Before having kids (and even once I "only" had Meredith) I had some pretty strong beliefs about myself and about where my worth came from. I wouldn't necessarily say those things out loud if someone asked me. No, I knew the right answers to those questions. I knew the answers shouldn't have anything to do with having a tidy house, getting places on time and showering regularly. But my reality spoke something different. The way I spent my time suggested otherwise.
Cleaning our home, staying on top of the laundry, getting out and looking somewhat presentable is how I felt good about myself. I like a clean house. Messiness leaves me feeling anxious. Sticky floors and piles of laundry leave me feeling lazy. Being unshowered and in yoga pants leaves me feeling like a classic stay at home mom that could never cut it if she had to be prepped, ready and looking professional by 7 am everyday.
And then, I had my second baby. It's been a gradual process for me. The first couple of months with two were really not so bad. I had lots of family help and Mattias was such an easy baby. But then, he started to be awake more and then he became mobile and now he lives for pulling books off shelves, dumping out boxes of crayons and emptying my spice rack. Gradually over the course of the year, the things I was looking to for value and some sign of a day's productivity simply weren't there.
I had a moment just a few weeks ago- I was following one little mess-maker, cleaning up as she went, only to be followed my another little mess-maker who was busy undoing what I had just fixed. As I did that it hit me. I am going to be doing this for this rest of my life if I don't stop it. I am going to look back and see that I wasted so much time and energy trying to keep my house clean. And for what? Last week i read this post by Jolie and in it she said, "That may mean a little laundry piles up some days, or the bookshelves don't get dusted. But that really what makes the world go round? Dusted bookshelves?" Of course not! And yet that is one of the hardest things for me to let go of. My job right now is raising my children. Not dusting the shelves.
It's funny because I recently re-read this post of mine from a couple years ago. I'm still struggling against myself. I was so sure then that I had figured it out and yet here I am still at it. I'm sure in another few years I will read this again and think the same. My hope is that there is forward progress. Perfection is unrealistic, but growth is what I'm holding onto.
I just read the most amazing book, Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. Calling it transformative feels like the silliest thing, but it really is true. She talks about how opening the doors to our home isn't a chance for us to perform a song and dance on the stage that we call home, but instead it is an act of love. I'm holding onto that as we open our home to friends and even as I share our home with my kids each day. This house isn't here for me to tirelessly clean. It has been entrusted to me for raising my babies. For dance parties in the kitchen. For train tracks on a linty rug.
Over the weekend we had come friends over for a cookout. I'm usually a hot mess bursting with anxiety before these types of things. But this time, with Shauna Niequist's words freshly in my mind, I breathed easier. I was making guacamole, listening to music while the kids were playing. Our friends were due to arrive soon and I still needed to shower. A song came on and Meredith declared, "We need to dance!" And so we did. Tomato juice dripping down my arms, Mattias scattering bottles of spices across the kitchen, Meredith and I waving our arms, shaking our bums to some music. Growth. Slow and steady and easily overlooked by outsiders. But to me, that was a huge moment of growth.
So this year of mothering two has been hard. I thought I would handle the chaos a little better. I thought it'd be itching for hundreds (or one or two) more babies by now. I thought I would still be able to have it all together. It's been painful (and continues to be) as I learn to give myself grace and let go of what I think makes me a valuable mother and wife, but I am really grateful I am learning it.
And I'm sure I'll be learning and relearning this lesson for a very long time.