Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In defense of the mess

There has been a smidgen of chit chat on the internet as of late on living in a culture that doesn't much like children. And what kind of influence us children-havers might have or not have within the larger scope. I'm not disagreeing or intending to beat a dead horse, but when I read what Kendra had to say, in light of what Haley had to say, compared to what Cari had to say, my mind wandered in a different direction. And it wandered in a direction it's wandered in before. It wandered there when I first read a post about nursing in public, and then again when I read a few posts about covering up while nursing, and it sort of wanders back every time us moms chat about they way we do things or the way we think we should do things and why. It makes me wonder about who we are doing it all for and, in a way, how to measure whose opinion matters most.

See, I can read all the "nursing cover" posts without feeling offended in either direction. Sometimes I cover, sometimes I don't. When I do, it's not in protest- it's because I want to. And when I don't it's not in protest either... it's just because I don't want to. The longest I've nursed a kid is 3 years. But I don't consider myself a "lactivist" by any stretch of the term. And perhaps some of my both/and feelings come from the experiences I've had of other mothers who have lived both/and and how heavy the weight of self-imposed expectations can really be.

When I was a young(er) mother, I was really worried about appearing like I was doing it right. I remember fidgeting with my changing pad and my diaper bag and my nursing cover and most of the time I was a sloppy mess. I wanted to have it all just so. But I didn't. And let's be honest, we never do. Not at the start, and not even in the middle and probably not at the end, either. I would sit at the park with a crew of seasoned mothers and I'd watch them handle their newborns with a grace and finesse that I longed for. No one was judging me, no one was chastising me for my wobbly-legged newness, but I saw the divide. I felt it. I saw a picture of the mother I wanted to be, it was the same as them- capable, relaxed, composed. And so I kept fumbling under that nursing cover, because if I didn't, I would be the one distracted from conversation with my shirt pinched under my chin, one hand on a boob and one hand on a newborn's head. And I didn't want to be her. I didn't.

But one day I watched a veteran mother of many pop up from her shady spot under a tree to chase a wandering toddler away from the street. I watched her run with a newborn at her breast, soft, postpartum belly exposed, underwear bunched up above the waistline of her jeans... yelling, running, towards the 2 year old on the sidewalk. And I loved her for it.

I loved her for being a mess in that moment. I loved her for allowing me to see her- breast, belly, running, all of it. Of course, she wasn't putting on a show for me, she was just being a mother to her wandering little one and to her nursing baby- but she gave me a profound gift. And in that moment, I mentally untied all of the tightly wound expectations I had given to myself. Because I saw a good woman being a little bit messy, just like me. And I realized that meant I was just like her.

This isn't a post about how to blog, what to share, or pretty vs gritty, or nursing covers, or any of that. And it's certainly not negating the fact that I think it's important to find joy in it all and to share how worth the crazy all these babies really are. But I found a special blessing in the mess. And I can't ever shake how important it is to me.

I still think of it often. When I find myself changing a gross poo diaper with not enough baby wipes, or when I'm standing next to Johnny, peeing on a palm tree in the Trader Joe's parking lot (yesterday). My default emotion might be "oh my GOODNESS, I am so embarrassed" and maybe even "OH MY GOODNESS THE PEOPLE AROUND ME WILL NEVER WANT CHILDREN AFTER THIS" and, maybe, maybe, that's true. But there might also be a young, struggling mother that catches me in the chaos and smiles. Maybe she will go home blessed, renewed, a little more confident, and, at the very least, not feeling so alone.

And so, I don't necessarily disagree that a window into the mess might encourage one community to dislike children even more than they already do, particularly with no positive as a counter weight. It very well might be true. My point is that I don't really care. I have a special affection for that other community. Mine. The ones that might really need to see us with a little postpartum flab exposed. The ones that might need to see us toss off the nursing cover every once in a while. The ones that maybe need to see those crumpled up Taco Bell wrappers spill from the slider door of the van.

I think that's why it's either/or, both/and for me, and why I really hate to be part of any parenting clique. Lactivist, homebirthers, bottle feeders, pretty, gritty, blah blah. I just want to a friend to you, wherever it is you are. Just like that woman in the park was a friend to me in her awkward, exposed moment of messy when she didn't even know it. Maybe that moment appalled one or two, but it changed me.

So, you there, fumbling around with that newborn baby. Don't you forget that I am a mess just like you.

Because you are a mother, just like me.

52 comments:

  1. This is absolutely perfect! Thank you for saying all this!! My mind always wonders when mothers started labeling themselves rather than just being mothers. We should encourage one another rather than constantly preaching why and how etc etc. Kids are kids and 99.9% of moms are just doing the best they can. Let's support that!

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  2. Wow! I love this so much! So so much!

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  3. Really nice. I am reading this on my phone while my fourth baby is in the sling. I am much smoother at putting my babes in it now, but it wasn't always so. As a mama with the same tendencies (of wanting everything 'just so') I am loving your message. I know I worry too much what others think, but I'm getting to the point with four busy bees that I don't have TIME for extra thinking :) Thank you for the encouraging read.

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  4. Lovely and pure. Thank you for this.

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  5. Love this!
    Yesterday at the playground I hear a nanny say "Pull up your pants, boy! No one wants to see that butt!" I turn around and sure enough, there's my three year old with his drawers around his ankles, looking for a tree to pee on.
    Am I the only one who thinks saying nice things about your kids doesn't read well online? So much of what is heart melting that our kids do, really only has that affect of us because we love them so. Hearing about the charming antics of another mothers brood can be quite a snore, even for a fellow mother.
    And lastly, I'm sure there have always been kid haters, it's just that with the internet they can share their distaste with a wider audience. I say, "Let them be". Anecdotes about my how my 1 year old says "please" (pats his diaper and says "tease?") isn't going to change thier attitude. And see, not all that cute to read about.

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  6. Love! I swear...the greatest gift a few mothers have given me is inviting me into their house that was a mess. It made me feel so much better about the normal state of my house and just seeing that they didn't have it all together either.

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  7. Love this so much. All of the drama today was getting to be too much. Thanks for your voice of reason!

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  8. Lovely, Blythe! I just love it. It's fresh and refreshing, if you get what I mean ;) I'm so happy when new posts from your blog pop up on my reader. That is all.

    (Actually, no... there's more. A few months ago, my sister, who has one child - a 9 mos. old - came over to my house (a crazed land of 5 children and general disorder) and said, "I mean this in a really awesome and complimentary way - I've never seen your house this messy." It had bothered me a little since then, but now, after reading this, it doesn't. You're changing real moms one post at a time :) Power on.)

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  9. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for this!

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  10. This is beautiful! I really needed this as I gave up breastfeeding "way too early" this week and have been struggling. Thank you :)

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  11. We do need to see the messes! Thank you for this beautiful post!

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  12. This is awesome, Blythe. It's so important to remember we are all in this together, and none of us really has all of our ducks in a row. Having mom friends, especially ones you can be messy around, is a great way to take the pressure off us all. sometimes those friends come via the internet. :)

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  13. This. This is the way I feel about all of the "mom-blogs" I read. Because I need to see some mess to know that it's a-okay to have mess of my own. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  14. I'm so into this. In all honesty I DO know "it's not just me" - the mess and the not having my crap together. But sometimes it *feels* like it's just me. This kind of post is always my friend. And it's just so very beautifully written.

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  15. Hi Blythe! I don't know if you ever saw the first comment I left because I left in on a post that was a few weeks old just a week ago. I was a little late! I left a comment saying hi on your open letter on being offensive. There was so much beauty in that by the way! Anyways I feel silly leaving another introductory comment saying who I am and what you have done for me... But I'm going to anyways! I have actually been considering sending you an email saying hello! Gosh now I sound like a creep. Haha. Well anyways you are an amazing mother and you have significantly impacted my life in a great way. I came across your blog after a friend of a friend liked something on Facebook with a link and it got me here months ago. I have been reading ever since and it was before soul pancake! I don't have a blog ( yet I have been considering) anyways I have been following yours and I just love it. I love how honest you are! Just like with this story. There is so much beauty in being that mess of a mother though. So much honesty that's respectable in so many ways. In a new mom. Sort of. My daughter is 18 months this month! She's my only child for now but gosh how crazy motherhood can be and I'm for sure that messy mother most of the time in public. Anyways I'm now repeating some of what I wrote on my first comment and I feel silly but I really want you to know how much I look up to you. My husband passed away when my daughter was only 5 months old. It was the worst thing I have been through. I never thought I would be 25 and a single mom. I have help from various family members but for the most part I'm trying to still raise my daughter the best I can as an independent strong parent. Parenting is so scary though... You're blog has given me so much great advice. Better than 99 percent of the books. The books don't really know anything. Well anything about me or my daughter at least. You make me laugh! I often times find my self cracking up at your beautiful little family and all your crazy stories. I love every thing you post! You're awesome. Truly you are. I hope one day I will have more kids. Be blessed with that. For right now I'm just doing the best I can to manage being a full time mother and a full time student. I just wanted to tell you thank you for making me laugh. Especially on those hard nights. Your post make me feel like someone gets it. Just the little things. I hope you always post! I'm really considering starting my own little blog. Thank you for all you do and all you say. Thank you for being an amazing example of a selfless mother I hope I can be! :)

    Cheers
    Natasha.

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    1. Natasha- thank you so much for commenting again. I never did see your original introduction so I'm so glad you went ahead and typed it out again. Thank you for your generous compliments. You have undergone my worst nightmare. I can't even begin to imagine the suffering you have experienced in the past year. What an amazing mother you must be to that little one. In the same way our little every day messes can bless eachother, I can only expect that your circumstance and the loss of your husband will someday, at some point reveal itself to be a gift to some other soul. Maybe if just to look at you and know that healing is possible, that mothering in possible, laughing is possible. I'm sure much comfort can be found in how you've survived so far. You should blog!! Please do it/ I'll be your first faithful follower. Email anytime!! Xoxo

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  16. yes! I was that fidgety nervous mom too. So true!

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  17. Thank you. This is exactly what I needed to read today.

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  18. I'm in a really hard situation with my 7 month old, and I'm a first time mom. When she was born, I was so intimidated by other mothers and how they were judging me. Because some of them do. I had to make it a point to make sure I was doing everything by the book. And even then....when I was doing everything the way the books and veteran moms said to...something happened to my baby, and it kind of made everyone stop in their tracks. Whats this? You CAN do it all right, and you CAN do it the way other mothers want you to, and you CAN try to be the perfect mother...but the mess will happen regardless. I've been blogging about my situation, and for a while I had the comments turned off. Blogging is my therapy, and I don't want anyone to ruin that with their judgement. But then I started getting messages and stuff on Facebook...and it turns out, the veteran moms were not judging me, they were supporting me and asking ME how I was doing it. While their opinions should never matter when it comes to mothering...it did make me feel like maybe I was doing something right.

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  19. I appreciate so much your either/or - both/and type of parenting. Thanks for being a great example!

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  20. Thank you from one mess to another. This post is perfect.

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  21. So perfectly well said. Thank you for saying it.

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  22. ooh, did you see this?
    http://www.gsheller.com/
    "The Perfect Guest" post. If you don't already read her blog, I think you would like it!

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  23. Stopped by because of a link on Camp Patton. I am not a mom, but I am a recovering perfectionist, and this post is REAL and amazing. Love it.

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  24. Omg this is so awesome. Can we be friends?!

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  25. I am 35 weeks along in my first pregnancy and I can't thank you enough for writing this. I appreciate your honesty, humor and the fact that a perfect stranger had that much impact on you and your perception of being the perfect mother. I hope to enter into motherhood not a part of any clique and just ride the waves of motherhood alongside other young mothers without any judgement. I wish we could all see that we're in this together!!

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    1. Yes! You are going to do great. And it's going to be awesome.:)

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  26. wow, i just really loved this post! thank you!

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  27. Loved reading this! I'm pregnant for the first time and can already totally see myself being that self conscious mom wanting to be a perfect, seasoned mom. I'll try to remember this and to embrace the mess that will naturally occur :)

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  28. Oh Blythe! Nail on head, hit. Struggling to get my groove with my third being almost 12 weeks. The nursing postpartum flub flab mom running after her toddler? That's me. And my hair is always greased to my forehead in the hot summer. Man. Love this post.

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  29. Hi Blythe! I'm quite late to the Fike Life party, but I'm glad I finally got here. :) Laughed out loud at the Taco Bell wrappers falling out of the sliding door of the van--it doesn't get more real than that, and that about sums up my van/life, too. Bless you woman!

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  30. Loved this! And after your AMAZING soul pancake video and how beautiful your family is and your incredible witness to openness to life, I'm pretty sure you have cancelled out any times any peeing on trees supposedly "discourages people from wanting kids" for the foreseeable forever.

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  31. This! Being the mommy you are. Period. It has taken me seven kids and 37 years to see that. Maybe we can finally emotionally leave high school? :)

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  32. الشرق الاوسط شركة نقل العفش بالدمام متخصصه فى نقل اثاث وعفش بالدمام والخبر والجبيل والقطيف والاحساء كما انها متخصصه فى النظافة وتنظيف المنازل ونظافة بالدمام والشقق والبيوت والفلل والكنب بالدمام
    شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
    شركة نقل عفش الجبيل
    شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
    شركة نقل اثاث بالجبيل
    شركة نقل عفش بالقطيف
    شركة نقل اثاث بالاحساء
    شركة نقل عفش بالخبر
    شركة نقل اثاث بالجبيل
    شركة نقل عفش بالخبر
    شركة نقل اثاث بالخبر
    شركة غسيل كنب بالدمام
    شركة تنظيف كنب بالدمام

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  33. افضل شركة تنظيف خزانات ومنازل وشقق بالمدينة المنورة شركة غسيل خزانات ومكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة ونقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة مؤسسة صفوة المدينة
    شركة غسيل خزانات بالمدينة المنورة

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  34. فرسان النيل هى الاولى فى نقل العفش بالدمام هي شركة نقل عفش بالخبر وشركة نقل عفش بالجبيل والدمام وشركة نقل عفش بالقطيف والدمام وشركة نقل عفش بالاحساء وشركة نقل عفش بقيق وراس التنورة
    شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
    شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
    شركة تنظيف بالجبيل
    شركة نقل عفش بالجبيل
    شركة نقل عفش بالقطيف

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