the beautiful monotony of motherhood.

My morning wake-up call came at 6:45 this morning. The baby.

And when I walked in his “room” (I can’t be the only mom who has to use this word loosely for all children to come after the first), there he was, beaming his two-toothed grin at me.

We walked downstairs and pushed play on the unchanging morning routine.

Lily was next. Usually she lays in her bed hollering for me to come in and get her, but this morning she snuck into the kitchen while I was cutting a banana. She went straight to Sawyer and said happily, “I haven’t said, ‘Hi,’ to you yet!”

She left behind an unusually quiet room, and when I went in, I found Norah standing silently in her bed waiting for me.

“I didn’t scream and wake Lily up today!” she said proudly.

I swooped her up and let her jog into the kitchen with the other two. I heard, “Hi, Soy-ler! Are you a happy boy?” as I turned the fan off.

The rest of the morning went pretty much as it always does.

Cereal. Vitamins. Negotiations for more food.

Coffee.

Clothes. Pigtails. A showing of Peppa Pig to ease into the morning.

Coffee.

Books. Babies. A real baby who just wants to eat paper and spit up all over the carpet.

Coffee.

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We move through these rhythms together each day. They are mostly unchanging regardless of the day of the week or the schedule of the day.

Monotony gets a bad rap in parenting, and I get it. Life can start to feel a little bit like that movie Groundhog Day except instead of waking up to Sonny & Cher, it’s a chorus of yelling and/or happy screaming (it’s weird over here sometimes).

But monotony is also my friend.

I realized it this morning while I was slow sipping my coffee.

As we have worked hard to build routines for our kids, we also have inadvertently (and more importantly, I suppose) worked to build trust. My kids are never surprised to see me in the morning. They wake up and they do whatever they need to in order to get my attention, but (at least I don’t think), they’re never worried that I won’t come. They just innately trust that I (or Jake) will.

I’ve been overthinking motherhood all week (this, of course, shouldn’t surprise anyone). I spent a lot of brain energy looking for deep metaphors in things like can openers and making long, uninventive lists about all the things being a mom has taught me.

I tried to organize my thoughts a few times, but the words just wouldn’t come, so I put them back in the drawer with the philosophical can opener and moved on.

And then this morning, as my kids moved all around me doing their various morning things, I felt a small twinge of gratitude. An odd feeling, really, for a day much the same as all the others.

But that was it. It was the monotony of my morning which revealed the more beautiful things that have grown from its soil: Trust. Togetherness. The sense of being known.

These days we’re building so many foundations. Laying the groundwork for future expectations and experiences. And today that tiny twinge of gratitude reminded me that the work we’re doing is important and lasting.

Our kids are known. They are loved. They are learning to trust us.

And those are the words I want to remember today.

motherhood and when you lose sight of who you are.

For me, it happened right around the time my first baby, Lily, turned one. Our first real summer.

Gone were the days of toting a sleeping infant wherever I wanted to go. She was mobile and had fallen into a routine, and so, by 7:30 every night, I was on my couch scrolling through pictures of all the summer fun my childless friends were having.

It was in those quiet evenings in my own home, that I started to feel lonely and trapped and a little aimless.

It’s strange in those early days of motherhood, I think, because your former life is still such a tangible relic. You feel the same as that carefree version of yourself and yet a million miles away at the same time.

You lose yourself a little. You forget who you are.

It probably happens at a different point for every mom, but I don’t think it’s an avoidable reality. At some point, you’ll likely find yourself staring into a mirror and wondering, “Who am I?”

Now, I (obviously) don’t know everything about parenting. I don’t know how to get babies to sleep through the night or how to convince a three-year-old to wear shorts or how to get two preschoolers to play longer than 10 minutes together without someone crying.

But that question? The one you ask yourself while staring into the finger-smudged mirror? Well, I do know that the answer changes everything.

Sure, you’re a mom, and that fact has great implications and impact. But that’s not all you are.

And, if you spend your days defining yourself only by your ability to put kids to bed or feed a tiny army, well, unfortunately you’ll always come up short.

Because that’s not all you are.

We’ll always come up short if we base our worth on the things we do.

There’s not much sure footing in parenting anyway, is there? Just when you’ve got a handle on something or feel pretty good about where you’re at, the tide comes in and shifts the sand underneath your feet.

Nothing stays the same. It can’t. When people are involved, tiny or grown, everything moves and adjusts and muddies and changes.

Well, except for one thing.

One Person.

I lose sight of my identity still sometimes.¹ It happens on long, whine-filled days or weeks where Jake and I pass only like ships in the night. Weeks when I remember how much easier it all used to be before this season.

And it’s in these moments that I remind myself who I am.

Loved. Chosen. Redeemed. Confident. Complete.

I am who He says I am. Nothing will change this fact.

And that’s all the matters.

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The days are still whine-filled (we’re working on this one, believe me). Jake’s hours are still long. The sacrifices parenthood demands are still real and hard and draining.

But I choose to live in light of Truth.  I choose to wake up each day and hang my hat on who Christ says I am. To be thankful for the sacrifices asked of me because I see how they have refined and shaped me; how they have taught me to love more fully. How much better I am because of them.

I know that lonely, aimless feeling of motherhood well. Doesn’t every mom?

But I also know the feelings of joy and restoration and wholeness that come from knowing who I really am. 

That girl on the couch three years ago? She was just on the cusp of the good stuff.

I think we all are. It’s just a matter of choosing.

 


¹ This is a recurrent theme in my life. I started thinking about identity 13 years ago (what!) when I read the book Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson. In it, Anderson lists 27 aspects of who we are, and because the Internet is a magical tool in which everything is hidden, I found them all here in this handy PDF file in case you’re interested in reading more.

new moms are liars.

I recently decided that the next time a new mom tells me she loves every second of motherhood, I’m going to call her bluff.

Has anybody ever said this and really meant it? Has any brand new mother literally loved every second of the transition into her new role? Maybe this makes me sound like a cynic, but I don’t buy it.

You could say, “We’re doing really well,” and I would believe you (although I might ask about seven follow-up questions just to make sure). I could even go along with, “I’ve never felt this much happiness” (babies do tend to have that overall effect after all).

But, “I love every second of being a mom?” Nope. No way. You’re not fooling me.

I wonder sometimes why new moms are prone to falsehood. Why we work so hard to make everything seem euphoric, when in reality, so many of us feel like we’re one notch away from a total meltdown. Now, I can’t of course, speak for every new mom out there, but I can speak for myself, and here is what I have deduced in reflecting upon my own propensity toward lying in those early days:

New moms assume you’re supposed to feel blissful. I mean, that’s what everyone tells us. That babies will enter the world and then the elation of their presence will be enough to counteract any pain or hormones or difficulty during the first days. Maybe some moms feel this bliss, and I’m happy for those who do. But, others don’t and then feel like they’re doing something wrong. To say you’re having a really hard time transitioning can feel like an admission of failure, so you just lie instead. It’s easier.

New moms don’t want to be a burden. I know a girl who, upon visiting her friends who have just given birth, comes over, bypasses the baby, and does laundry. Washes, dries, folds, puts away. She doesn’t even bother asking, and I think that’s because she knows that each new mom would probably say something like, “You don’t have to do that.” When people flood your house, you don’t want to put them to work. You assume all they really want to do is hold your baby and then leave. (I suppose some people probably do fall into that category, but I’d like to think most don’t.)

New moms don’t know what kind of help they need. How could they? They’re wading through uncharted territory. When you ask how you can help, most won’t know how to respond because they won’t even know what to ask for. My mom always tells me to go take a long shower. She holds my babies and entertains my toddlers and tells me to take my time. I never knew how much good a shower could do me until my mom started telling me to take them. I know now, and let me tell you, it’s always exactly what I need.

New moms don’t want to cry in front of you. This is why I used to lie to people who asked me how I was doing at church. Who wants to start crying in front of a hundred people on a Sunday morning? If you ask a new mom how she is in a public setting, and she gives a short, chipper response, proceed with skepticism and caution, but mostly invite yourself over later that week. Bring cookies.

I wonder sometimes if I’ve been as good a friend to my new mom friends as I could have been in the past few years. I certainly wasn’t before I had kids of my own (It’s hard to be when you don’t know exactly what they’re going through).

I recently read Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected–A Memoir by Kelle Hampton (Mar 26 2012) and through her life reflections was reminded of the importance of the village. She calls it “The Net” or “the ever-present existence of one another, standing by, ready to catch any one of us who might be falling.” Her army of friends was there for her in droves after the birth of her second daughter, and I thought, “I want that. I want that for myself, and I want that for my friends.”the net- the ever-present existence of one another, standing by, ready to catch any one of us who might be falling.All this to say, when you have your first baby, don’t even think about telling me that you love every second of your newborn’s life. I’m onto you. Just hand me a load of laundry and point me to the washing machine. I’m taking cues from my much wiser friends.