I cleaned up puke on Mother’s Day.
I cleaned up puke the whole following week.
There’s something about a Mother’s Day that begins in tears because you had to wake up early with the kids and because no one said “Happy Mother’s Day” until you asked, even though you know that everyone was just tired and sick or getting-sick.
I was away the day before Mother’s Day. I had been asked to put on a workshop at a youth conference that was taking place a few hours away. I decided to travel up with my church’s youth group, choosing to chaperone so that my husband and boys would have the van while I was gone. In making this decision, I agreed to drive a loaned car filled with youth and luggage. I agreed to stay up until 1:30am on a Friday night. I agreed to sleeping on a church floor in a sleeping bag. I agreed to hang out with Grade 6 kids and Grade 12 kids and everyone in between.
I used to go to this youth conference myself when I was a teen. I remember it so vividly that it can’t possibly have been ten years since I last attended.
But it was.
Two young girls had been assigned my car. They were in grade 6 and 7. As I drove them, I thought back to the last time I was their leader. I was eager to get involved in my church and had volunteered to lead a children’s program. I had the Grade 1 & 2 class. Those girls were both in that class. When I think back, I imagine them being as little as Cameron is now, though I know they were a few years older. Still, now they’re youth and going on youth retreats and that’s a little, well, shocking to me.
As I was unrolling my sleeping bag onto the sanctuary floor, an older youth from my group asked if I was going to keep on being their youth leader after the trip was over. It is something I have often considered. I know I have gifts that can be used by the church. I know I can give of my time and my energy to form positive relationships with young people during their most formative years. I can help mold and shape them into beautiful adults. But I couldn’t tell this youth my desire to do that. As I sat, texting my husband tips on dealing with a barfing two year old at home, I had to tell her that my life doesn’t really allow for it right now.
Being a Mom is a full-time job. It is a full-time job whether you’re a stay-at-home Mom or if you work outside the home. Before having kids, I didn’t get things done because I was lazy and I took lots of breaks. Now that I’m a Mom with a full-time job and a house to manage, I don’t get things done because I simply don’t have enough time. My life has become a constant exercise in prioritizing, and often I don’t even have time for the things I prioritize highest.
I know I’m not alone in this.
But we women are also created with incredible skills that reach beyond our parenting lives. We feel passionate about things far beyond the four walls of our home. We are encouraged to do more and be more and lean in. And we want to because we can. We are more than just our children and our husband! Remember who you were before all that? Can you still find her?
We are bombarded with these expectations coming at us from every side. We’re expected to work. Or we’re expected to stay at home. We’re expected to keep a pristine house and teach our children to use the toilet and tie their shoes and spell their names. We’re expected to raise well-rounded adults out of these little tiny humans who are supposed to someday make this world a better place. We’re expected to donate our time and our gifts to our community and our church. We’re expected to kiss our husbands when we wake up and tell them we love them every day and somehow try to live up to their expectations of what a healthy amount of sex is for a marriage. We’re expected to be sexy and being sexy means feeling sexy so we try to work out and meal plan and feed our family healthy food.
We’re expected not to lose ourselves despite it all.
It is exhausting.
There are so many roles I try to do and do well and it is hard. So when that teenaged girl asked me if I would keep coming to youth group, I knew I had to say no. There’s no more room in my life right now.
During one of the first worship sessions at the Middle School track of the youth conference, I looked over to the aisle beside where I was sitting. Standing there, singing and goofing around were three young boys. They couldn’t have been older than sixth grade, not having that air of maturity and confidence that some of the Grade 8 boys had in that room. I watched them for a minute, especially the tall one with the thick, floppy hair. Then I nudged my friend, the youth pastor who was standing beside me. “You know, that’s going to be our boys in a few years” I said, eyeing the pre-teens. It was exactly them, my oldest boy and his. I don’t know how they grew up so quickly and I don’t know how they made it to this youth conference and I don’t know how they didn’t need us so much any more, but those boys were our sons.
This role of mothering young kids is going to end. I’m not going to be needed as strongly. I’m not going to be depended on as much. I won’t be wiping bums or giving baths or saying “just one more bite” for too much longer. Those skills and passions and gifts that I have, the parts of me that make me me, beyond the roles of mother or homemaker or wife, also shine in this role of motherhood. I don’t need to go to my church’s youth group to give of my time and energy to forming positive relationships with young people during their most formative years. I’m doing that already. At home.
So, I might fail at keeping my house clean. And I might forget to kiss my husband when I pass him in the hall. I might not feel the least bit sexy. I might not be able to volunteer my time outside of my house (please understand when I say “no”). But I haven’t lost myself in these roles. I haven’t disappeared in the busyness of it all. I can find myself in mothering my children. I can embrace this role and know that it is enough. I am enough. This can be my gift and my calling and my ministry, at least for now.
Someday, I won’t clean up puke on Mother’s Day. Someday I won’t have to wake up early. Someday I’ll have time to write novels and run marathons. But I don’t want that day to be here. Not yet, anyway.