No matter whose amazing book we may have just read, or whatever eloquent interview just played on the radio, or even that astounding blog post we may have just happened upon, when it comes right down to it, some of the most life-changing, attitude-adjusting words can come from the women in the trenches next to us.
I’m not even kidding. There have been several times in the last few years that a friend has casually said something in passing and while she’s already moved on to the next topic, I’m still trying to catch my breath from what just came out of her like it was nothing.
Let me explain. I’ve said before that I am a perfectionist. But you’d never know it by looking at my life on the outside. My house is usually disorganized . . . well, really, my life is a bit disorganized. You see, unlike the perfectionism which drives most women to be Superwoman, my particular brand of perfectionism usually paralyzes me into doing nothing. Start some new project? Well, you see, I know it won’t come out the way I want it, soooooo, I just don’t do it at all.
This is a suffocating, boring way to live, and by the grace of God, I am working on this. But my fellow-mama, well, really just woman-friends, the ones who’ve been right next to me, fighting in the kid-raising, house-cleaning, husband-loving trenches? They help release my tightly-clenched, perfectionistic grip.
Back when I was in my last year of nursing school, I had a friend about 20-25 years older than me tell me, “You can do anything for a year.” She was a nurse herself. She had lived the life I was currently living and my weary soul sopped up every ounce of her words. She was right. I did it. I frequently think about her words in parenting. Because when you’re taking care of a newborn who’s waking every two hours and you’re not getting any sleep? It feels like life is never going to change. That you’re going to be stuck with no sleep for the rest of your life. Thankfully, in parenting (at least in parenting young children), there are rarely things that you have to do for a whole year. Children hurry along through their little phases so quickly and just when you’re getting used to them, you’re left with an aching heart, wondering how that phase was over so quickly….
Teaching a little heart not to whine?
Pulling a little climber off the dining room table for the fourth time in 5 minutes? (Ahem, this would be me)
“You can do anything for a (fill in: a few weeks, a few months, a year).”
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, several women shared mothering advice at my baby shower and a little nugget stuck with me.
This was from a woman with seven children. She lived in the trench.
“When you walk in a room and find your children have created a disaster and you just want to cry? Take a picture of it. It gives you a bigger perspective and will make you smile.”
Oh, have I taken this fun advice to heart….
And then there was the time a friend and I were talking about keeping our houses clean. I was talking about how I just never have time to mop or dust as much as I used to and how I thought her house always looks nice.
This mother with three children replied, “You know, my house is rarely clean. I just keep up on clutter. Every time I walk through the house, I carry something with me that needs put away.”
Hmmm . . . that sounded manageable. Much more manageable than keeping up with two young children 24/7 and have a spic and span house. I’ve found her words empowering. Clutter. A manageable enemy. And if I do keep on top of it (I’m still working on it!), then it’s much easier to actually clean because I have a clean slate.
And last, but certainly not least, I have a friend who completely changed my attitude about being a good mother. She’s one of those girls who when you meet her, you instantly feel like you could tell her anything and she would still give you a big ol’ hug and send you home feeling like you’re the most special person in the world.
We were at a women’s Bible study one day, both at the coffee/tea counter, grabbing something warm to drink beforehand.
“Hmmm . . . I’m not sure which tea flavor to choose. I already had my mug of coffee this morning,” I said, trying to make small talk.
“Oh?” she asked with her raised eyebrows. “Are you still nursing the baby or something and watching your caffeine?”
“Oh, no. I just try to be good and limit my coffee to one mug a day,” I explained.
“Well, let me tell you something, girl,” she said, like she was letting me in on some deep secret. Little did I know, she was. “I’ve found that I’m a much happier mama if I sit down at 4:00 in the afternoon and have me an oreo and another mug of coffee. If I get that little boost in the afternoon, I can make it through bath time and actually be a fun mama while doing it. I’ll work on my caffeine intake in 10 years or so when the boys are putting themselves to bed.”
I’m telling you, girls. That was revolutionary thinking to me. Because she showed me to look at the big picture. Not every single detail of my life is going to be perfect. But so what? There are some battles just not worth fighting in particular seasons of life. So, if an extra cup of coffee helps me be a happier mama? I’m going for it.
So, listen to your friends, dears. One little sentence might just rock your world.