Curly Fries: The Mother's Day Gift We Give Ourselves

Love-CTC2010-2125Tomorrow will be Monday and Mother's Day will have come and gone.  If there was any retreat or rest today, much of it will have disappeared as we return to the busyness of another week.  I've thought a lot this weekend about a gift we give ourselves...or withhold from mothers.  And at the beginning of a new week when I am nearly 40 weeks pregnant, swollen, and my waddle can no longer keep up with the swiftness of my two-year-old, it's a gift I need in large doses - grace. Last Thursday evening, I had the opportunity to slip away for a bit and grab dessert with some beautiful women.  We laughed about the things nobody tells you regarding childbirth and postpartum recovery (two words: ice pads).  Driving home I chatted more with a close friend about the ways motherhood has been different from our expectations.  After a few minutes we stopped laughing, took deep breaths, smiled and simultaneously said how tired we were just thinking about it.  Our stories were different but our conclusion was the same - one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is grace.

I hesitated to write this blog at all when I got up Friday morning and read the rich and poetic words of Anne Voskamp in her recent reflections leading up to Mother's Day.  My words certainly lack the depth, wisdom, and experience that her's carry with each line.  But the longer I sit with it, the more I am compelled to write it down. It's a message that bears repeating.  Everyday.  Again and again.  Grace isn't a gift we extend on a single Sunday in May.  It's a blessing we must choose to bestow on ourselves throughout the long days of the year.

Prior to becoming a mom, I was not good at giving grace to other moms.  It took about five seconds of real motherhood for me to change my tune and become an active voice in showing grace to other women on this journey.  Sometimes the person we are the least likely to relay grace to is ourselves, which is why I wanted to share with you the motto I've adopted since entering this exhausting adventure of being on call 24-7:

Sometimes, you just have to do what works...whatever that is.

"Don't stand when you can sit, don't sit when you can lie down and don't stay awake when you can sleep." When Ian was about two months old, I read this quote and felt as though a life raft had been thrown to me in the waters under which I was drowning.

I have one rule about nap time.  With only the occasional exception, I do not do anything while he sleeps that could be done while he was awake.  Typically, this means that whatever I do it must be done while lying down or at least sitting back.  When he is awake, he is moving - which means that I am moving.  Stillness is what I save for the one to two hours a day when he sleeps - writing, reading, sleeping, or even just lying on the couch to pay bills and answer emails.

I can get a little passionate about food and I try to make sure he has a healthy, balanced diet.  But when I'm more than 15 minutes from home and I can see his eyes starting to roll in the rear view mirror, I make a b-line for Arby's to pick up an order of curly fries.  I save half the box for me and hand the rest to Ian in the backseat.  It's just enough to keep him awake until we get home and I can put him down for a real nap (15-minute power naps in the car = no rest for anyone once we get out of the car).  And despite my zeal for healthy, non-processed food, I refuse to feel guilty in those moments...because sometimes we just have to do what works. Whether that's handing your child an iPad for 30 minutes so you can actually finish a cup of coffee, promising him a cookie if he'll just smile for one more family picture, or protecting nap time by doing whatever is necessary to keep him awake until you get's okay.  Sometimes we just have to do what works...whatever that is.

In the world of pinterest boards full of ideas for keeping your child entertained and your home the picture of "perfection", it's easy to find ourselves under a guilt that tells us we aren't doing enough.  But when your days start at 5:30AM with a bouncy little person crawling into your bed saying "get up mommy!", guilt needs to find someplace else to hang out...because it certainly isn't welcome here.

This is a place of creative solutions that don't always fit in a "how to raise your child" book.  It's a place of accepting limitations and allowing room for mistakes.  It's a place of grace.