Mothering usually doesn’t look like we thought it would. It doesn’t look like it does in the movies or TV shows. Or most of our Instagram feeds. Or our friends’ lives. Or any version of what we thought it would look like at all. Most of our expectations get scrapped on day one of being a mom, traded for the reality that’s infinitely better and probably much harder than we’d expected.
It actually looks like life lived between. The shots between frames we share. The moments that go unnoticed, the tiny spaces between the highs and lows. Right there, between the funny and the serious. These days, this is what mothering looks like for me:
Mothering is sharing food. In the minds of my children, anything on my plate, going to be on my plate, used to be on my plate, in my hand, in my mouth, next to me, or that I am considering eating is fair game. The same applies to beverages. Mothering is grocery shopping — again. And then making more snacks.
Mothering is applying sunscreen to every inch of our kids exposed skin, then forgetting to apply it to ourselves and ending up with sunburned shoulders.
Mothering is saying I’m heading up to bed and not actually crawling in for another half hour, because I stop to pick up each abandoned toy, put dishes in the sink, sweep up stray crumbs, fill the dog’s water bowl, peek in on the sleeping kids, wash my face, quickly scroll on my phone, peek on the kids again, then finally turn out the light. Then turn it back on when a kid wakes up. There’s a season for good sleep; this is not that season for me.
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)
Mothering is rarely being alone. It’s soaking up each and every last second of alone time (even at work or the dentist), because it is precious. It’s pushing away guilt for loving that alone time so much. It’s fighting the urge to check in with the family every ten minutes while you’re away.
Mothering is walking slowly next to a toddler who “can do it herself!” It’s coaching a middle schooler through feeling ALL THE FEELINGS in a day. It’s carrying the baby all morning, putting her down so you can use the bathroom, and picking her right back up when she cries.
Mothering is quietly completing the tasks no one will see but everyone would miss if left undone. Birthday cards and phone calls to family. Calendar keeping. Household maintaining. Replacing toothbrushes. Cleaning toilets. Returning library books. The tasks that never cease. The tasks that keep to-do lists in business. The tasks that pop into our minds, getting us out of bed in the middle of the night to quickly complete them before they flee our minds.
Mothering is constantly performing tiny acts of service. The bittiest of details, done with barely a thought. Mothers are the managers of the minutiae, shepherders of the details that make a home run and hearts sing. We are the knowers of small things, of favorite items, and things not-so-loved. We can read a heart in one glance. We can heal with a hug and we can calm with a word. Mothers are the unseen do-ers. We are the people of hidden service, who have learned to do things swiftly and silently in a second-nature sort of way that is often only seen and celebrated by God.
Mothering is snuggles early in the morning. It’s hair-smoothing late at night. It’s making choices that are hard, but right for your kids. It’s letting your kids go. It’s holding your kids close. It’s tender moments that make you teary with their sweetness.
Mothering is offering a prayer when you have no words to utter.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Romans 8:26 (NIV)
Mothering is delightful, difficult, beautiful, brutal, blessed, terrifying, sweet, good, and hard. Mothering is everything in between.