This week, I was watching my favorite show, This Is Us, and the main couple was having an argument - each pointing out the sacrifices he/she had made for their family. The mom, Rebecca, shouted, "I'm a freaking ghost, Jack!" (or something like that) referencing the feeing that she no longer had any identity of her own - that no one sees her anymore. With that line, came a wave of emotion for me - memories of feelings I had as a new mother and awareness of how those feelings tend to circle back around these days when my job as a mom often feels reduced to the duties of a chauffeur, cook, and laundry wench.
Then, as I was digging through some old posts today, looking for some writing inspiration, I came across this gem. It was a piece I wrote as a submission for another project, but it was rejected and has been sitting in my draft folder collecting dust since then.
I needed to read it today and decided share it with you in case you need to hear it, too.
As long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom. I went to college, graduated with a degree in Birth through Kindergarten education, got married, and taught in the public system for a few years before having kids. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew I would be quitting my job to stay at home and raise my children.
What I didn’t know was how isolated I would feel; how lonely it could be to stay at home with an infant all day and, sometimes, go for a week without having an “in person” conversation with another adult. I didn’t know how quickly I would lose my identity or how long some of those days would feel. Everything had changed. My schedule was different. My responsibilities were different. Even my body and my income had changed immensely! There were days and moments when I questioned myself, my skills as a mom, and, truthfully, every one of my life decisions. I thought that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be this person and to do this “momming” thing after all.
Ultimately, though, I found a new group of mom friends, adjusted to my unfamiliar status, got used to the new routines of life, and persevered - even thrived - in my new found role. We even added two more daughters to our family. Still, there was a nagging sensation of discontent that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Eventually, I began to figure out what it was that would never let me feel 100% satisfied. I realized that I felt something like a gerbil on one of those exercise wheels - running and running but never getting anywhere. Every day for me was the same old repetitious monotony - feed them, dress them, discipline them, teach them, bathe them, wash the dishes, do the laundry, sweep the floors. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I had my foot on the gas, but no matter how hard I revved the engine, I simply did not move forward. I had no tangible “reward” for my efforts and, therefore, I deeply lacked a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Let’s face it - being a mom is hard. I was doing it day in and day out, though. I was giving it my all, but what did I have to show for all this work I was doing? Nothing. I had no paycheck, no plaque on the wall, and I couldn’t even get any of my blog posts to go viral. I felt completely exhausted and utterly invisible.
One night when our girls were in bed, after I had finally pinpointed the root of my dissatisfaction, I voiced my feelings to my husband. “You can measure your success by the numbers. You make a sale and you get compensated accordingly as well as patted on the back. You get awards and accolades. It’s easy to see what you accomplish. I do this job - which, quite frankly is harder than your job - every day and it feels like I don’t accomplish anything because every day I have to do it all over again. I clean the house and, tomorrow, it is a mess again. I have to reprimand the children for the same things over and over. It’s like they don’t even hear me. I’m like a puppy chasing its tail, moving my body as hard as I can but only going in circles. I have no sense of accomplishment or success.”
My husband responded in a manner that forever changed the way I view my job as a mom and how I measure what I achieve every day.
He said, ”Go look at our girls sleeping and you will see how peaceful they are. That is because of you. Every day you keep them safe; you feed them; you teach them. Every night, they go to bed with healthy bodies, full tummies, bright minds, and hearts that know they are loved more than anything in this world. THAT is what you accomplish. THAT is your success. Every single day. YOU do that and there may not be any awards given for it, but there is absolutely NOTHING that is more meaningful or more significant. It’s the most important job in the world.”
Caught up in the minutia and repetition of it all, I had never looked at it that way.
He went on to tell me how much he appreciated everything thing I do. He travels a lot for his job and said that knowing I was there with our girls made it easier for him to do what he has to do as the primary (and, at that time, only) income generator for our family.
In a three minute conversation, my husband had recognized what I gave up, validated the importance of my daily duties, and expressed his gratitude for it all. That moment changed me as a mother and I am forever grateful for his encouragement that night. I have since shared his wisdom with several other moms who confided in me that they were experiencing the same struggle.
When we, as moms, are in the throes of motherhood; doing it day in and day out; running ourselves ragged on the hamster wheel of parenting, sometimes we lose sight of our own significance. We become “This kid’s mom” or “That guy’s wife.” We lose ourselves and our sense of self-worth. In those moments, we have to remember that what we are doing each day is truly the most important job in the world. As cliché as it may sound, we really are shaping the future with every diaper change, every Goldfish cracker, every book we read for the one millionth time, every shoelace we tie, every homework reminder we give, every mile we put on the minivan, every reprimand we give, and every “I love you to the moon and back” we say.
So, in case no one has ever told you, I’m telling you now.
Mamas, you are important. You are appreciated. You are beautiful, and valuable, and amazing. You may feel invisible, but I see you. So do your children and the people who surround you. Think of yourself as a Master Mason - each little brick you lay seems so dull and inconsequential, but, in the end, you will have built something incredible and amazing!