I spend a lot of time pushing my kids on the swings. A lot. If given the opportunity they’d swing for hours and each time they lock eyes with me still yell, “Higher! Higher!”
I hate to admit it, but I don’t enjoy pushing kids on swings. It’s tedious, it’s monotonous and it feels pointless. No matter how hard I push, they will need another push. No matter how I try, they will not learn to pump and swing independently, at least not yet.
And when I have three kids all swinging at once I walk back and forth, pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing.
There is joy in those hours we spend swinging. I know. The beauty of the day, the smiles as they swing up and back, up and back, the giggles, the squeals. But, even with these burst of joy it often feels so…unimportant. So small.
This season of my life, a season with 3 little ones 4 and under, is largely characterized by my distraction. The moment I find myself in–changing diapers, building forts, complimenting Lego creations, cutting food, digging in sand, picking up toys, scrubbing floors, wiping noses, breaking up fights, pushing kids on the swings–feels so small. So very small. Some days it seems I am just watching the clock tick by until I can get to what I want to do, the things on my list–a business I am determined to build, blog posts I am dying to write, patterns I am eager to create and sell.
And the kids and all the work that goes along with them are just things I need to get through.
I’m ashamed that I feel this way, but it’s the truth. I would be devastated if my kids ever knew or understood this is actually what was going on in the mind of their mother and I pray they never find me out.
I struggle with the feelings of smallness that characterize Motherhood more than anything I have ever faced, ever. I stepped out of the working world 4 years ago when my first baby was born. Since that time I have lived my life quietly at home as a mother.
I wish I could say I delight in the smallness of this life. I wish I could say I don’t long to be important and engaged in some sort of momentous work. I wish I could say this life was enough for me.
But some days it doesn’t feel like it is.
The challenge of withdrawing from the world and embracing smallness started immediately after I became a mother. Immediately. Weeks after my son was born I opened up to my mother and grandmother about how I was feeling, about how I was struggling to feel like holding and feeding and loving a baby was…enough.
My grandmother reacted to my confession by launching into a rant about “women these days” and how society has lied to us, led us to believed that our life is only as valuable as the things we accomplish, the dollars we earn and the praise we receive. How women like this (women like me) suffer, struggle and stumble when it is time to raise a family.
I certainly was struggling. Was I (am I) doomed to fail at what I know is the most important work of my life?
Years later I can see the truth in my grandmother’s words (maybe not the kindness, but the truth). I am a product of a society that values greatness, but I am called to live a life of smallness.
Called to be a mother.
But how to become small? How to let go of greatness, or at least worldly importance? How to become a mother?
Even 4 years in I have very few answers and few success stories.
Some days I honestly wish I had never started my little online business, never started a blog, and wish I had somehow been able to find contentment and peace and joy in the smallness of Motherhood alone, instead of creating all of these little projects that ultimately pull me away from my work as a mother.
But, as painful as it is to say, I don’t think I would be happy as just a mom.
Perhaps my love isn’t pure enough, perhaps my prayers not strong enough, perhaps my life too cluttered and too distracted.
All these thoughts twist through me, along with the to-do list I will never accomplish, as I stand here pushing my kids who are still swinging and swinging and swinging.
“Higher!” “Bigger!” “Push me ‘gin!”
My kids are beautiful. The day is perfect. I am so lucky, but so small.
I know that smallness is holiness. I know that I am called to do “Small Things with Great Love” and that for “”Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self” (St. Mother Teresa). But even in these words there is a sense of greatness that I don’t feel, that I don’t sense when I am here, pushing my kids on the swings for hours.
Perhaps when these years are gone I will see how these small experiences shaped me, how God used them to relieve me of my pride and foolish ambition. Perhaps I will think back on those hours and days and years I spent feeling small and unimportant as the most important moments of my life.
But for now all the accolades and mouth service we give to the importance of mothers does not change how very hard this job is–and how very small it makes us feel.
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