies major who now stays at home with her three boys, likes coffee and wine, watches a lot of female-driven comedy, and craves chocolate. A former teacher, she’s using her oodles of extra time these days to write and to travel the world virtually by marketing and selling fair-trade products with Trades of Hope. You can find her blogging at http://rachelerothtapling.