Today is a soaking wet day for introspection. For soul-searching melancholy. For the open-mouthed baby kisses my daughter specializes in. For the whole-body hugs Tom gives me that are actually more like our souls touching. For texted “I love you’s” without punctuation – the most honest kind. The kind that, in that moment, aren’t concerned with periods or exclamation points but with relaying the message.
It’s rain and clouds and the silhouettes of umbrellas marching steadily past my windows and the front of the coffee shop where I’m now writing. It’s the rain-slicked cobblestones that make my town perfect and the hunched shoulders of each dusk-weary passerby bracing the continually pelting rain.
I left home tonight.
For the first time since in months l left with no agenda. I’m not grocery shopping, going to a church meeting or on a planning committee. Instead I’m curled up, barefoot, at the local coffee shop (the kind of place with dinged furniture, crooked menus and perfect music that makes you wonder why coffee shop chains exist). I’m sitting here writing.
I didn’t come with a pre-planned topic just a thought I’ve been mulling over for the last few months.
Self-care, specifically mother-care.
Mothers need care too. Mothers need to reminded of who they were before littles came along because those truths remain a definitive part of who they are as mothers. If you’re reading this and you’re a mom – take care of you. Take the bubble bath, drink the coffee, steal the ten minutes outside at night to just sit.
Nights out like this one help me remember who I am as a woman. As a wife. As something other than a mom. Going to the coffee shop with my laptop to write used to be the norm for me- it has now been so long that I actually forgot where to plug my headphones in on the laptop.
Time away, perspective, is crucially important and life-giving to help ensure I continue to fulfill all three of those roles well; wife, mom and woman.
I think of it as The Wild.
I’m not someone who needs to get their hair done or go for a massage (though I certainly won’t turn it down if you’re offering). I don’t need a shopping trip or time at the mall.
I need the freedom to stand in the pouring rain and stare at things uninterrupted.
I need to breathe in a southern night full of humidity and possibility. I need to have a quiet moment to daydream without the weight of dinner menus, diaper changes and bills that need to be paid. I need the bliss of doing one thing at a time.
I need to feel the unbridled wonder of nature. To feel the rush of possibilities that come with staring down an open road and seeing the way it winds with abandon. I need to stand on a beach at night and hear the crash of invisible waves pounding an ever-shifting shoreline.
Those things reach deep down into my soul and bring it to life.
They stir me to remember the Big Picture. To look beyond the days of little things, of the mundane chores and list making and to remember. Remember who I was created to be, to remember that life in all of its unbridled wonder, unexpected pain, fragile joys and moments of sheer delight is worthy of being lived with my eyes wide open even when I’m tired, overworked and weary of reading “Where is Baby’s Belly Button?”.
Sometimes it seems that out culture wants mothers to believe they can and should have it all. Freedom and babies, personal time and time with their littles, self-actualization and self-sacrifice.
Yet, on that last one maybe they’re right – we find our truest selves when we surrender ourselves and sacrifice is as intrinsic to the definition of motherhood as love is to the character of God. Plenty of opportunities to lay aside your own desires and, in the process, learn who you are – for better or for worse.
I knew that before I became a mama – as best as you can know something that you have to live to learn. Sacrificing in practical ways for my daughter is something I will do every single day. Same for her dad. Some days it’s hard, that is true, but it’s also something I find extremely fulfilling. I love preparing healthy meals, hanging clean, fluffy towels in the bathroom, putting clean sheets on the bed, making my own laundry detergent, gathering her in my arms to nurse, packing lunches, straightening carpets and filling our home with light and love.
Those things aren’t the true test for me of sacrifice.
It’s surrendering my freedom in The Wild.
The ability to go and do and be anything I want to be at any time. The freedom to hoist a sale and catch a ride whatever way the wind is blowing. The ultimate escape, into a book, for an uninterrupted six hours. Traveling to Mexico with my love. Last-minute road trips just because.
Those things aren’t a definitive part of my life right now. My days are extremely predictable and scheduled. Up at 6:30, naps at 9 and 1, three meals, three snacks, two cups of milk, two nursing sessions, 18 books read, five block towers built, one lunch packed, one dinner cooked, the living room vacuumed, the mail gotten, the bills paid, the calendar updated, the articles written, the cleaning done, groceries unpacked, menus made for the week, phone calls returned.
Every day. All day.
Motherhood is trading much of the wild for the wonderful.
And you know something? As I’m continuing to adjust to that new normal, I’m learning something key. Something that is encouraging me through the busy and often lonely days of mothering and transition as we attempt to build a new life here.
The wonderful can be just as fulfilling.
The wonderful is in my baby daughters eyes when she feels a raindrop on her face. It’s in my husbands smile when he suggests doing something crazy and taking a family walk in the woods. It’s in the companionship of friends who share your journey and in the solace of fellow mothers who are willing to swap jealousy and competition for authentic friendship.
It’s in a whirlwind hand of Dutch blitz with your husband before bed. It’s in the sudden smiles of a one-year old drinking in every bit of life she possibly can before her bedtime. It’s when you hear your husband and daughter playing hide-and-seek upstairs and laughing so hard that the floor is shaking. It’s in those moments that you know, that even though they’re filled with mundane tasks and small things, these are the best days.
That, that discovery of the wild hidden in the wonderful, starts with the unmatchable joy that shoots through every painful, bruised and broken part of your body when your child is first handed to you; breathing their first breaths of air and looking for something familiar, the only thing they know- you.
Someday the freedom of the wild will come again in full force and, you know, I can’t help but think that, when it does, I’ll do anything to trade it back for one more day of wonderful.
Time will tell. It’s incentive to live the days will a grateful heart knowing that each season is temporary.
And, for now, this season of freedom at the coffee shop is drawing to a close. My husband, who patiently handled bathtime and bedtime for the little, awaits me. He has grown even more dear to me as we continue down this road of life (how is it even possible that we’ll be married three years in December?). There is a lunch to be packed and a final load of laundry to put away before night falls on our home.
Tomorrow is a new day.
A day for making stew, muffins and bread. For cleaning the house and for taking Evie to library storytime. It’s a day for ironing Tom’s work shirts and finishing a phone interview for an article. By God’s grace it will be a day laced with prayer and moments of meditation. A day where I show grace to an eager, active little girl who’s desire to explore her world doesn’t always match my neat plans. A day where I am patient when Tom gets another late call at work and needs more time in the evening to do homework. It’s a day I only have the chance to live once.
And, by grace, tomorrow is a day for wild wonder.