My husband and son, at the beginning…
My earliest memory of my mother is of her hands. Strong, soft and sure, one holding me fast by the arm while the other sudsed me up with a soft cotton washcloth. I was sitting in the kitchen sink. It was stainless steel, cramped, and cold against my back, even though it was summer. But she had me, and wasn’t going to let me go.
Now, looking back over the last 40 years, I can see my mother’s hands over and over again. Brushing my hair, scrubbing the floor, rolling out dough, pulling weeds, holding her Bible, ironing with steam, sewing a button on, making sandwiches, tucking me in, wiping away my tears, pointing the way, holding my hands and waving goodbye…
Sometimes, often in fact, during my own journey through motherhood, I wish I was more like her. She was a doer, always busy, always with a goal in front of her – she didn’t rest until her work was done. Our house was spotless. Her hands were always busy and full.
Sometimes, when I was young, I would get frustrated. Why can’t we just relax and have fun once in a while? I would ask. Because there’s work to be done, she would say. Won’t it feel good when we’re all done?
Now, I wake up in the morning, feed the cats, feed the dog, feed my son, get my son ready for school, and get myself ready for work. I get dressed and while I’m curling my hair, I see that the bathroom could use a sweeping. I should plan on going to the laundromat tonight after work, but my son has a music concert, so it will have to wait. Backpack? Check. Lunches? Check. I pull out of the driveway…did I make the bed? Uhm…maybe not. Geez, the flower bed needs weeding…I sure wish I was more like mom.
I look at my son in the rear view mirror, and we share a smile, my hands gripping the steering wheel in a tight turn into our busy, busy day. We laugh and talk. At the stoplight, I reach back and we hold hands for a brief moment, our secret signal to one another that everything will be alright. Then, we move on.
We get home at the end of our day, and I fix supper, we eat and do a few chores, and then there’s this precious window of opportunity – about 45 minutes before my little boy has to go to bed. The bathroom floor still needs swept, but I don’t do it. Instead, I sit on the couch with my son, and we read. Or tell stories. Or play Legos. Or watch Green Lantern. Or have a tickle fight. Or just snuggle.
The time goes by, and we say our prayers…a tuck here and a tuck there, and he’s off to sleep.
It’s 8 o’clock. I go into the bathroom. I forgot the broom. Why can’t I be more like mom?
I indulge in a pity party. Mom was a better mother than I’ll ever be. She worked so hard and loved so much.
Then, I hear her whisper in my ear. You love just as much. You work just as much. You are everything just as much, just different. You are just what you are supposed to be.
I came to realize that my mother’s love language was acts of service. Every jar of pickled beets, and every starched blouse; every hot meal, and every clean floor said I love you.
My love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. So, every conversation about my son’s day at school, his favorite Skylander or Pokemon, and every snuggle on the couch says I love you.
So, mom and I are different, but the same.
Our love is different, but the same.
Our mothering is different, but the same.
It’s easy to compare ourselves with others, especially those we hold in high regard. It’s also easy to use that comparison as a way to tear ourselves down instead of building ourselves up without seeing the good that we do. We come to equate different with wrong.
Try to see yourself with loving, truthful eyes. That’s the way those who love you see you, and it’s the way your children see you, whether your bathroom floor needs swept or not 😉