Tuesday, May 10, 2016
"Nine months on, nine months off." This is the mantra of any new mother seeking consolation in her old pair of skinny jeans. We hear this timeline and tell ourselves it seems reasonable to "get back to" our former bodies as if counting calories or taking walks was an actual time machine for our thighs.
For some, nine months is nine days. For others, nine months is years and years or never again. But, one thing is true for any mother - your body is never the same after having a baby. This isn't a story about weight loss, though. No, there's a much bigger lesson here than cracking the code to losing weight. (Otherwise I'd be sharing terrible tips like how to survive on a steady diet of Goldfish crackers and frozen waffles.)
Since driving myself crazy with body image issues in my youth, I strive to keep a healthy and reasonable outlook when it comes to my self-talk and body image. But, it's not easy. I don't step on the scale very often, but last week I weighed myself and to my surprise saw my magic number: I'd reached my pre-pregnancy weight. I felt a sense of relief and pride as any semi-normal, semi-neurotic, red blooded American woman would. With my baby approaching her 9 month milestone, it seemed I'd met the goal right on time. I slipped on my Spanx, buttoned my jeans, and headed out the door with my head held high.
I took my middle daughter to Preschool as usual, toting her backpack and baby sister on my hip as we walked her to class. The hallway is always bustling with kids and moms in the morning, so it didn't phase me when another child walked up and started smiling at baby Vivian. Then, the child turned to me and said the words every non-pregnant woman cringes to hear: "Are you pregnant? You look like you're going to have another baby!"
After I punched the kid in the face...(Okay, I'm kidding, but in my imagination some version of that story definitely took place)
After I politely (and rather directly) corrected the youngster, I caught myself being completely deflated by what I had been proud of only moments earlier. I sucked in my stomach and silently retorted with a million "Seriously?s" in my head, frustrated by the false announcement. I paused. I sighed. An innocent, tactless, little twerp had put me in my place and I was ready to hand over my body image rights to the opinion of a five year old. Hmm. Who was being more ridiculous in this scenario?
Like most women, I've grown up in a society that has taught me to value a pound of flesh over an ounce of character, so my worth gets easily wrapped up in thoughts of cellulite and muffin tops. The world bombards us mamas with images of celebrity-bumps-begone, invading our realities with unattainable expectations that if we really had our acts together the jiggly belly that once housed a human would disappear before we checked out of the maternity ward. Our reality lines get blurry at the crossroads of "enough" and "perfect" to the point that we doubt the beauty of our inside the moment we question the beauty of our outside.
If we let the world decide how we're supposed to look, and we allow that judgment to affect us, our big mama butts don't stand a chance.
I've never met a mama who didn't admit her soul was changed the moment she held her baby for the first time. Motherhood changes us, inside and out. Yes, my jeans will never fit quite the same way again. My booty is flat and my tummy is puffy and scarred forever. Don't even get me started on the nursing boobs (heading south like their trying to make it to Rio in time for the Olympics). It's true, my physical body is full of evidence that I've carried creatures into this world. Beautiful, magical creatures...that turn into the very people I sit with and laugh and discipline and hug every day.
I look like a mom, and it's awesome. Because for every little pooch or sag that shows on the outside, there are a million more signs of life on the inside that are far more important.
My pregnancies taught me to be patient, to sit in awe, to truly feel life, and to love the unknown. My children grow me, challenge me, strengthen me, stretch me, and enlighten me daily. By getting to know who they are, I'm forced to shake up my instincts and be intentional with my thoughts and actions according to their needs. They have made me more creative, selfless, generous, patient, or loving than I ever thought possible. It is suuuuuuper difficult and uncomfortable, constantly learning how to parent these magical creatures that keep changing and growing along with me...but, I wouldn't trade it for a Victoria's Secret figure no matter what.
Mamas, it's time to love our whole selves, inside and out. Let's really own this mom body thing. Let's set the scale aside and buy new jeans and laugh off ridiculous comments from silly kids that are still trying to figure out how that baby got in your tummy in the first place. Let's compliment each other more often and smile when we are too tired to think of anything to say. Let's have the beauty of the soul-changing miracle we endured be evident in our self-talk and show up in how we care for ourselves.
I'm not saying this is easy or happening overnight. Maybe it will take another nine months to believe all the truths I start to tell myself today. But, we can do it, mamas. You and me, and our beautiful baby-making-bodies at every weight, in every shape, full of treasures from the inside out. No buts about it.
2 Corinthians 4:16
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
This is not a big deal. I mean - it was planned, it's temporary, and I know that my husband is coming back on Friday so the chances that I actually drown in the sea of laundry that's accumulating is slim.
But, whoa man. There are mamas out there right now, doin this single-bit every day, and I am on my knees bewildered at their survival. I know some single moms that are truly ROCKING it, churning out edible lunches, kids with matching socks, and children who actually say please and thank you without prompting.
Single moms, my hat's off to you. As Mother's Day is right around the corner, I want you to know that you are seen and loved and seriously amazing the crap out of me right now.
Maybe you are widowed or divorced or separated. Maybe you're not technically "single", but you might be single-handedly ruling the roost for now. Maybe you are married but your husband is overseas or often called away on work. Whatever. You are truly momming hard.
I'm sorry that the world has shoved you under such a semi-deprecating stereotype as "single mom". As if it's any of the world's business how or why you have the jersey but no teammate in the crazy game of parenthood. I'm here to verbally hug you and say I really don't care how or why you are single, but I think we should come up with a new term altogether that embraces your amazingness at thriving partner-free. How about Super Star Mom? Momtastic Gal? Hmm. "Grand" Mother is already taken, so we'll have to keep brainstorming I guess.
Nevertheless, if you are momming hard on your own and your children are alive and well - BRAVO. I don't know how you do it.
Some of you may have not chosen this exact path for yourself. You may have had hearts broken or dreams shattered at one point in your life. There have been looks of judgement and glares of disappointment. No doubt someone has been unkind in their effort to "fix you" or been condescending in their unsolicited advice. I'm sure I've done my part in overlooking your needs or extraordinary selflessness, and for that I sincerely apologize.
I don't think you are living a "Second Best" life. There may have been bad people or bad choices or bad examples in the past that have led you to where your feet are planted today, but that doesn't mean you can't grow and flourish into something beyond your wildest dreams. God can use you exactly where you are, and He's already blessed you with children who stretch your patience and love boundlessly, giving you opportunities daily to see God's goodness. If that's not life's BEST, I don't know what is.
You are brave and beautiful. You have probably faced impossible choices and maybe no one was there to hug you or high five you when you put your children's needs above your own. You can be a living example of a loving sacrifice, and that is everything in parenthood, and God honors that. You are cared for by a God who knows your every need. You are more than enough for your children, and God has given them a whole, made-in-His-image, perfectly-chosen-for-this-position mother in YOU.
This Mother's Day, stand proud. Be that Mawesome... Shazam-a-mama....Ma-mazing, (nope, still striking out on this renaming thing) but BE THAT and know this mama is sitting back and praying for you to feel all the love and comfort and hope that you need. I hope your kiddos drench you in blessings and that the Holy Spirit fills you to the brim with peace in the assurance that you are His forever and ever.
Happy Mother's Day