This morning I found myself watching Dora the Explorer. Not with the kids. Just me. I put the show on to amuse the little ones but somewhere around the 50, 000th time they heard “I’m the map!” they decided they had better things to do. The toddler ran off to play with his chalk board and the one-year-old had some pots to pull out of the kitchen cabinets, leaving me the only one watching Dora. It took me about ten minutes to notice. (More disturbing was the fact that, once I noticed, I continued watching. After a rough night with the newborn it was about at my level.)
With a snicker I thought, “Boy, ten years ago this is really not what I thought I’d be doing when I was thirty.” If you had asked me when I was twenty what I’d be doing on a random Wednesday morning when I was thirty, I would have hoped that perhaps I’d be in San Francisco for a board meeting for some tech company. Or perhaps in New York to visit a new client? Meeting with Goldman Sachs about taking the company I had started public? Sitting on the couch watching Dora the Explorer would not have been an option that came to mind.
As I shuffled over to the laundry room to throw some clothes in the dryer, I was reminded of a thread going around on a local mom’s email list. In it various mothers from my area are lamenting the fact that they’ve “lost themselves” since becoming mothers. I’ve heard countless friends, bloggers, and women on email lists voice this complaint, and have received tons of emails from another site I run (that has to do with motherhood) from women who want to know how to get their old selves back now that they’re moms. And certainly I can sympathize. The old me from my pre-mommy days is loooong gone. But does that mean I’ve lost myself? I used to think so.
I’ve been thinking about this for a couple years now. When it first came to mind was around the same time that I began to believe in God, so I felt like he might be just the one to help me with this matter. In some of my first efforts at prayer, I asked God to show me what his will was for me — i.e. how to find my true self that seemed to have gotten lost along the way, or perhaps that I’d never found.
Waiting for his answer, I passed the time by going about my daily life. I sorted laundry, wiped the kitchen table, changed diapers, all the while eagerly anticipating what the answer would be. Am I destined to achieve success as a published author or as an entrepreneur? Would my peers be impressed with me because of some amazing website I would create or because I would manage to make big bucks while working from home?
And then, after more than a year of waiting for God to reveal a glamorous and exciting path for my life, it hit me: this is what I’m meant to do. I am meant to be a mom, here in my little house in suburbia. I am meant to create a loving home for my husband and children, to help lead them to God (as they also lead me), and to humbly, gratefully, go about all the often mundane work that that entails. And maybe that’s it.
The peace that this realization has brought made me realize: when my life became consumed with my duties as a mom I didn’t lose myself. The hustle and bustle of living my vocation as a wife and mother had melted away a lot of worldly baggage and left me with a much more common, simple, plain — and authentic — version of my life. No, I hadn’t lost myself. I’d finally found her. It just took me a while to realize it because my pride didn’t like what it saw.
Thinking about all this as I did the laundry this morning, I was reminded of the part of the baptism ceremony this weekend where I vowed to reject the “glamour of evil”. I thought that “glamour” was such an interesting choice of words: it wasn’t the “destructiveness” of evil or the “horror” of evil, but the “glamour”. That phrase reminded me of the mindset I was stuck in when I felt that I’d lost myself since becoming a mother. Looking back, I could just imagine evil whispering in my ear, “But you could be so much more! Is this all you want from your life, to sweep floors and wipe spitup? When are you going to get back to your real life?”
I was tempted to look right past the plain housewife in the mirror to keep searching for what I thought would be the “real” version of me, the woman who impressed people with her accomplishments at cocktail parties and had a life that was fabulous by society’s standards. But I’m glad I didn’t. Because when I stopped looking for Alternate-Universe Glamorous Jen and humbled myself to accept my life as it is, being a plain ‘ol suburban wife and mommy, going about the little tasks of turning my house into a home and creating a rich life for my husband and children, I found joy that I could have never imagined. And I found myself.
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