Though the Pope recently declared this the “Year of Mercy”, it might as well have been declared the Year of Humble Pie for me. My husband, God love him, is one of the most merciful people I have ever met. He pretty much always gives people the benefit of the doubt and tries to meet them where they are at. Which makes my jump-to-conclusions, judgmental, frequently-unrealistic-expectations personality that much more glaring. I know from speaking with other moms that I am (unfortunately) definitely not in the minority. Being merciful is something I have been working on for years, and while I have made definite progress in that area (thank you, rambunctious, hoodlum children), I often wonder why it’s so hard for moms to show mercy to each other.
When I bring my child who has had an ear infection and not slept in days to Mass, I expect that people will magically understand the situation we are in and not judge me when he screams for half of it. Or when we show up somewhere with our tribe, only to realize one kid doesn’t have shoes and another found a marker in the van (read: became a self-tattoo artist), I think to myself, “Oh, but if only you knew how hard we worked to even get here!”
Despite the fact that the biggest gap in between our first five kids is 26 months, they were all carefully discerned, except for the last one, who was a delightful surprise that I cried about for quite some time. Regardless of that fact, there have been many moments of (generally hormonal induced) hysterics during which I demand of my husband, “Why on earth would God have given us these kids so close together?! Does he want me to go insane?!” However, I am realizing more and more that they are meant to humble me and to teach me to show mercy to other people, especially moms.
I recently orchestrated a rather logistically complex event in which other crazy moms and myself exchanged miniature, hand-painted, wooden peg dolls. This is the fifth exchange of this type, and one very sweet woman, “Sarah,” has participated in all of them. I’ve only gotten to know Sarah a little bit through the exchanges, but she is a mom that I think is amazing. She has 12 kids and is the first to admit that their family is…well, busy and a little all over the place. I love talking to her because it’s so inspiring to think that I might actually survive motherhood. At any rate, at the last exchange, Sarah reminded me of the time when she dropped off her dolls for an exchange she couldn’t make it to. I was painting two sets of dolls for this 13 doll exchange, but I had forgotten about one of the sets until two nights before the exchange.
So when Sarah dropped her dolls off, my pantsless two-year-old and his equally semi-clothed siblings greeted her outside, where they had been banished for most of the afternoon. She picked her way through a trail of kid paraphernalia to my front door and entered to find me where I had been for the past three hours: painting dolls at the table, which was also littered with breakfast dishes (at 5:00). Needless to say, the house basically looked like we had either been robbed or a bomb had gone off. I laughed about my scatter-brained self with her (“I can’t believe I forgot! Thank goodness Mary can make lunch for all the kids! Are we insane to keep doing these exchanges?!”) and told her to watch her step when she left. I didn’t think much of any of it at the time. So, at this last exchange, as she chuckled and recounted this story, Sarah then told me, “I left that day feeling so awesome! I thought, ‘Yes! I am totally not the only one who doesn’t have it all together!” I laughed hysterically at the idea of me “having it all together,” but then I realized that I’ve come across that way to Sarah, who has only seen me in the context of these exchanges, when my house has been cleaned and the kids are at the park.
Our house generally IS fairly picked up, but that is because clutter/disorder stresses me out, my husband is incredible at pitching in, and I have some fairly helpful minions that do extra chores when their shenanigans merit them. My temperament (Type-A Melancholic), combined with my semi-neurotic need for order often comes across as having it all together, which is totally false. In addition to that, Sarah, who has only seen a snippet of my life, hasn’t seen our “village.” She hasn’t seen my parents, who selflessly take a kid or two almost every weekend so we can catch up. She hasn’t seen the delightful fifteen year old we hired to come “do whatever” for a couple of hours once a week to help us keep swimming. She hasn’t seen my saint of a husband who takes the kids to his parents a couple of times a year to allow my introverted self time to organize, purge, and read until my heart’s content. I am able to accomplish a lot, but that is because there are so many people contributing to my motherhood and our family that aren’t visible to a “stranger’s” eye, and things are rarely, if ever, what they seem. What would the world look like if we realized that no mom truly has it all together? If we as moms extended the mercy to other moms that we so greatly desire for ourselves? I, for one, really hope I get to find out.
photo credit: mound o clothes via photopin (license)
What You Never Learned About Your Period and wish you would have known a long time ago! By Jamie Rathjen, M.A., C.F.C.P “Congratulations!” my mom exclaimed as I sheepishly told her that I had just gotten my period. My face flushed and I tried to signal to my mother through