Does it feel like Valentine’s Day?
When you haven’t showered for three days, and there’s a dirty frying pan from last night still sitting on a grease caked stovetop, and the sink is spewing dishes over the side?
Does it feel like the day of romance?
Maybe you used to enjoy getting a dozen red roses and ferrero rocher chocolates from your significant other. Maybe it meant curling your hair before you both slipped out to dinner together. Maybe it meant daydreaming in the days before about what your other half had planned for you on the day circled in bright red on the calendar.
Everything was quiet. Everything was so much easier, a lot less complicated. You figured that this was always the way it was always going to be.
There were no feeding routines. No babysitters that cancelled. No husbands that worked late, again. No radioactive sippy cups to clean, no laundry that clogged your hallways, multiplying surreptitiously in the hampers.
It was so much easier to feel loved when you felt good about yourself.
It was so much easier to feel love when that love came attached to candy hearts and dinner reservations at the swankiest place in town.
It was so much easier to feel loved when you felt interesting and mysterious to your other half because you were insulated in a bubble of self love. When you knew that you deserved to feel wanted.
It’s all you can do to keep your eyes open past nine p.m. Never mind even attempting to put on mascara, or managing to get both legs shaved in the shower before someone barges in needing a granola bar.
It’s easy to feel like you’re nailing it when your skin is clean and your hair is washed. When the kitchen counters are clean, the laundry is folded and put away, and the kids are sleeping soundly.
It’s easy to feel like you’re fascinating when you have things to talk about with other adults that aren’t related to children’s cartoons and bowel movements and changing polka-dotted sheets at 2 a.m. and how the last well checkup went.
It’s easy to feel like you’re a masterpiece in the making when your child isn’t angry with you; when you don’t feel like you fell just short of the parenting mark.
It’s easy to feel like you’re wonderful when you don’t have to be enough for other people.
Now, when it’s chaos piled upon mayhem, when winter germs move through your house like wildfire, and you have to count back the days in your head to the last time you snuck off to nab a shower before the baby started putting blueberries in the toilet…
You run solely on the fumes of hope that today will be easier than yesterday was.
And Valentine’s Day just becomes one more thing to do. One more part of life that feels completely contradictory to the season and place you find yourself in.
Nobody sees you. I get it.
Nobody sees you silently picking up crumbs and old french from off the floor in the van. Nobody sees how many times you have to scrub the crusted pee from behind the toilet. Nobody sees how many times your meals are interrupted, your sleep is interrupted, your life is interrupted.
I get that you feel like nobody sees you. Because really? They probably don’t.
I used to take for granted that lady at the grocery store, pushing a shopping cart with three children hanging off of it while they clamored loudly over whose turn it was to pick out the cereal.
I used to wonder how she got to where she was. I took her for granted, if I even noticed her at all.
Now, I realize that strangers hardly ever LOOK at me unless my child is causing a ruckus. And if they are friendly enough to randomly chirp up and say hi, it’s usually the standard platitudes about how old my littles are, how cute they are, etc…
Don’t get me wrong, it’s so nice when someone does that. But man, it would be nice to feel like people looked at me and thought, now there’s a woman whose opinion I’d love to hear. There’s a lady who has it all together. There’s a lady who is strong and capable.
Truthfully, though, even if they did, I would feel unworthy of such attention.
Because it is so, so much easier to feel loved and worthy when there is more coming in than there is going out everyday. When you and others value everything you do unquestionably.
But it’s the reversed currency in our lives that only parenting can bring, where you feel emptied on a nearly daily basis, that teaches us that it’s actually in the seasons of depletion that can love grow.
Where you realize it takes more than red roses and candied sweets to hold you together. Where you realize that sometimes, you have to be your own biggest cheerleader and friend, because you’ve only got you when you’re awake, rocking babies at 2 a.m.
When you are taught through experience that love is not just an action, but it’s also an education. And you will yourself to learn how to be molded, to love when even when it hurts and you’re bone tired and you’re struggling.
You learn to love even when you yourself don’t feel very loved.
I was putting the kiddos to bed last night. My middle child was teetering over to the edge of a breakdown because it was the end of the day, and everyone’s nerves were fried. And I brought her back from that edge in the ways that only a parent could.
As I brushed her hair from her face, this refreshing and empowering thought came into my mind that actually, yea, sometimes, I do know what I’m doing.
It’s like these metaphysical pieces lock in to place when I remember that I CAN do this. Love grows inside of me when I remember to value and cherish the work that I do each day; to hold on to it preciously but with the most ferocious iron grip I can muster.
It doesn’t seem like much at first. It doesn’t put the laundry away, it doesn’t clean the house, it doesn’t get the bottle of sage that your child dumped all over the floor cleaned up.
But it’s when my my safety tether is broken, when there is no padding to protect me from how much it takes to truly love my littles and my husband to completion, and I’m talking messy, imperfect love even when they don’t come close to deserving it, that I learn that love grows deeper when my soil is fertile and when the watering is plenty.
And you are both of those things, momma.
When you let love take hold of you and it grows in you, you are like a lush garden in the bloom of spring. When you are a spring to be drawn from, you are an endless river that churns mightily.
And in, your children find peace and strength, hope and perseverance.
Because you love, you are loved.
You cover them – even when they don’t deserve it. And your love never ceases, never fails.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, MOMMA.
This article originally appeared at Ashley’s blog, published with permission.