Dear Beautiful Mama –
When I list it out for you, it sounds like heaven. We had breakfast, a long nap – we took our time at the library, walked through town, windowshopped, grabbed coffee, laughed with strangers. We washed dishes and sang and read and slept, then waited a few hours and did it all again. She’s waving, now, and a cat on a stoop made her yell curious demanding sounds I haven’t heard before, and when I make this face she laughs and laughs. When you are here, and I tell you, it sounds so effortless, so perfect, so free. It sounds like heaven. I know in every minute how incredibly blessed we are.
But here’s the truth: this is the hardest thing I have ever done.
It’s hard to find excuses, really, for being unprepared for the work, the endless endless always work that accompanies the absolute joy of being a stay-at-home parent, because everybody tells you. Friends tell you, books tell you, sitcoms tell you, your own parents tell you, and yet – and yet there is a moment, a few months or a few minutes in, when your tired eyes snap open and you realize the depth and breadth and height of life in this position and it ruins you. There is crying. Oh, sweet beautiful girl, there is going to be so much crying.
I see you, you know, with your little one climbing your leg at the sink in a public restroom, with baby fingers lodged in your hair as you attempt to navigate public transportation, with shy and combative eyes searching as you nurse on benches and dare anyone to question fragilemightybeautiful you. I hear you preface your exhaustion with “Obviously I love my daughter so much” or “He’s the best thing that every happened to me, but” as though the simple admission that this is not all sunshine and roses might give me the right to question your love for your tiny version of this impossible journey. I watch the way you put every last drop of coffee fueled energy into reading that same blasted mind numbingly irritating children’s book for the eight hundred millionth time since yesterday and I know, I know, that a brilliant someone inside of you is afraid her mind might be going, but hear me when I tell you it shows. She’s showing. I see you.
I see the discarded heels in the corner of your closet and the paint on your left elbow and the way you tried, today, to braid your hair the way you learned on Pinterest and how it actually looked pretty good until parachutes came into play. I see the hours you spend pouring out, pouring in, and the precious ones you hide, the bits you squirrel away for moments when just maybe everything will be quiet.
I see you sharing articles that admonish you to put your phone away, shut your laptop screen, and at the same time I see the flash of shame and panic in your eyes, because lets get real here: some days that phone is a lifeline. Some days, that momentary checking out is the only thing keeping you from checking in somewhere they pad the walls and feed you purees and, if I’m being really honest, that sounds pretty nice to me right now actually-somewhere quiet where the chances of being shat upon are at least significantly reduced.
I see you, beautiful, beautiful girl.
I see the way you hesitate, the way you wonder if it is safe to admit that things aren’t perfect, that some days you can barely abide this heaven (but she is the best thing that ever happened to me and I love being a parent and and and…), as though just maybe if you say the words out loud they will sink through tiny ears and crumble tiny psyches and your children will never go to college and then obviously all will be lost.
Beautiful girl, you have to say the words.
This is hard. It’s really, really, really oh my Lord in Heaven is it hard. If I do not get a break today I might not get through. I need you to help me. I need you. I need.
Growing up is really just a matter of recognizing and accepting how very little we can accomplish alone.
We have each other, and that is a miracle, and that is everything, and that is heaven and God with us and the whole entire point. We are so busy logging and comparing and pretending and controlling and categorizing that we forget that we can just look at each other and see ourselves – the same struggles in different camouflage, the same fears with different names. You have to say the words because I have to hear them, because if I know you’ve felt this way then suddenly maybe the darkness I feared in me isn’t so dark after all. You have to say the words so I can rally around you and love your children with you and carry your hope a little and offer you grace. You have to say the words so that I can say them back to you.
You have to say the words, because when you say them our imaginary wars become nothing but imaginary echoes and we can face the real demons with arms locked in unbreakable sisterhood playground chains.
Red rover, red rover, send sleep deprivation right over…
Oh honey, I see you, sweet beautiful girl. And I see the way those little ones come alive when you smile at them. I hear the ferocity of your love for them in every tired word you speak. They look like you. They look like a handful. You are incredible. We are in this together.
This is hard. I need you.
Say the words.
My friend Leah is brilliant at saying the words. She makes me feel brave. Read her words here.
Image by the incomparable Shannon Hannon Photography.
Beautiful. Thank you, all of you, who have babies and take care of them so we can have all these great children in the world. I’m not personally up for the challenge, but I do love to borrow other people’s kids and then give them back at the end of the day. I am so grateful for people who decide to have children. As I watch my friends and sisters (in-law) do it, I can see that it truly is the hardest thing you can ever do. And wonderful. And oh so hard.
Thank you! Hang in there! You are amazing!
I just wanted to let you know how much this touched me. Sometimes it really feels like you are secretly headed straight for the looney bin. Yet no one seems to know and you are scared they will find out. And you are so sure that you are the only one that feels this way. If anyone should find out, you know that you will be cast out forever. This post has helped me so much because I now can see that I am not alone in my struggle to remain sane and look like I have it all together! Thank you so much for posting this! Thank you so much for being brave and ministering to a crowd that so often gets left behind and forgotten: stay at home mothers. You’re my hero!