I sat there in the Costco parking lot and felt like a complete failure. I had just pulled into a spot and was taking a moment to breathe when I noticed a woman walking from her car to the front doors of the gargantuan store. To the “normal” person, there wouldn't have been anything particularly spectacular about her to note. But to me, her black “shooties”, long jacket, fresh face and bouncy hair said it all: she had it together. She wasn't some young thing either – I imagined she was also a wife and mother, all-be-it of older children than mine. (Wow, there's a lot of assumptions in that observation, aren't there?)
After all, this was post-dinnertime. A time of the day when my husband counts himself lucky if I'm still wearing something other than pajamas. I couldn't remember if I had glanced in the mirror at all on that particular Tuesday and I wasn't even quite sure if I had managed to brush my teeth that morning. It didn't really matter at this point – in a few short hours I'd be doing it as part of the bedtime ritual anyway.
You see, I almost hadn't made it out of the house that night.
Once again, every one had picked at their dinner, causing the time we sat at the table to stretch on forever and ever (which of course only succeeded in me consuming more food than I had intended). Once again, someone started having a bit of a meltdown when I reached for my shoes after asking my husband if I could just simply “get out” quick before he left the next morning for two nights out of town. And once again, I had glanced at the clock as I grabbed my keys thinking Is it even worth it to run out right now? Bedtime is in less than a hour.
But there I was. I had made it OUT. And I hadn't even journeyed more than 2 miles from our front door. And I definitely hadn't stopped to think about my appearance before venturing into the outside world – after all, that would've wasted precious minutes which I could be spending wondering the Costco aisles in peace.
This particular Tuesday had been a bit of a mental struggle. Tuesdays happen to be the only day of the week that my four children and I have the entire day together – the others I am either at work or running my twin daughters to and from preschool in the afternoon. We hadn't left the house the entire day, nor had we done anything particularly excited while at home. I had woken up feeling overwhelmed by housework, bills that needed to be paid and the ever-looming issue of what we'd be eating for dinner that night (by “we” I guess I really mean my husband and I since everyone 4 feet and under in our house seemed to be on an eating strike). We maybe had read a book or two (which someone most likely couldn't see well enough), broken out the crayons for a 10-minute coloring session (which took about the same amount of time to clean up), taken a stroll around the block (while I panicked about my two-year old boys getting too close to the curb), and watched a little Netflix (after everyone finally agreed on the same thing) while I sat at the table looking for comfort in a cup of lukewarm coffee. I had many-a conversations with God that day about why He hadn't made be better at this whole "mom thing."
Needless to say, I wasn't feeling very proud of my day at home in that moment. And then this put-together woman had the audacity to walk right past the front of my minivan! How insensitive. I glanced in the rear view mirror to see a million fly-aways framing my makeup-less face and my messy bun falling out of position (wasn't that the style?). Oh Mel, I thought, why can't you get yourself together?
My trip to Costco proved to be successful – both in purchases (as it always is!) and for my emotional well-being. When I returned home not more than a hour later, I was greeted by hugs and delighted voices, enough to make a person think that I had been gone much longer than 45 minutes.
They didn't care that we had spent another entire Tuesday at home. They didn't notice that I hadn't even bothered to put in my contacts and looked much the same in that evening moment as I did when I pulled myself out of bed that morning. They were happy they had gotten an hour to spend with Daddy. They were happy I was now again home.
They. Were. HAPPY.
My husband and I are currently in a season of our lives where we don't “get out” much. Neither of us are members of any adult volleyball, basketball or kickball leagues. We don't have a gym membership. We don't do swim lessons with the kids. Our girls don't do gymnastics or dance or horse back riding or 4-H . And it's not because we think any of these things are a waste of time or a bad idea. With four kids under the age of 6, any event which necessitates one, some or all of us to leave the house at a specific time requires an incredible amount of preparation, planning and patience. You should see us on Sunday mornings just trying to get everyone to church! In this season of our lives, my husband and I have decided that committing to any additional, regular activities would simply be too overwhelming. But it's a decision I struggle with constantly.
Are we doing enough? Are the kids getting enough interaction? Are they sick and tired of being home? Why don't I have the energy and stamina of other moms I know who seem to do waaaaay more with their kids? All of these doubting questions run through my mind on constant replay.
But then I look at my children's faces on a night like that Tuesday. I see happiness. I see a feeling of security. I see the knowledge that they are loved. I see children who know and love Jesus. It is in moments like those that I realize that if I'm being completely honest, the guilt I feel over “not doing enough” is placed there as a result of my own insecurities, feelings of inadequacies and desire to “keep up with the Jones's” – it really doesn't have much to do with my children at all.
I try hard to know and understand my limitations. I know that between work, home, keeping up with family and friends and keeping everyone well-fed, I've got enough on my plate right now and there's not a lot of room for “extra” – at least not if I want to keep my sanity. If I manage to sign each one of my children up for a new class or activity but end up over-stressed, overwhelmed and over-extended, what good is it? Am I really enriching my children's lives by denying them a more emotionally available, loving and relaxed mom?
If you run from here to there with your children, from tennis practice to dance class to fencing club and back again, more power to you. Truly, I admire your abundance of energy and ability to balance it all. But if you don't, look into your children's faces: are they happy? Do they know you love them? Most importantly, do they know their Savior loves them? If the answer is yes, then rest easy, my friend. You're doing exactly what you should be because God made you exactly as He intended. And I'll try to remind myself of the same :)