I recently gave up a girls trip to the Cayman Islands. It was pretty crushing. One of my best friends had been planning her 40th b-day trip with four other girlfriends this year, and you better believe we all had synchronized countdowns going, Amazon carts full of cute beachy things, and a group thread that entertained more than informed… “Who’s up for bioluminescent cave swimming?! Jen, pack your Xanex so you don’t freak out!” I couldn’t wait. I’ve never left the fam for an extravagant girls trip before, but my kids are a little older now (meaning I no longer worry my toddlers will get lost in our back woods on daddy’s watch) and I have a husband that supports everything I do, so this mama was ready to cast away.
Aaaaand then that feeling kicked in. That little pull on your gut you wish was the consequence of spicy Thai, but persists long enough for you to know it’s the Holy Spirit. I could feel the demon and angel tug-of-waring it out on each shoulder. The demon was admittedly persuasive… like an award-winning toastmaster: “Good Lord woman. It’s only five days. You deserve this. Don’t be one of those child centric moms with no life outside her children.”
The angel eventually won but it wasn’t with convincing talk. It was with reminder that we as moms should always follow our gut. I knew it just wasn’t my time to party. One of my kids has been going through some emotional difficulty and I just felt I needed to be around and present, despite all my daydreaming about sunset cruises, strappy heels and mai tais.
Giving up that trip was a big deal, but this blog is more than a verbal pity party. It got me thinking of all the other “little” intangible choices and sacrifices we make they may not be blog-worthy, but they matter to our kids, and they matter to God.
We give up our time, money, energy and personal desires on a daily basis so our kids feel loved, valued and secure. Most moms with kids between the ages of 10 and 16 have transmuted to underpaid Uber drivers by now, and lots of us have gone without nice clothes, jewelry, weekend getaways and the good face cream in order to fund the Nike-infused “drip” every kid from 5th grade on seems to require.
We’ve trained ourselves to resist checking our phones or sending work emails (so hard) when they kids are around and saying no fun things like joining that adults-only volleyball league because the kids need nightly carpools to the YMCA.
And if you’re a single mom (been there!) we’ve cringed while declining that date we’ve been dying to go on because it falls on your night with the kids, or resisted inviting your new man over before you feel the kids are ready. Those are really hard intangible sacrifices, especially when it seems the world around us is doing just the opposite, and it’s really tempting to feel all those little acts are going unnoticed.
But all our daily sacrifices count. Probably more than anything else we’ll ever do. Our kids will most likely never erupt in praise like the Proverbs 31 mother’s children …”Thank you for sitting in parking lots for 119 hours this year, mom!” but they notice, even if only on a subconscious level. And unfortunately (I’ve learned first hand ) they notice when they don’t have our attention, and when we prioritize lesser things over them.
That said, this is definitely not about mommy martyrdom. We should of course make time for our own dreams and desires and I’m a huge advocate of self-care. I refuse to be that future empty nester who needs therapy after her kids mov out. But while we are still in the thick of it, I really feel we need more voices talking about how much the little things matter.
I try to remember this every time I choose to play a game with my kids when I’m dying for bed, or forcing myself to check their homework despite the sheer torture involved in reading a middle schooler’s summation of “The Catcher in the Rye.’ Gonna need coffee for this one. It’s painful. But significant. Kind of like that story Jesus shares about rewarding us in heaven for simple kindnesses, like giving a cup of water to “one of these little ones.” One girl’s cup of H2O surely equates to another woman’s help with common core math.
We’ll never be perfectly unselfish, and motherhood will always have its struggles, (you listenin’ new mommies?…reject the mom guilt!) but at the end of my life I want to know I did my best for my kids. I’ve made so many mistakes since having my first two decades ago, but I only want to keep looking forward, and praying for the strength and wisdom to do better.
Embracing the parenting season we’re in brings so much peace. Until these suckers are off to college, they’re what matters. There’ll hopefully be lots of island hopping and girl getaways in the future. Cayman ’28, ladies? Can’t even wait. Xo
For more on this topic check out my post, “Embrace the Season You’re In.”