The teenage version of me had a very narrow opinion of what it meant to be beautiful. I used to think you had to have great hair, flawless skin and perfect curves. I was taught that beauty came from within, but I just saw that as the second layer of the onion. Magazines and television programs seemed to value the outward version so much more, and I was a sucker for the ploy.
In the midst of all this vanity, my life came to a screeching halt with 2 little blue lines. I was pregnant. At the age of 18, all the things I believed made me beautiful were slipping through my fingers…my hair was falling out, skin was breaking out, and oh the curves… now they were in all the wrong (according to teenage me) places.
When I married my husband, I really struggled with the teenage version of beauty. My body was not what it was. I had stretch marks, cellulite, and thinner hair.
That was when I shifted my perspective… surely beauty in mothering wasn’t as vain, right? Instead of focusing on hair, skin, and curves, I poured all those preconceived notions into different vessels. I forced my warped view of beauty onto my little humans.
I decided beautiful now looked like well-groomed and very well-behaved children, matching outfits on a Christmas card, a home that looked like it was ripped from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog, a refrigerator stocked with only organic goodness, and of course… smart, healthy, privately educated, athletic, musical, multiple language-speaking children.
Then life happened…We are a blended family, which is crazy hard unto itself and sometimes messy. Sometimes matching outfits on a Christmas card is all we can do to “blend.”
Those well-groomed and very well-behaved children… well, they have decided that they hate having their hair cut. Trimming nails inflicts an excruciating amount of pain. Essentially, keeping them in good order is a form of torture in their eyes.
They throw tantrums in public. They forget to put on their shoes for church or underwear for school. Sometimes they scream “NO!” to a simple request for a goodbye kiss at the bus stop (in front of all the other moms, of course.) And as for school, a couple of them need a little extra help and are in Special Education.
But the biggest blow to my version of a beautiful mothering came in the form of a diagnosis.
My baby girl has epilepsy. She has to take meds that make her less than pleasant at times. She may or may not outgrow her disorder. She may or may not get to live an ordinary life of driving cars and holding jobs. Special needs was not in the “beautiful” plan.
Through the years and through the struggles, I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, I had beauty all wrong.
It’s now obvious to me that beautiful is;
the sweet milky breath of a cooing infant,
rocking a child back to sleep in the still of the night,
helping a toddler learn to walk,
sounding out syllables with a new reader,
talking through the vulnerable struggles of a middle schooler,
saying “I love you,”
singing silly songs,
praying innocent prayers,
being the safe place,
and offering a listening ear.
Beautiful is so much more than meets the eye; beautiful is being raw, broken, present, authentic and dedicated.
This mothering thing is not exactly what I thought it was going to be, or even what I thought I was going to be able to make it. It is harder, messier, and much louder than I ever imagined.
Motherhood isn’t easy, and it sure doesn’t feel pretty many days. Mac and cheese dried on the floor, yoga pants (for the 27th day in a row), public humiliation and a smelly car are not exactly glamorous… But if you take a closer look, take a moment to really evaluate all that surrounds you, you’ll see that it’s undeniably, breathtakingly beautiful and so much more significant and marvelous than great hair, good skin, and kicking curves.
Beauty is motherhood, and motherhood is beautiful.
Today, I challenge you to take a moment to submerge yourself in the beauty around you and I triple dog dare you to admire the beauty that you are.