Take 2: When Mopping Floors Is Just Mopping Floors

After my post a couple weeks ago, When Mopping Floors Is Just Mopping Floors, I received a lot of positive response. But I also had a few people who were questioning what I was saying, feeling like it didn't quite hit the mark.  Which is always a good reminder for me to remember that each of you come in with your own set of expectations, experiences and perceptions that will filter what you read. Admittedly, it was a bit coarse, I was feeling "all the feelings" (Like what does that even mean and why is that saying so popular?) and I did what my mother gets after me all the time for, "You sometimes just come off a bit harsher than you really are Laura, soften it up." Whoops. #workingonit. But it's your various opinions that I love and learn the most from, and I do want to be sure you understood my heart in it all without the added, unintentional "harshness," so here is another, simpler, shot at it, with no pomp and circumstances. Just me, talking to you. 
I'm not a naturally sentimental person. I throw out my son's artwork before my husband even gets home. I chopped my son's hair at eight months old in the kitchen without a second thought. I celebrated when I put away his newborn clothing because I was so thankful to just be done with that stage. Suffice it to say, it takes a lot to muster up the warm fuzzies in me.

So when I read a sappy, sentimental article, book or post about how loving my littles is all that matters and how even if I'm weary, I can still find joy in the small things - the fingerprints on the window, the tiny toy car shoved in the vent, the stuffed bear in the cupboards - I struggle to relate. It's not that the fingerprints, car or bear make me angry or frustrate me, they just are. They might make me smile for a second. Make me laugh or shake my head in confusion because like, how did that get there?, but I don't naturally see these happenings in my day as joyful, sentimental reminders of my little tot.

The world is telling us these days that to be a great mom, you have to not only throw Pinterest-perfect birthday parties; serve a from scratch, home cooked meal each night; and use homemade, all natural cleaning products to scrub the floors; but you also have to recognize the amazing significance and worth in all the tiny things you do each day. You have to be nostalgic and sentimental, and even on your most hard, difficult days, if you look hard enough, you can be emotionally moved by finding for one or two touching, encouraging mom-moments amid the clutter.

It seems to me we've begun to elevate the mom that can pat herself on the back in every single moment, treasuring the good with the bad, the icky with the clean, and the gross with the beautiful with tender hearts and mushy thoughts.

And really, isn't that just an impossible standard?

It's one more card in the deck of unrealistic things the world tells us to feel or do, that in reality, should never define us as mothers. It doesn't mean it's not a good thing to try to do. Just like from-scratch cooking or elaborate DIY birthday parties are not wrong, being a sentimental mother isn't wrong either. But it's also not wrong to enjoy making home cooked meals, or throw fancy birthday parties - just as it's not wrong to not find sticky hands and tiny onesies sweet and touching reminders of your children and important work as a mother. They can just be. 

Because - I would hope - not always identifying with the sentimental messages of motherhood doesn't mean you don't appreciate and recognize the enormous privilege it is to be one.

Particularly for someone like me, someone who might be defined "unfeeling" about these things, these messages make me feel like I'm not a great mom because I don't always get to the end of the day and feel good about myself, but I also don't get to the end of the day and feel badly. Usually, I just am. I see those messages and I don't think, "This. Is. My. Heart," as my eyes fill with tears, but instead I quickly pass over them, knowing that a message like that will in fact be the thing that makes me feel like less of a mother, because I struggle to identify with it.

But it seems like most other mothers do, judging my my Facebook feed at least, and so sometimes, I wonder what's wrong with me.

Am I alone in this?

There are certainly days where I know I haven't done a good job: I'm short tempered and impatient, or I'm just weary and dry and ready to be DONE - and I need a reminder that I am enough. That I can do it. That I am the right mom for my child. But on those days, I don't need crumbs on the table to remind me I'm enough, I need God to. Because the crumbs don't define my worth or make me enough as a mother, God's grace does. And when I find those crumbs frustrating me or making me feel drained, that's when I most need to remember that God works and gives me strength in even the most mundane, the most gross, the most disgusting, the must frustrating moments. He uses small things like crumbs on the table to point the big things that truly matter, his grace and work on the cross. And that usually, how I'm responding to those crumbs is a good indicator of what I'm valuing and appreciating in my role as a mother.

And I know there are messages out there like that. Messages that use crumbs on the table to point to Jesus. There are wonderful authors and bloggers shouting this messages loud and clear across the interwebs and on bookshelves across the country, so I don't want to come across as if they don't exist. They do, and I'm very thankful for those that share it.

But it seems there's been a sway lately, a swing in the focus (or maybe just the popularity?) of the message to just, "Squeeze your tinies a little tighter," "Remember all the amazing you've accomplished," "The little things are not ordinary, they are extraordinary." Sometimes, it just feels like to be a good mom I need to feel weary, immediately followed by feeling encouraged, empowered and purposeful in my day because I caught a glimpse of my son's digger pulling up the carrots in the garden and it warmed and touched my heart.

And beyond the fact that my personality doesn't seem to jive with these messages, it seems to me that often these posts and articles focus solely on our amazing work as mothers, and not on the amazing work God does through us as mothers.

And frankly, I don't think that's a good message to lean on.

But that point aside, I've come to realize, just because things like the "digger moment" I mentioned above don't often happen for me, doesn't mean I that don't have the "joy in motherhood" that so many people speak of. Not being a sentimental mom doesn't mean I don't find purpose in my day. That I don't have moments that I look at my toddler and wonder where the months and years have gone already and feel a nostalgic pull in my heart, wishing time would just slow down.

I do. I have moments. Many, many moments that would put even the most touching Pampers or Tylenol commercial to shame. But honestly? I'm okay with viewing toys as toys, food as food and boogers as - gross - and not feeling the need to look for a special meaning behind any of it on a daily basis. And lately, I've been needing to remind myself of that. Snot and cheese and diapers and all the other every day tasks we mothers do on a daily basis can just be. 

Yet at the same time, I'm so thankful when God does bless me with eyes to see him working in those small things - and I'm working on looking for it more. Because when I take time to pull back and view my day through His lens, I see the important work he is allowing me to do and I tend to recognize those special moments - big and small - throughout my day, that warm my heart to the core.

Because, you see, no matter how ice-cold your heart is, motherhood truly does have a way of melting it.

pssst. The winners of the "Glasses" board books are Carol Gadert and Tristan Chavez. Carol and Tristan, please check your email to claim your prize!

7 comments:

  1. I liked your first post, but I love this one, too. Personally, I'm not too sentimental about daily life and I don't really relate when people are super sentimental about the mundane and daily tasks. Like you, my mom also says that when she reads my Twitter sometimes i come across as harsh that drives her crazy, so I know the feeling. :)

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  2. I loved the first post as well. This one is also well put! I'm so like you... I'm definitely a realist and not very fuzzy wuzzy at all. Now that my little girl is here I'm definitely relating even more to what you're saying. It's definitely difficult to appreciate the glories of cluster feeding - if someone tells me to cherish this stage one more time I'm going to scream! LOL. I think everyone is different. Some people are born to be parents and love all the stages and all the little details, and some of us were reticent from the get go and it's a bit of a different journey for us. Both are ok. The best thing I've done so far is be choosy about who I speak with and allow into my space during this challenging time. I know my limits and I know who I want to be with right now. Makes all the difference!

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  3. "...it seems to me that often these posts and articles focus solely on our amazing work as mothers, and not on the amazing work God does through us as mothers."
    Yes!
    I think that hits the nail right on the head. It's similar to focusing on our emotions when we sing in corporate worship - sometimes we sing to the Lord and feel a great surge of love for him, and other times we sing and just contemplate his greatness in our hearts without all of the mushy feelings. Both are worship. Both are okay. Our emotions in worship are an overflow of what is going on in our hearts, just as our sentimental moments in motherhood come when we recognize God's work in and through us, and feel humbled that he would use us for such important work. It's not a cure to just squeeze our kids a little tighter, but that might be the result of a heart that is amazed at what God is doing in our lives. I think this was beautifully written! I can almost hear you talking :-)

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  4. Somehow I missed the first post, but I like them both. I think of myself as leaning sentimental, with how often I cry :), but the first post you wrote has me thinking otherwise. I would be upset to find cheese in the couch cushions and I have to hold back from tiny freak-outs when my youngest daily uses me as a Kleenex - gross! Either way, great thoughts and some that many non-sentimental moms do need to hear as that voice is not as loud sometimes.

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  5. Haha, okay, we continue to become more and more alike! Because I cry ALL THE TIME. At the drop of the hat, seriously. But - it's more like I'm touched for a second about something weird or sweet, then I move on. And the thing has to be set up as supposed to be sweet - like a commercial or an ad, or an emotional podcast or whatever. But while I'd say I'm an easy crier, I'd never say I'm sentimental. But of course, we all have our moments. :) Glad you did relate!

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  6. Aw, thanks Em. I'm glad it connected. And such a great parallel to worship. And there's always that third option - not thinking about him at all, but just thinking about how we're hoping no one hears us sing out of key. ---> Guilty. :)

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  7. Thanks Madison - I'll be curious how you are when that bebe arrives. For all my talk of not being sentimental, sometimes I am shocked at just how much I can be. Like baby dedications. Oh my word, cue the waterworks! I never used to care and now I'm just so "touched by the amazing commitment and proclamation parent's are making!" Gah. It tends to sneak up on us non-sappies like that. :) And too funny to know about your mom 1) that she's on Twitter (why am I not surprised) and 2) I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one!

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