It’s May, and that means end of year recitals are happening, kids’ sporting events have kicked off, family vacation planning is underway, and driving from one end of town to the other to get everything done is leading to near exhaustion. Except for me. Because I’m not doing any of those things. And truthfully, May is like August for me- it’s a time when I see what everyone else’s life is like, and I look at mine in stark contrast and feel very left out. I watch end of year pictures of field days and class parties, big birthday celebrations and huge team dinners, cute gifts curated for teachers and moms nights out to celebrate another successful school year, and I wonder if I’m the only person in the universe not living that life.
Right now I have friends who are thriving in their careers, going back to school, leading large charities, or celebrating huge milestones. My feed is full of beautiful BIG weddings, BIG birthday celebrations, BIG business achievements, and BIG announcements. And I’m over here with literally nothing to announce. I have no beautifully curated documentation of my existence in this world. The only professional photographs I’ve had done were by photographers who are related to me and love me or who are dear friends who already set up photos and all I had to do was show up. Our family pictures are a great insight into my life- no matching outfits, *hopefully* clean faces and hands, and kids in various states of cooperation. The only thing artistic about them is that they were taken by people who are actual artists who thankfully have the skill to make us look as happy as we actually are. When I look at the state of my life in this season, the absolute last thing I am is well put-together.
It’s funny. There was a time when my life really was BIG. Coworkers used to tease me about being OTT- over the top. I had a BIG career. I was important. I dressed like I was important, and when I talked, people listened to me. I had BIG goals and BIGGER dreams. Even when I left the corporate world and became a SAHM, I was dreaming big. I went through doula training and became a certified childbirth educator. I went through fertility awareness training and went back to school to work on my masters. I had a vision of opening a co-op where midwives could provide well-woman care, mental health providers specializing in serving women and mothers could provide counseling, and lactation consultants, nutritionists, childbirth educators, and fertility awareness educators could offer classes and seminars to women who were seeking better health, naturally. I even started writing a book for moms who were trying to live differently in a world that values beauty and consumerism and buying-power. I was fired up. I couldn’t wait to make this happen, and I had all the energy and drive to achieve it.
Then something happened. I lost a baby, and I started a three year journey in infertility that genuinely broke my spirit. My oldest daughter’s autism-related aggression careened out of control and sent our family into a tailspin. My marriage was tested. My motherhood was tested. Everything I thought I wanted for us and for myself was turned on its head, and I had to take a very serious look at what really mattered to me. And that’s when things changed. It isn’t right to say I lost my motivation, but I definitely wasn’t motivated by the same things. And many days I didn’t feel motivated at all. Being successful was so much less important to me than surviving. And building an empire or a lifestyle brand or a followable instagram was so much less important than rebuilding my family in the wake of broken expectations. Truly, it was equal parts humbling and heartbreaking, but it wasn’t fatal.
And do you know what I found? I discovered a life I can actually love. I had to decide how serious I was about everything: Do I really want to educate my children at home, or do I want to find alternatives? Do I really value my daughter’s mental and emotional well-being, even if it means her living with her other family? Do I want to fight for my marriage and my motherhood, knowing that what I have may mean making sacrifices that I didn’t think I could make? The answers were easy, once I let go of what I expected them to be. I genuinely do love educating my children at home, even if I don’t always love every second of it. But I can’t do all the other things, like building a personal brand or writing a book or starting a business, and do the homeschool thing well. I absolutely hate being separated from my oldest daughter, but I love watching her thrive as an only child with all the attention her little heart desires. There is a hole in my heart that will never be filled without her, but it isn’t fatal, and her happiness is worth it. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful I fought for my marriage, even if it meant I had to really work on some uncomfortable truths about myself, and learn to love my spouse for who he is and not who I want him to be.
It’s true. We don’t celebrate birthdays (other than a special family meal), we don’t participate in community sports, I’m not part of a moms group, and we don’t do traditional holidays, and when I see everyone share how they do all those things (and do them BIG), it does remind me how different we are. And sometimes being different is discouraging, because being different feels weird. But this different is fulfilling for me. I find myself asking sometimes (and being asked frequently by others) if my children are missing out by not living like everyone else. Sometimes I ask if I’m missing out because I’m not living like everyone else. I wonder if one day I’ll look back and wish I’d done more instead of less. If I’d taken more plays on instead of taking plays off. But truthfully, this life is beyond fulfilling as it is. The idea of doing more is stressful to me. I love doing less. I can’t imagine rushing from one activity to another anymore. I can’t imagine spending my Mondays on conference calls or taking phone calls in the driveway at the end of a 10+ hour workday anymore. I definitely know I can’t curate a beautiful instagram or market a business in the age of social media, and I’m okay with that.
Somehow this very small life, where I am only relevant to the people in my household, is fulfilling in a much bigger way than I could ever have imagined. Waking up with the privilege to just parent my children without the influence of others, to steer their educations and cultivate wonder in them, and to wind down together at the end of each day, is a beautiful, beautiful gift. Having an option for my oldest daughter to learn and grow with a family who loves her, even when it’s not with me, is a beautiful gift. Living in a house that is just another suburban remodel to everyone else, but is a family treasure to me, is a beautiful gift. And the privilege to be different, and even small, in a world that values BIGGER and BETTER and just like everyone else (only better), is a beautiful, beautiful gift.
What about you, friend? Are you seeing your differences from everyone else and feeling less? Are you feeling pressure to do more, or be more, or create more or achieve more, because if you don’t, you won’t be enough? Here’s the question I have for you: not enough for WHO? When I asked that of myself, I found the answer I needed. Not present enough for my children to feel loved? When I’m with them, I’m present. And they feel plenty loved. Not pretty enough for my spouse to be attracted to me? Not even a question. Not accomplished enough for…anyone? Who does this matter to? Couldn’t figure it out. Let it go. Not busy enough for…also could not figure out who. Let it go. Some days my homeschool looks like a big, beautiful, postable success. And some days my kids dress up like Star Wars characters and create plays that are equal parts bad jokes and mispronunciations. Some days I feed my children farm-to-table organic goodness, and other days I have my hubs pick up a $5 hot and ready. And most days I don’t leave the house at all and just have to trust that the world is continuing to turn for everyone else the same as it does for me, and that our lives all miraculously carry on anyway. If your life is small, like mine, and some days your greatest success is surviving from sunup to sundown, you are still winning. Because every day conquered is a win. And if you’re currently serving a master that tells you you’re not enough…let it go. You already are enough. If you like things big or if you like things small, your life is for you. It’s not worth it otherwise. At the finish line we won’t look back and remember all the times we had something better or in line with what everyone else did. We’ll remember what warmed our hearts. We’ll remember what we survived. And we’ll remember the legacies we left behind- even if those legacies are just manifested in the lives of our children.
It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and I’ll be celebrating by goofing off with my wild and crazy crew, daydreaming about a finished home renovation, and thanking God for blessing me with this chaos that only I can appreciate. It’s not much to anyone else, but to me, it’s more than enough. May your life fill you up, exactly where you are, whatever it looks like.