“You’ve got your hands full.” If you have more than one kid you've heard it. It's that well-meaning stranger attempting to sympathize with how hard motherhood is. They see our kids and just can't fathom how we're standing upright, sober and in our right minds. Either that or the thought of having more than one freaks them out. How do we cope with the never-ending variables that are inevitable with being a mommy?
There's something I have always disliked about being told I have my hands full. And lately, I began to wonder why I felt awkward when faced with that comment.
To me it implies I'm not capable of doing more, of being more. If my hands are full I'm helpless to reach out and love someone else. Taking this comment to it's natural conclusion, I'd almost feel offended. Okay, I was offended.
Sometimes I’d say, “No, I’m managing just fine.” Their comment said to my heart, “You’re barely hanging on! I can tell your life is crazy.” So the devil's advocate in me wanted to alleviate their concerns. I desired the recognition for strangers that I was this amazingly capable woman. I wanted them to know that my life wasn’t too much for me. I wanted them to affirm me, not doubt my sanity.
But it more was more than that. I felt I had to show them that I was this superhero of a mom and they could be confident that I wasn't going crazy. I wanted strangers to believe my children were a blessing. Didn’t they notice my super-suit? Didn’t they see my cape? I'd say things like, "Well, everyone has different capacities." or "Yeah it's challenging but great."
But the hard truth was, I felt insecure. My identity was wrapped up in being "just a mom." And this innocent comment...well it rubbed me the wrong way because if I can't do that well, what else am I good for?
My craving to do more and be more weighed on my mind. Did people see me as "just a mom?" Did they believe I was capable of serving others or do they naturally assume I'm giving all I can and it'd be a mistake to include me. Do they assume I'm too busy or that I pull my hair out every night after bedtimes? Weakness...I was afraid of appearing weak.
Changing my mind
Recently, I have changed my mind about that phrase. Now I am thankful for that truth that I am not "just a mom." But more than that, I know the value of being a mom. And while being a mom is how I spend most of my time, but it doesn't completely define who I am. God has given me truths to rest in, words of identity that do not directly relate to motherhood.
It's true; we all have different capacities. What feels natural for some feels overwhelming for others, but as life changes, God stretches and changes our thresholds. We become stronger through Him. He loves that by the way. Taking someone who isn't afraid of admit their weak and pouring strength into them.
That's what He's doing in all mothers. As life hits us with the next crisis or difficulty, we are molded and shaped into the next version of ourselves. It's actually a beautiful metamorphosis. So I'm not defined by being a mom, but it's a crucial component which transforms my life.
Result of my mind shift Now, instead of being offended when some well-meaning stranger says, "You've got your hands full," I feel the shift happening. The unending betterment of my attitude and perception about motherhood morphs and my perspective alters.
While mostly unseen, our contribution as mothers is immeasurable and yet, it feels insignificant at times. In the hidden spaces of my heart, I'm allowing my perspective to change and over time, it's creating a beautiful understanding and acceptance of motherhood.
From negative to positive
Isn't it incredible that the same phrase can sound negative or positive depending on our mood? I just knew that people were looking down on our family when those comments flew. I was so certain their motivation was condescending. But what if I was wrong?
What if I was believing lies? I honestly have no way of knowing how they really felt, but I can only control my own thoughts and actions. It's so easy for me to buy into the lie that the "meaningless" acts of service to family aren't full of purpose.
Each diaper, each kiss, each band-aid, each "yes" to adventure molds our little ones, but they also mold us. We are shaped over time by our kids in ways that we could not fabricate on our own. And that's what makes motherhood so fantastic.
It's funny looking back. I think about how I felt attacked by lies and made up scenarios when I was told I had my hands full, like they were accusing me of being "just a mom." But now I am starting to see it as a wonderful compliment.
So the next time I'm told I have my hands full I think I'll smile, hug my kids and tell the stranger how right they are. In my heart I'll know they are right because having my hands full of presents from God is a wonderful situation to be in.
Do you have lies you believe about your identity and have come to a different perspective? I'd love to hear about it!