A younger mom was coming over the other day to talk about homeschooling. And I couldn’t stop cleaning my house. And wondering at myself.
I’m older, right? I know what I’m doing, don’t I? Aren’t I comfortable with myself? Can’t I be “the expert” to her? Who cares if my house is a little messy? It’s not that bad. Why am I not comfortable giving her a glimpse into my real life? Why am I trying so hard to impress her?
Then it struck me: it was me I was trying to impress. I was seeing my younger self in her, with all of my ideals, judgements and preconceptions. And I wanted to look good and live up to those ideals.
I could see myself in my mind’s eye, a brand new mother. And boy, was I going to be a good one. I was going to be structured, and spiritual, and I was going to teach my kids good habits and good manners. I’d have a consistent routine and regularly and thoroughly take care of all of the housework. My kids would be cheerful workers (all the time!) because I would be such a good example. I…could go on.
Don’t we all start out that way, young and naïve? Shouldn’t we, though? I don’t think that I would change it.
I’m still somewhat idealistic, I admit it. But, I’m also a little more realistic at the same time. I’ve come to realize that my dishes will often be undone. There will always be a basket or two (or three) of dirty laundry somewhere in the house. My house will never really, completely, totally be organized the way that I think I would like it to be. Nor will my life.
But still, there is this young, new mother self within me, eyeing the mess critically, passing judgment and shaking her head in dismay. Why couldn’t I live up to the ideal? I was going to be different, remember?
If I could say one thing back to that young mother right now, it would be this: Relax. It’s not as bad as it might seem. Don’t be afraid to lose yourself in the unknown of motherhood and find the joy that is found there. Just let go.
From my point of view, life is beautiful. I’m not oblivious to the chaos around me, but I’ve discovered a beauty in it that I wouldn’t understand if I weren’t a part of it myself. To an outsider, my life would most often resemble this:
Can you even tell what is going on in that picture? I’m not sure I can! But that’s not what I usually see. When I look up from that book I’m reading, I see this instead:
I’m in a place now where I don’t often notice when the baby has a messy shirt or the toddler has a finger up his nose. It doesn’t make a difference to me if my daughter’s clothes are mismatched, or if my son’s pants have gaping holes in the knees, again. Although I take good care of my children and tend to their needs, these things have just stopped being as big of a deal overall. I notice them when I need to, but they no longer change the way that I see my children. I’ve come to truly learn that appearances don’t really matter. Cliché? Yes. But true. If my child’s messy face affects how I feel about them, my love is conditional only.
I’m still learning to love unconditionally. I’m not perfect at it. But that is my new ideal. I hope my younger self inside me can understand. And that I can stop worrying about whether or not she does. Now that I know she is there watching me, I think I’m going to work on helping her to relax and not act so concerned over what she sees.
Don’t worry so much about the mess, sweetheart. Live the joy.