What Are You Staring At? || Reflections on Being Enough

Waiting in the pick-up line for my son after school yesterday, the messaged popped up on my phone.  Would I want to meet up for lunch or did I have other plans?  

Outside of a weekly morning mom’s gathering, I hadn’t been able to spend much time with her in the past few months.  There was so much newness that I really wanted to reconnect and catch up.
I visualized all the left overs in my fridge.  

Our busy weekend of hosting family, throwing a 4 year old Lego birthday party, and making a special meal for my husband’s birthday had my fridge stocked.  Plenty of food.  Time in my schedule.  Conversations longed for.  My response was instantaneous: Sure, come on over!

I knew my counter-tops had crumbs, fall leaves were crunched and scattered on my entry way carpet, the smell of my slightly burnt breakfast eggs still lingering in the air.  My real space.  Unaltered, primped, or readied.  I opened the door to my home and welcomed her into my real life.  I allowed her to see my space and my mess, because relationships matter over the seemingly perfect portraits ingrained in our minds.

You know the ones.  They’re plastered all over Pinterest, on the front covers of magazines, innocent Facebook posts about new paint and new furniture and thousand dollar trips to Ikea.

I didn’t offer excuses for my crumbs, simply pointed out the leaves were remnants from playing in piles the day before, and before lunch she washed her kids’ hands next to the pan with my burnt egg remnants.  Because that is the reality of what my morning looked like and I hadn’t gotten a chance to do more with it.  

Herding four small children under four left our conversations scattered between taking bites of food, pulling babies out from underneath the train table, changing diapers, cleaning up toddler puke, and emptying our own bladders – the true life of moms.  I stepped back and saw a purpose in it all.  Realism.  Small ordinary parts of our lives out in the open for both of us to see.  Relationship.

Nearly 10 years ago now, our life paths collided in college and took us half way around the world together for a short time.  When you experience things together like poverty and injustice and despair, your relationship is taken to a whole new level.  It’s solidified like a beam in concrete.  A sign post that you can look at and remember your history and what makes your friendship solid.  A reference for remembering to be real with one another.

As we flitted in and out of conversation, it was a balm to my soul to hear her heart.  She loves to cook for her husband and do laundry and make her busy littles feel safe and secure.  She is called to care for her family and she’s amazing at it.  From my perspective, she’s excelling, doing well, and enjoying her ever changing life.  But, on her insides, she is feeling the heaviness of being elbow deep in a life with very little tangible results.  Her home is warm, her husband is loved, her kids well taken care of.  But at the end of the day there is no work-flow chart, no Etsy shop or Business Facebook page, there is no profit and loss sheet, no hand held tangible resemblance of all the work she’s accomplished that day.

Refreshingly, her reflections on this empty-handed end to her day is catapulting her in a new direction.  Instead of comparing her accomplishments she’s choosing to see herself for who she is and all that she is already doing.  And part of that is keeping her eyes peeled to what’s in front of her presently.

When you’re doing your mothering thing and all the work you’ve done is invisible at the end of the day, you can start to lose hope.  You can start to feel insignificant: your butt wiping and hand holding and bruise kissing and reassuring words can’t be measured.  There is very little tangible evidence of what you’ve done for the last twelve hours.

You, not unlike the women on the other side of the world that she and I have sat with, begin to feel impoverished, the pressure of injustice and straight up despair for this stay at home life you’re living.  So you start to look around.  You see the mom at the library, your old friend from high school on Facebook now turned an excellent mom, the “100 Fun and Awesome-Things-To-Do-Every-Day” pins on Pinterest – and maybe you, like me, just can’t help but ask, “Is there more I should be doing?”.

We lead very busy lives.  We leave very little margin in our days.  We have an extremely small amount of wiggle room to open our homes, our hearts, our lives to those we do life with every day.  Yet we are all walking around isolated with this common question, pounding from the inside of our hearts.  “Is there more that I should be doing?

This question can be enslaving.  It has often manifested itself in our hearts because we’ve compared.  We’ve looked to the side and seen another doing a little bit more than we are.  Having cleaner homes than we do.  Driving nicer mini-vans.  We can begin to shackle ourselves to the trophy of accomplishment and begin to want to achieve more, until we have less; all in the name of appearing just as culture dictates – successful, pulled together, achieving great things.   

Somewhere along the line, being a mother became not enough.

Being in a defining role of motherhood does not lend itself to job promotions or paid vacations.  There is very little time off and very little pay.  "Being a mom is simply not enough" screams a culture bent towards empowering women to go, achieve, succeed, do, leave.  Yet all the while we mothers feel the difference, the call to continue on to do the things that we know matter.  Because in the little things, is importance too.

Perhaps instead of the question of doing more, maybe we can ask, “Is there more that I can do with what I have already been given?”  To be able to feel confident with the role we have, the children we’ve been given, the joy of simply being who we were created to be without having to compare or perform or excel or achieve outside of our motherhood role.  To just be.

If we are constantly looking to those around us, comparing ourselves to their successes, their failures, their mundane, we cannot possibly have our eyes focused ahead, on the things set before us that we ourselves are called to accomplish.  Maybe for today that is a pile of dishes, a meaningful hand written note, a meal taken to a friend who just had a baby, one more poopy diaper.  Or perhaps keeping your eyes peeled to what is in front of you means that you are focusing on the One leading you.  The One who is calling you forward and propelling you to be who He has created you to be, to accomplish the things He has called you to.  You are the only one who can do your thing.  No one else can replace what you're doing in this time, in your place, and with your family.

When we are committed to our own given paths, if we all stay peeled to our own way, surrendered to the One who has called, each of us operating in our own gifts, talents, and abilities – we begin to see a better picture of a life lived to the full.

I am so grateful for the moment I opened my door to this friend.  The crumbs on the counter, the leaves in my doorway, the brittle egg pieces in the pan are realities of my daily lived out life.  To welcome her into it, saying this is who I am without any pomp and circumstance, was comforting to me.  To be a mom and a friend and a real person in those moments.

What we do with the small moments makes all the difference in the big moments of life.  In the moment I invited her to my home, I chose to deny the images of an acceptable space for the importance of being in relationship with one another.

Whatever successful, small, meaningful, monotonous, disgusting, or enjoyable thing you do today as a mom, I hope you are able to feel confident that you are enough.  That your nose wiping and redirecting and laundry folding and pure simple being is truly enough.  You are in this specific place at this specific time for a specific reason – and whether or not you can pinpoint your purpose, even in the small things you are accomplishing big things – eternal things, even.

It is said that what you stare at is the direction in which you will go.  

Perhaps taking a step back from those images which are ingrained in our minds and stepping into real life with another person can be enough to anchor you, remind you, that life and relationships are important and valuable and cannot always be measured.  But they matter.  Take heart, mama, you are enough.