Motherhood: Less Together, More Whole, was originally published on Wholehearted Woman.
I’m six weeks postpartum, and I’m not signing up for any beauty pageants any time soon. When I catch my reflection in the mirror, there’s a very sleepy woman looking back at me. Fine lines are starting to form. I’m a good 15 pounds heavier than I was before kids. I’ve never had a six pack, but my tummy is currently softer and squishier than it’s ever been.
So when my husband looks at me one of these exhausting days and tells me I’m more beautiful now than ever, I have to roll my baggy eyes. My unwashed hair is falling out of its messy bun (the one made not out of style but necessity). My hands are scaly and cracked from washing my hands and the dishes on repeat. Surely my hubby is just trying to score some points with his frazzled wife.
But the more I think about it, I consider the women around me, women I’ve known since before they’ve had kids. Unanimously, I consider them all more beautiful now than ever. It’s not that they weren’t pretty in their college years, on their wedding days, and in that fun early-married stage. And it’s not that they’re those immaculate Pinterest-perfect moms. You know – the ones with the flawless makeup and fashionable messy buns that, unlike mine, are created with actual effort.
No, my friends are the moms you see at the grocery store juggling the toddler and the infant car seat. They are the ones on the playground with the (second) cup of coffee in one hand and giving their kids a push on the swings with the other. These are everyday women – and they are gorgeous. Through tired eyes, they glow.
Why is that? I wonder. What makes you more beautiful as you grow older and busier, something most of us fight against? How is it that moms can be exhausted and radiant at the same time?
It’s all because of two traits you develop to imperfection as a mother, I realize. Two things that don’t come from a bottle or a YouTube tutorial. Two things called selflessness and grace. Obviously, it’s not only mothers that have these traits. Circumstances and time grow them in most people. But motherhood is a steep learning curve, a crash course on the topics, or at least it was for me. Overnight, you go from taking care of your needs first and foremost, without a second thought, to having a little person who is completely dependent on you for survival. Sleep, food, showers, schedules, entertainment take the back burner when your newborn arrives.
And suddenly, standards and expectations that used to be so high are now lowering. Instead of the pulled-together woman I tried to be, I now have to ask for more help, let go of the little things (sometimes the big ones, too), and accept things I might otherwise have fought against. I have to choose to have grace with myself and my family, to accept being behind on laundry and non-fancy dinner foods, or I will lose my mind trying to attain that Pinterest-worthy status. And I have to have grace with other women, with moms I used to silently judge. Now I can only share with them a weary, knowing smile.
Selflessness and grace. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ll take the spit-up on my shirt, the strands of my hair around my face, the lack of mascara, and the dark circles under my eyes. I’ll take the extra hour it takes to get ready to go anywhere, the spills on the floor, the long tearful nights (for both you and your baby), the unexpected trips to the doctor. I’ll take the snuggles, the goofy faces, the small victories, and the hilarious phrases. The things you lose as a mom are nothing compared to what you gain. Motherhood means being less together, but more complete.2
So the next time you see a mom, make sure to tell her how beautiful she is. She needs to hear it – even though she probably won’t believe you.