My friend’s comment in a note that she tucked along with a beautiful gift she’d sent me felt like a punch in the stomach. I wanted to be offended. (Okay, I was offended!)
I felt so defensive and wanted to protect myself, my life, my family, my career. I wanted to glam up my life (although I had just sent this friend an obviously all-too-revealing and totally honest letter about some of the grim stages of motherhood following a new baby’s arrival!) and make a case for all the wonderful “mom” moments in my life! I wanted to give her an exhaustive list of all those classic parent one-liners such as: it’s so worth it, you can’t understand till you’re there, you don’t know how amazing it is to give birth, and blah, blah, blah.
But. I had to stop there because I do want to be as understanding of others (including friends like this one) as I can be.
I think part of the reason my friend’s note hit me so hard was because this came from a single friend: the kind of friend I want to be mindful of and try not to whine to them too much about my life or brag about it to much, for that matter.
In the family-centered society I live in, single gals are in the minority. The fact that almost everyone is raising, planning to raise or has raised a family just means that a lot of things are going to revolve around family so, if you don’t happen to have a family yourself, chances are you’re going to feel left out from time to time. This is one of the reasons I try to be mindful of singles. Not to mention I know a few who just happen to be some of my favorite people.
(To make myself clear, I know many happy single women who are loving their life and wouldn’t trade it for the world; I don’t think they want sympathy, only understanding and acceptance – and don’t we all desire that for ourselves?)
Though I realize I simply can’t always understand how single women feel since the twenty-one-year-old bride I was never had a chance to experience many of the situations they find themselves in, I wish to be sensitive to how they may feel or what they might be dealing with. I want to remember what it was like to get up and go to work from 9-5 (or 11-7), what it was like when I didn’t have a husband to love and take care of me, when I didn’t have kids and my friends did. I want to understand people and show that I care. And, it just so happens, I’d like the same from them.
So although I didn’t feel like I could just throw it all back in my friend’s face, I also didn’t feel like her comment was the most helpful thing I needed to hear this week. A week when I was battling sleep deprivation and so was my husband and our toddler, when my baby was still having tummy aches and often waking early from naps, when just leaving the house seemed like a mountain.
It was a week when putting an appealing variety of palatable food on the table was a huge chore. A week when I grasped the concept of “never-ending laundry” more deeply, when I desperately wanted to do something ALL BY MYSELF for one whole day or even just a few hours, when I realized how much sleep shortage can affect the brain and decision-making abilities, when I was an emotional wreck on the evening my husband and I finally went out without the kids. No, it wasn’t a good week at all for that kind of comment.
Not to mention the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if although she’s not jealous of me… maybe I’m jealous of her!
This wasn’t a brand-new thought to me – in fact, I’d been known to pretty much admit that a number of times before. All the same, it hurt to realize ‘this is my life and it sucks’! Well okay, it really doesn’t (see my arguments about that above) but the fact remains: many people simply aren’t jealous of it. No matter how awesome I say it is. No matter how much I flaunt the good stuff. It’s still true: nobody’s lining up at my door wanting to trade places.
And honestly? I never thought I wanted this life in the first place myself. Technically, that is. I have never been the kind of girl who spent a lot of time dreaming of having a family someday or who loved snuggling babies and I have certainly never been addicted, let alone attracted to anything remotely resembling housework. Nope, not me. Whatever I may have dreamed of as a little girl, I don’t recall that it involved much house- or baby- anything.
My idea of a good life back then was all about fun and friends, parties and shopping. It also included enough time to myself and chances to enjoy nature. It was about learning and going places and doing things.
So just why am I here, living this life? Why am I rocking babies, cooking, cleaning and just generally not getting out of the house?
Well, it’s interesting but you know what? I’ve come to realize that my life actually includes almost all those things I dreamed about as a little girl. Right now it looks like the fun/friends/party/alone parts are sometimes (often) not as plentiful as I’d like but I still get those, too. Fun can and should be had in every day living, no matter the circumstances; friends are everywhere if you take the time to look; parties can be redefined for this stage of life, and alone time… Well, there’s nap times and soaks in the bathtub if nothing else!
As far as shopping… no problem there! I don’t have the money to spend on myself like I used to but it turns out that dressing my family in clothes I love is much the same as spending money on me and with two little children around there’s usually something on the shopping list. Going places may usually mean grocery shopping or an occasional visit to a friend’s house right now but I still love an outing and I still get them once in a while! 😉
As for learning… I have never learned so much in my life as I have the last two years with my two adorable children. If there was ever a time and a chance to learn, it has to be that! As for doing things, well, I doubt most people really think a mom with two little kids doesn’t have anything to do…
So, amazingly enough, this is my life and I’m actually okay with it. And not just okay: I honestly love my life.
Sure, sometimes its hard to see that right away through sleep-encrusted eyes, when both children are crying while I’m trying to talk on the phone or when I’m desperately trying to think of dinner possibilities when my husband is due to walk in the door any minute. Sometimes I’m tempted to be jealous when someone’s life looks more inspiring than mine. Or when someone points out that my life isn’t so exciting.
The truth is though, a God who is much bigger, mightier and wiser than I am made me the way I am, gave me these dreams and talents and blessed me with this life. I still dream of doing great things and going great places but for now I’m at peace with this stage of life.
Besides who knows what great things God has in store for me, for all of us, in the future? No matter what though, I’ve come to see and believe the truth in one of the the best parenting one-liners of all time: “Being a mom is one of the greatest things you will ever do.”