My three-year old sidled up to me today, sticky fingers running through my not yet brushed hair. ‘Mummy, you blutiful. So blutiful.’ I smiled as I reflected on my girl’s words. She looked at her mummy, probably the most precious person to her in her tiny world, and saw beauty. There I was, not yet dressed, hair not yet brushed (but now fairly sticky), teeth not yet cleaned, church looming in less than an hour and my gorgeous girl thought I looked blutiful.
I didn’t feel blutiful. Not on the outside or on the inside. In fact I was feeling distinctly un-blutiful. The morning had been on the stressful side with said youngest locking herself in the upstairs loo and proceeding to eat the toothpaste under the guise of ‘brushing her teeth’. I managed to get the door unlocked to a room full of toothpaste everywhere with copious amounts of loo roll over that and a very proud three-year old who was oblivious to the chaos she had caused and justifiably proud of the fact she had brushed her teeth (and every other available surface).
Yesterday we had spent a lot of the day trying to rid our chimney of a bee’s nest, so chores which should have been done the day before were needing to be done today. T and Gary had left early this morning to play a round of golf. As T was unavailable for chores, the girls had assumed that meant they didn’t need to do their chores, much to the dislike of all seven of our animals. So very unusually I had to cajole (read nag) them into action. Gary arrived home, dumping shoes and the like in my newly cleared hallway. I nearly cried. Gary looked at me astonished. Where on earth had his normally cheerful Claire gone. It was only 10am but I felt like I’d been on the battle field for days, rather than spending a morning with my four girls.
I have been questioning my worth of late. Not my worth as a human, but my worth as a stay at home wife and mum. It is the first time in twelve years I have wondered if I might just be a better role model for my children if I worked and surely a more interesting wife if I had something other than children and school to talk about.
I am not enjoying the questions that come from the back of my mind, unwanted, unasked for. I have always felt incredibly blessed to be at home and have found marriage, parenting, home schooling and being around my five fabulous children to be fulfilling, 100%. And yet I have niggles right now, unbidden, poking me, taunting me. What if…..
For a long time I didn’t share how I was feeling. For a long time I wasn’t even sure I knew how to put it into words. I thought maybe I would sound ungrateful. Or something. Last week, I happened to mention how I was feeling to a friend, who very wisely told me it was healthy to question, as often the answer will affirm that which was already known and renew a flagging vision of all that could be.
I made it to church this morning. I even managed to get dressed, and brushed both my hair and teeth prior to going. The sermon was about living an authentic life, a life which reflected what was truly important to you. It made me ponder and also gave me some clarity. I realised as I listened, that what one person’s authentic life looked like could be entirely different to another person’s and yet be no less authentic. No less important. I may have been sitting there in church having got ready in 5 minutes flat and with some sort of sticky stuff in my hair over which I did not want to dwell (putting up one’s hair covers a multitude of sins). I may have spent my morning wiping toothpaste off various surfaces in our tiny upstairs loo (who knew there were so many surfaces to cover?), followed by cleaning the downstairs one, all in my pyjamas. I may even have felt a (tiny) bit annoyed when Gary messed up my lovely clean hallway. I realised though, that all these things reflected well the life I wanted to lead. The life I thought was important. A life of being there for my children and for Gary.
Realising that and keeping it in my mind throughout the rest of the day, seemed to be multitasking of which I was incapable. We arrived home and I made lunch, lay the table, got drinks….no offers of help. Again this is unusual. To be honest, I can truthfully say I often have more offers of help that my small kitchen can cope with and I have to shoo everyone out to make room to actually be able to achieve anything. Today was not one of those days and at the table I was asked why I was so quiet. How could I reply that I was questioning my very self. That serving them all felt like one chore too many. That I wanted to sit and read a book, have a hobby, take classes, see friends. All the things they take for granted that sometimes I find so hard to fit in myself.
Once the meal finished I retreated to my room quietly. I wanted to have a pity party and no one else was invited. I had forgotten to tell everybody else it was a party for one, as each and every member of my family wandered into my room to enquire what on earth was going on. L did what I do to them when they are feeling sorry for themselves. She reached up and gently formed a smile with my lips. ‘I want to see a smile’. I did exactly what they do back to me and gave her a fake half-grimace half-smile. ‘No mummy, I want to see a proper smile’ Gary came in and took my hand and told me with his eyes and mouth how much he loved and appreciated me. A5 poked me in the back, whilst T half lay on top of me anxiously asking if I was alright. B3 clambered in-between Gary and I, her squidgy little body cemented down the middle of us, as she held my face.’ I love you mummy’, she said. ‘I love you too, sweetie’ I answer. A small, very real smile starting to spread across my face. ‘I love you mo-wer,(translation – more)’ she counter replies. I now have a big grin on my face, much to L and C’s delight and T’s relief. I know where this is going. ‘I love you mo-wer tooo’ I giggle. ‘Not poss-ible’ she laughingly says in her lilting little voice. She clutches my face and gives me a big sloppy kiss. Gary and I laugh. Everyone leaves, happy that all is right in their world. Mummy is smiling.
And in that moment, I realise it is not about me. It never has been. Pity party over. I am too blessed to feel sorry for myself for even one minute more. I have my family. They are enough. And I, too, am enough, just as I am.