I used to want to “have it all together”. That is: wherever I am to be prepared, well fed, well dressed, well informed, and witty to boot. Further, I wanted to appear to others to “have it all together”. I truly cared what others thought of me, and I wanted it to be based on external appearances. It’s a standard I often hear touted for moms, whether they work outside or inside the home. Without realizing it at the time (from about age 17 into my thirties), I strove like a Pharisee to clean the outside of the cup while assuming the inside would follow suit. Or maybe I thought that if I exhibited “having it all together”, I would gain accolades, and then be happier.
To some extent this is still the case, for better or for worse. But recently I’ve realized that really, my life is very simple. I am a wife and a mother. These are my main duties before God and the world, and the only standard I hold for myself is to be a wife and mother of whom my husband and kids (some day) are proud. Specifically with my kids, an important long term goal is that when they are adolescents, they still talk with me (confide in me), and that this continues into their adulthood. If this means that I spend a little more time reading to my 2 year old at her request instead of rushing around the house packing the diaper bag before heading off to the gym, then so be it.
When I then get to the gym, get paged by childcare, need to change a diaper, and the only diaper I have is 3 sizes to big, I certainly do not “have it all together”, at least by most standards. I could beat myself up and get discouraged (and sometimes still do), citing all sorts of valid reasons why I’m a wreck and irresponsible towards my children. I could do that, but wouldn’t that miss the point? The point is the higher calling. The higher calling is motherhood, and by focusing on my calling as a mom, I connected with my toddler. Also, my baby in the process got diapered, albeit with the “wrong” size. (For those, like me, who care about practical matters, size 5 diapers work just fine, even on small, slender babies. I folded the top down a little, and the fit was plenty tight to hold in – ahem – what a diaper is designed to hold in. Praise God!)
And here’s another reason I no longer wish it to be said of me that “she has it all together”: If I did have it all together, I wouldn’t need you. And, you see, do I need you. And I need to need you. And I want you to know that it’s okay to need me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in these crazy years since becoming engaged, married, and a mother, it’s that I need friends. I was already burnt out on weddings when Erik proposed. I think I traveled to something like 10 weddings in 3 years, all the while despairing of my own husband ever appearing, and I was involved in many weddings in town as well. Then in the next 8 months the house was broken into while I and a couple roommates were asleep (we’re all fine: it was a high and drunk college student), a dear friend got married, I changed jobs, I fought seasonal illnesses for 2+ months, Erik moved, we got married, we moved, we got pregnant, I had preterm labor, and I went on bed rest. Bed rest lasted for the better part of 7 months until our daughter was born, 5 months later my dad died, and my health was still rather poor for the next, well, what seems like forever. During that time we got pregnant again, we bought a house, and we had the baby, we had house guests, etc, etc. And I still wake up most mornings thinking: “how the heck are we gonna get through today?” I’m in survival mode.
My anchor, my hope to get out of survival mode, and my joy all lie – at least partially – in friendship. Sometimes I need your physical help, such as with meals and errands. Sometimes I just need to remind myself that you don’t care whether I’ve washed my hair in the last week (this week, I have!), or whether the house is picked up (it never is!). I always need your moral support and encouragement. I love your sense of humor and our camaraderie. I love your kids. I enjoy our time together during those hectic meals while we nurse a baby and feed a toddler simultaneously. Isn’t it incredible that we can pull it off despite the chaos? My experience of life over the last several years has been that it’s hectic. Feeling slightly frazzled is rather normal. If I can’t have it all together, then at least I want to be content with what I do have.
And I do have friends. Focusing on friendship is just plain good. And, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. I couldn’t have said 8, or even 3 years ago that there was anyone around whom I felt truly comfortable letting my hair down. But I’m learning to focus on friendship and authenticity, and I’ve noticed that it smooths over the bumpy parts of each day, as well as the really difficult things that happen in life over the years.
So let’s not hold time with our kids hostage to our houses being in order. And let’s admit that we’re not perfect. If I was perfect, then I wouldn’t need your friendship. I need and want your friendship. Enough of this pressure from some worldly force out there to “have it all together”. Better to be falling apart a little. May it be said of me: “she looks happy, with all those friends and family around her”.