I was leaving my son’s elementary school this week after dropping him off, and while walking back home, I chatted with my neighbor. This beautiful mama has four kids under the age of 8. I am ahead of her on the motherhood path, with one in middle school and one in 5th grade. This is my last year walking to our cozy, close elementary school.
She is tall and has beautiful long hair flowing down her shoulders. Her youngest child is held securely in her arms while we walk. The little girl beams at me over her mama’s shoulder, arms wrapped around her mama’s neck. They have dropped off three older brothers, and I can tell this sweet baby knows it her time with mom.
I have dropped off our 5th grader on my way to my part time job, and my husband is dropping off our 7th grader on his way to work. I am dressed for the office. My sweet neighbor looks at my washed and blown-dry hair and my lipstick and says, “You look so nice.” Then she looks down at her tennis shoes and warm winter coat, and gestures towards her glasses. “I am not dressed up today,” she says, in what might be a forlorn tone.
I look at her, and look at her beautiful little girl beaming at me from her mother’s shoulder, and say, “You look amazing!” And I mean it. There is more I want to say to her, but I just do not have the words, and I am running late to work. We arrive at my car, and she crosses the street with her little girl.
I jump in the car, leaving the radio off. In the silence, I keep thinking about what she said. It struck a chord in my heart, and while I drive I formulate what I wanted to say.
I’ve been there…
I was at home with my kiddos for years. I know the yoga pants, ponytail, no-makeup kind of life. My kids are 19 months apart, and I was in the “earrings are a choking hazard” phase for so long that I stopped wearing earrings altogether, and one earring hole actually healed shut. True story. I just finally got it re-pierced. I had not worn earrings for 10 years!
And I know now what I did not know then. Here it is: you look so much better than you think, sweet mama. So much better.
I know TV and magazines and Pinterest and Facebook tell us what beautiful mamas are supposed to look like. Lululemon leggings and a clean house and no problems. Not only is it all wrong, but it misses the point completely. Those are pretty pictures, sure. But I want to tell you something: you are beautiful.
That little girl, safe on your shoulder, knows this too.
You might feel tired and worn out, because… hello! You are tired and worn out! So. Tired. So. Worn. Out. I know that stain on your shirt is breastmilk/babyfood/baby vomit/questionable. I know you did not get a shower today. Or maybe yesterday. Maybe not tomorrow, either. Just when you are about to get in the shower, someone needs you. It is so much work.
And there is so much that you give up. I know you feel like you lose your self or lose your temper and don’t sound beautiful or patient or like anything you’ve ever seen on Pinterest. But you are so beautifully, faithfully walking the motherhood walk by just showing up every single day.
There will be a day for you, like I am having today, where your children will dress themselves, pour their own cereal, buckle their own seatbelt, and do their homework on their own and need so much less from you in a physical way. There will be a day when you will dry your hair uninterrupted and put on lipstick on an ordinary Tuesday, and while for now you cannot even imagine, it will happen. I couldn’t – believe me!
In the meantime…
Hard work and faithfulness creates a beauty that you can’t pin or click to share or get likes for. Only hard work creates the things that you will be grateful for in 5 or 10 or 20 years.
And the further I get from the years with my littles, the less I think about the hard and the more I realize what was really beautiful. And it was not the things that I would have pegged as beautiful. I was tired and it was hard work. I look back on pictures of myself when they were small, when I was their whole world, and I remember the long, long nights and seriously epic tantrums.
Now I see how it forged my kids and me together — growing us closer and maturing me right along with my children. My relationship with my children has been formed in the mundane, never-ending tasks of motherhood that we repeat and repeat and repeat just like a bricklayer lays each brick. Not so exciting, but in the end something magnificent is created.
That is the kind of beauty that lasts, and ripens, and becomes better with time. That is the kind of beauty that your kids will remember when they are grown and holding a little one of their own. The websites and magazines and television have nothing on that kind of beauty.
That is the kind of beautiful you have, too. Beautiful, beautiful mama.