"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
After a few years of being a homemaker, I came to a frustrating realization. . .I was ruining ALL OF MY CLOTHES! Basically every top in my wardrobe had some sort of stain on it from cooking, washing dishes, putting lotion on squirmy kids, or from my primary role as "human Kleenex." Also, I was pregnant and my maternity clothes had a frustrating lack of genuine pockets. Why do they think storing a baby in your belly automatically negates your need to store other things. . .like, say, in YOUR POCKET? One day, after finding a Hot Wheel in my bra I realized it was time to do something real to solve this problem. So, off to Target I went (the solution to every problem seems to start at Target, right?) and grabbed the first apron I saw- white canvas with bright red apples, a nice full skirt and TWO pockets! Problem solved! I started to wear my apron every day, and stopped finding puzzle pieces in my undergarments and giant grease stains on by belly. It was lovely. After about a year, the apron started to look a little beat up and used. . .as it should! I wore it most of the day, every day, doing my "mom stuff". So, as husbands do, Paul insisted that he buy me an even NICER apron from a fancy website, with cute ruffles and even a diamondy-looking thing set in a bow on the front. It swooned over it that Mother's Day. I put it on and felt like the cutest mom of a two year old, three year old and almost one year old on earth. So long, old worn apron! New Jen is here and she is FANCY!
The next day was a pretty epic (and by epic, I mean standard) day of parenting three little kids. At 5:30 p.m. it culminated in a completely trashed house, a ruined batch of muffins that I forgot to add the sugar to and a three year old tantrum that ended in a mommy COMPLETELY covered in vomit (right in the middle of a visit from Paul's parents.) Oh, I was so upset, embarrassed, and discouraged, not to mention my new fancy apron was drenched in puke. And when it came out of the dryer it was completely ruined. . .wrinkly, floppy, sad and now a light gray as opposed to a vibrant black with polka dots.
I shoved the "new" apron in a drawer. If you can't handle a little vomit, you can't hang with me, cute apron. Back to the old apple apron I went. That was almost four years ago, and despite multiple offers from Paul to get me a "new apron", I now have a greater appreciation for the old model.
It may not be pretty anymore, but my kids know me in this one. One pocket may be falling off, but the other holds Lego minifigs like a champ. It makes a phenomenal Kleenex for thigh-high kids. I am pretty sure ingrained in my kids' childhood memories will be my apron, up close, because it is just the right height to be the recipient of a face-plant in every hug. I have grown to appreciate my ratty old apron for what it does, not for what it looks like these days.
Today as I hung the trusty little apple apron on its familiar hook, I came to a powerful realization. I need to extend the same grace I give to my apron to myself. I have been struggling a little lately with the changes in my body that I see in the mirror. My belly is, if I am being completely honest, COVERED with about a hundred stretch marks and wrinkles and floppy skin from the four pregnancies. In addition to that, I still have about 8 extra layers besides the ones my hairstylist adds from the waves of postpartum hair loss. Not to mention the wrinkles around my eyes and on my hands. When my husband looks at me, he says, "You are so beautiful! I have the most beautiful wife in the whole world!" But, sometimes, when I look at me, I just see someone who looks used up. Kind of like my apron.
But, just like that apron, this body right here is how my kids know me. They don't see any of my perceived flaws, they see me with their hearts. And when they do, they just see "Mommy". . .my squinty smile, my really loud laugh, my big old hugs. My belly may be permanently squishy, but it makes an awesome lap for cuddling. My eyes may be crinkly, but that's because I get to smile and laugh ALL of the time, and smiling's my favorite. ;) My hair might be eight lengths, but at least I don't have to wash it every day anymore (hello, dry shampoo!?) and my hands have aged about 20 years in the past 7, but that means they have been working hard to take care of a little family that I love. My body has worked hard for me. What a gift. I need to take care of it, because it is a temple of the Holy Spirit and that's my responsibility, but I need to stop criticizing the natural changes I see as I go about living my earthly life in it. I wouldn't trade the changes in my heart in the last seven years for anything, so if the changes in my body come with that I need to humbly accept them as the privilege they are. I'm working on that humility and peace within myself. Everything doesn't have to be perfect to be lovely. I'm getting there. Articles like this help. And my desire to walk the talk- if I tell my kids I love them as they are, I need to show them that I treat myself the same way.
And when my kids look back on their childhood, I want them to remember ME: a happy mommy, who kept their treasures in the pockets of her apron, read them stories in her squishy lap and loved them with her whole heart, JUST THE WAY they are.
One day when I was a new stay-at-home mama to baby Daniel and baby Philip, I found myself in a pickle. I had a sorority alumni function and was scrambling to look pin-worthy when I realized. . .every. single. pair. of pantyhose I owned had a run. ARGH! Since I am the whitiest white person on earth and it was early spring, I dared not leave my home with exposed legs lest I blind unsuspecting passers-by. So, I had no choice. The kids and I had to go to the corner CVS and get some nylons.
As you probably know, it takes a unique amount of effort to get two littles to the store, but I was fiercely determined and propelled to CVS by my vanity. I popped the kids in the tiny cart and headed to the legwear section to grab some Sheer Energy. Queen. Nude. Control top. Sheer toe. CHECK. "But wait!" My queenly self thought. "We're almost out of beer! I went to all this trouble to get here, so I had better grab some." Over to the liquor section we went and I plopped a 30-pack of Busch Light into the cart with 20-month-old Philip. Daniel, in his typical sunny 8-month-old fashion, was giggling and babbling in the top of the cart as we made our way to the register. The cashier didn't even blink an eye at my juxtaposition of selections and we smiled at each other. Then, as I turned to walk out the door I stopped dead in my tracks.
"There is no way I can get this cart out the door!" I thought as I began to sweat a little bit. At the intersection of 10th and Arlington, shopping cart stealing was apparently an issue so each cart had a giant pole attached to it to prohibit it from going out the door. DARN DARN DARN DARNY DARN DARN! I cast a glance at the cashier, and we both glanced at the pole. And the full cart. And back at the pole. I had my purse, my beer, my pantyhose, my toddler, my infant. . . and only two arms.
This, friends, was my defining moment.
A fierce determination washed over me. I was not leaving ANY of these essentials behind. OH NO-OH-OH. I made it this far. Now, since the baby and the beer couldn't walk and it was a busy corner of Indy for a wobbly toddler who could barely hold a hand, there was no way I was putting any of them down. So, I took a deep breath. Purse on shoulder. One baby on each hip. Bag over wrist. 30-pack of domestic goodness in hand. BAM. I was off.
The cashier looked at me in my heavily laden state and laughed. "WOW!!" She said with astonishment in her voice. "You are SUPERMOM!!!"
I grinned. HELLS to the YES. I AM Supermom!!!! I could have been flying through the parking lot that early spring evening. Her compliment had me feeling even more golden and effervescent than that Busch Light in my hand. Nothing felt heavy anymore. Not the kids, not the beer, not the whiteness of my legs or the urgency of getting ready for this function. I was Supermom. So what if the criteria for that title was my ability to juggle two babies and a case??!!!
I like the sound of that.
(And the cashier at my corner CVS said it so it must be true.)
Although that day was years ago, I still reflect on it often. It can be easy through the lens of social media to get so caught up in our perception of what other people are doing that we lose sight of the Supermoms we all are in our own homes. Truth of the matter is, God has mindfully gifted us with the particular children and circumstances that we have, and a unique set of gifts that will make the best and bring out the best in each of those. We need to reject the idea that we have to be good at EVERYTHING. We need to put our energy where our interests, talents and passions lie. We just have to be good at OUR things, whatever those things are. We have no reason to doubt that we are THE SUPER MOMS that God intended for the kiddos we love.
Of course, the temptation is always there when we look at another woman and think she is Supermom to believe that there can only be ONE. She's super. I'm inadequate.
Not true. Reject the lie. There's plenty of Super to go around, and we are all owning it in our own way. In fact, the more we recognize the Supermom in others, the more we can see it in ourselves. So, the next time we see a mom doing something AMAZING to us. . .whether it is homeschooling or teaching all of her kids to ride bikes or rocking her career or managing her child's illness or having 9 kids or planning a month's worth of freezer meals or being a single mom or doing Pinterest crafts or getting up at 5 am to work out or breastfeeding multiples or dressing her kids in coordinating outfits or looking stylish or whatever other rockstar stuff she's doing, we can take a moment to think about how awesome she is. We can honor that and wonder how she does it. . .and we should! In fact, we should probably go ahead and tell her that we think she's great, too. But, we are dishonoring ourselves if we don't stop to take a moment to think about how awesome we are, too. Let's find what we are good at and embrace it. Work it. Own it. Enjoy it. Thank God for our unique gifts. Let go of the things that aren't ours. No more negative self-talk. If we can look at the things that other women are doing and call them Supermom without a hint of shame at our own set of interests and abilities, we have surely found the key to a happy and contented life.
So, since it takes one to know one (and I learned this at CVS), let me say it to you. . .
Now. . .
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone."