My daughter turned five months two weeks ago. In these past months she has learned to smile, laugh, sit up and scoot around. I like to think that I have soaked up every moment but I know there have been some I have missed, or those that I have even wished away. As a stay at home wife and mother, I'm beginning to understand this vocation more with each passing day. My heart hurts for the mothers that have to work but would rather not, and it is happy for those that enjoy both worlds. As I watch the "mom world" of Instagram, I see that all mothers mother differently, and that it's so important to respect that; to see value in all of it.
I'm certainly no expert. I've only been married for seventeen months and a mother for five. But I'm learning and (hopefully) growing through it all. Thankfulness has been bountiful in these precious days as I learned to become a wife and a mother. Our days are different than they used to be. They are still early and busy, but the work has such a purpose. My daughter and I wake up slowly to the rise of the sun and she is fed in the comfort of the smell of home. She rolls around next to me in the sheets as the sun peeks through the shades. Eventually she opens her eyes. They are full of me. Her mother. It is so profound to me, even still. People we meet say she smiles with her bright blue eyes, and she does, just like her dadda. On days he gets to sleep in with us, he wakes up with the same grin. She is him. She is me. She is a miracle. We have a miracle in our everyday lives and it is her.
The sad dichotomy of it all is this lack of self worth that I feel at times in my daily existence. It is something that is placed on myself by no one but me. In this, I am my own worst enemy. Until you have children, until you see the world as a parent, so many other things weigh their importance on your self worth. It used to be so easy to look at my day and wonder what i would accomplish. It seems my accomplishments now revolve completely around nap schedules, nursing and diapers that need changing. Things like academic excellence, a well paying job, and importance in the workplace are far from my mind. I know there will be a time and place for them again soon, but for now this is my life. At times it seems miniscule, but there seems to be something more in the seemingly mundane. It is a much more private thing. A much more personal, beautifully hidden secret to this life.
In our busy lives, it is so easy to prioritize things other than the family. Sure, we write about family days, time together, and even keeping Sunday holy. We see something beautiful and wonder how we could incorporate it into a great photo. But how much of our day is free to give? Free of phones, of computers and distractions. How often do we just be, and how often are we truly present? It isn't always easy to set aside my distractions to watch my daughter roll around on her play mat, or chew on a rubber teether. She does it all day, every day. But will she grow up and say that I was on my phone all day every day? Will she wake from her naps and find me desperately trying to get through my Instagram updates, or will she find me waking with her? Why is it so hard sometimes to just be present?
Staying at home, I have found more and more that I need things to validate my existence; my vocation. I stake so much of my happiness in my daughter's emotional needs- in my husband's needs. I never understood in the Letter to the Corinthians when St. Paul warned of a divided spirit. But now I am grasping at an understanding. If my daughter is grumpy, I am grumpy. If she cries, I often wonder where I went wrong. Because surely, if I had done all I could, wouldn't she be happy at every single moment? Of course I realize how ridiculous that is but in the moment it's just so hard. Just like I stake my happiness in her happiness, it is the same with my husband.
When St. Paul warns about distractions from our love of God, maybe it also applies to our understanding of what love means. What if we validated ourselves in the strength of our love, instead of how it was received? We can't control how someone will react to our striving - our trying. If we really love freely, does it matter how anyone reacts to it? The true nature of giving a gift is to not seek something in return. Ultimately, one would hope that love would change everything. And it does; it changes our own attitudes. It starts with us. I can't love just to gain the satisfaction of seeing someone's happiness. I love because it is in me to do so. Because I am compelled to do so by everything that is in me. It exemplifies to others how to be a gift to the world. As a wife I feel validated in my love when I am loved in return; but for a mother, it can be much harder at times. Specifically as a mother of an infant, it swells my heart to receive a smile, a laugh, a snuggle, in return for what I do. It lights up my world. My daughter can feel my love and she will learn by it. But for now, her ways of love are simple and light. They are quiet and almost a whisper. May our home be simple and still enough to hear her.
Daughter, love freely and it will set you free.