In one of my past lives, as I like to refer to the time before I was a mom of three spunky, bright, crazy, perfectly imperfect kids, I was starting out my career as a social worker just out of college. I bought a beautiful, calligraphic piece of art from Spirit Dreams, the funkiest, most colorful and, in my estimation, the most intuitive shop in town. I had a job working with women transitioning away from incarceration and this sign, to me, said it all. I figured it would offer great inspiration for the women coming in and out of my office to find forgiveness for themselves and to reignite commitment to self growth. Perhaps it could offer them a sense of strength helping them forge through the difficulties that were certain to lie ahead on their path. The sign read:
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I will try again tomorrow’”. ~Maryann Radmacher
I actually don’t know if any of those strong and courageous women ever saw my sign. I don’t know if they felt inspired by it to keep going though the path that seemed long or dark. I don’t know if it helped any woman find forgiveness or compassion for herself. But I saw it. Almost every day. For years.
As a mom of three young children, I paused my career to work in my home and took that piece of art along with all the other decor and office things home with me. I filed it and everything else in the storage room beneath my basement stairs. For those of you experiencing life with young children now or at all in your past, you might be thinking, “Wait! Put that sign out where you can see it!!!!” You are right. It should have been in my prominent view at all. I probably should have carried it around with me in the diaper bag!!!
It was truly hard to remember those words in the throes of early motherhood. In the wake of those beautiful yet trying moments of nursing and diapers and toddler tantrums and late nights and early mornings, the words escaped me so many times. At the end of so many long, full days of teaching kids to eat new vegetables, learn to use the potty, sleep in their own bed, learn to read, tie their shoes, ride a bike, use their manners and make new friends, I forgot how courageous I was already being and how strong I already was. There were dark times where I felt so lost. I wanted so desperately to be the mom these beautiful souls deserved but for whatever reason, I felt ill equipped and unfit for the job. Some days, it was because I didn’t have the stamina for all their needs and counted the minutes until nap time or bed time arrived only to be met with guilt for my relief of the reprieve. Some days, it was the the guilt of my losing my patience and being too harsh with my little ones. It was hard to sit with myself feeling like I fell short as their mom.
We are so hard on ourselves as parents. We think a successful, good day ends with things tied up in a little bow. The kids go sleepily off to bed, worn out from a day of giggling and running outside, their bellies full of healthy, nourishing food, the dinner dishes done, the house picked up, and you, curled up on the couch with a book and a cup of tea or glass of wine, content…… Whose life is that????? Not mine, I can assure you! Many of my days have many of these components, don’t get me wrong. We laugh and love and share and hug A LOT in our house. But our days are also messy and loud and fun and crazy and hilarious, and thoughtful. Sometimes our days are tearful and sometimes there is anger. There is a LOT of life in my home and it can’t and shouldn’t be contained with a little bow on top. At the end of each day, regardless of what we accomplished or what we went through, I know, and my kids know, I am sticking it out and I’ll be there in the morning, ready to do it all over again.