March 2, 2015

invisibility...

These feelings come and go, but last month they weighed rather heavily on me. It's not that anything in my life really changed, or I had some extraordinary lack of support, or that I was just being generally overly-emotional about the whole thing…there's no rhyme or reason to it, but sometimes there's no other word to describe how I feel than: invisible.

I know the work I do every single day is important, needed, appreciated. But sometimes it's really hard to get a handle on these feelings when almost everything I do happen to be the things that, well, have to get done. Things that aren't even worthy of praise or admiration. They're actually pretty boring and mundane…the day-to-day checklist that includes housework, preparing meals, cleaning the kitchen, weekly errands, heading to the laundromat for a couple hours each week, playing with (and cleaning up after) Eisley, tidying the duplex every evening before bed, and other such things. Add to that the other generally unseen things that I manage to do, like being intentional with my time spent with Eisley, meal planning, clipping coupons (and being entirely too strategic about grocery shopping), being as smart with our budget as I possibly can, and finding ways to bring in a bit of additional income here and there.

So, yes. I'm aware of how much I do. I am proud (and thankful) to be able to be a full-time mama and homemaker. But there are still days that it is just a struggle. When it comes down to it, these are the things I do for a living. This is my job, my calling, my joy. But there's something about living in this day and age that makes it a little difficult to live a life and give all you have to something that doesn't bring in a paycheck, that doesn't bring any outward praise (or, at times, even acknowledgement by anyone else), that has more to do with giving so much of yourself without getting something in return.

It's a lesson in humility that I tend to fail at more than I succeed.

I sometimes try to put all of this into words for my husband, but I know it never comes out quite right. And I know that there's no way he'll ever fully understand what life looks (or feels) like from my view. At this point in life, I know that words of affirmation are what matter most to me, and I try to tell him how much it means to me when he even says something as simple as, "Dinner was good! Thanks!" Because nobody was there to see me plan the menu for the week, or grocery shop for the items that it took to make that meal, or prepare all the elements of that meal with a 3 year old who was intent on spilling noodles all over the floor while asking me to help her change into three different princess dresses within the span of 20 minutes. Hearing that simple thank you is like a breath of fresh air.

Okay. He sees me. He doesn't have to see all I do, but I'm appreciated.

I remember when I was first at home full-time with Eisley, and Jay would walk in the door after a long day at work, innocently asking a simple question: "So, what did you guys do today?"

I hated that question. It felt like an accusation, even though my rational mind knew it wasn't. I didn't marry someone who would ever look at me suspiciously, as though I hadn't earned my keep for the day because the house was a wreck and I hadn't washed my hair in four days. (Shout-out to dry shampoo, by the way.) But, still, whenever he asked me what I had done, I felt like I had to scramble to name off a bunch of things that made my day sound as productive and legitimate as his. It was an awful pressure—so ridiculous and unnecessary, especially in those first years of motherhood.

There are still days (weeks, months) I have a hard time giving myself enough credit, and fight selfish thoughts that try to convince me I'm unappreciated and deserve that pat on the back for what I do every day. There are evenings I sit on the couch after a full day of handling the minutiae of motherhood and home life, only to feel a bit like an elf who magically gets things done without ever being seen.

Well, an elf who still has a dirty fridge and a bedroom closet packed with so many things that it has become slightly terrifying.

But I'm working through it all, and know I'm definitely not alone in this struggle. Even those of us who always planned for a home life and knew this is what we wanted and hoped for…that doesn't mean every day will be fulfilling or accomplished or beautiful. I don't question whether this is where I belong, but I do question my ability to do it all with the right outlook and attitude.

A couple weeks ago, I was having one of those overwhelming days where I felt worn to bits and out of energy. Then Eisley walked up to the kitchen table, where I was sitting, trying to figure out what to tackle next. She climbed up in my lap, put her arm around my shoulder, patted my back and said sweetly, "Mommy, you're a good one." Both Jay and I have used the phrase "good one" with each other and with Eisley for years—it's just one of those silly things we say out of the blue.

But truly, a perfectly-timed compliment and snuggle from a 3-year-old sometimes has more power than anything else in the world. Who knew?

Further reading: Becoming a Stay-at-Home-Mom

12 comments :

  1. You ARE a good one! (Did you bawl your eyes out? Because I'm about to.)

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    1. It was definitely one of those moments I wanted to squeeze her and never let go. She redeemed herself in that moment for all the meltdowns she's been having lately. :)

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  2. You are doing a great job! I feel the same way when my husband comes home and asks me what I did that day (currently taking a few classes and no longer working full time). We are also expecting our first child at the end of May! It's crazy how I don't feel as worthy now that I'm not currently getting paid to do a job.

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    1. Congrats on expecting your first little one! So exciting! And it definitely feels good to hear other women who understand where I'm coming from. I wish more people talked about this issue, because it seems to me that it is such a symptom of our generation—the one that constantly tells us we CAN do it all and we SHOULD do it all and if we're only choosing one thing, then we're somehow falling short. Very frustrating. :(

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  3. Yes yes yes yes. One of the hardest things for me is knowing I'll never be promoted, get a raise, get a fabulous job evaluation where a boss will sing my praises & bend over backward to keep me from leaving (at least not in this life!) and I have never been very career ambitious or driven, so these realizations took me by surprise. It is hard, too, that my husband doesn't see all those things that somehow "magically" happen - new roll of TP, a full fridge, bathed & happy children... It IS a real challenge to keep my heart & mind in the right place. And, thank you for introducing me to the inspired to action & God-centered mom podcasts a while back b/c listening to those really helps me remember that we are doing important (if not very mundane) work :)

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    1. Ah! Yes! I agree with everything you said. It's so hard to keep my heart and mind in the right place, too, and to remember what a privilege it is to live the life I have. When I'm cleaning the toilet or picking up my husband's dirty socks, it's definitely difficult to be grateful. :) And I'm so happy you enjoy those podcasts, too! The intro to both of those are such a breath of fresh air. I look forward to them every single week, because they are that simple reminder that I am important and no matter what, God sees what I am and all I do. Hugs to you, Karen!

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  4. This is why your blog has always been my favorite. I struggle with the same things as a stay at home mom (to a 6 month old girl). I have always needed external praise to validate my work, and it is hard when so much work is unseen. Thank you for putting it all so beautifully into words.

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  5. Yes. One of the things I was telling my husband is that I get no feedback as a mom. In a regular job, you have evaluations, or have visible, tangible proof of what you're doing. As stay at home moms, we have ourselves, our little ones, and social media to gage how and what we're doing. It's so hard not to feel inadequate and invisible.
    You are doing the work God created you for, and that's the real truth.
    And always, thank you for sharing your thoughts and words, Kerri! xo

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  6. I end up asking every day 'is it nice?' at dinner, hoping for some extraordinary response!! One day when my husband came home and said 'the kitchen looks good' was simulataneously awesome and not- because I then thought it must not look good all the other times! It's so hard. I'm trying to lean on the fact that God sees and that matters, and working on improving my attitude which has not always been the best.

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  7. Thank you for this! I have recently started to hate the question, "so what do you do?" From new people I meet. Their facial reaction to my stay-at-home mama response leaves me feeling like its not important/good enough. Praying God does a good work in your heart (and mine) to validate our worth.

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  8. Thank you for sharing so honestly about this! And you are doing an amazing job, motherhood (parenthood) is so demanding and frequently goes without recognition.

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    1. Thank you for the thoughtful reply and your encouragement! You're a gem. <3

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