Preparing for a third child for the past 39 weeks has made my life hectic in the most concrete ways. As I have juggled the needs of my other two children, my work, and grad school, I have often been driven to the brink of crazy — only to realize I have been the one behind the wheel.
I found myself constantly traveling the length of the house picking up Legos and American Girl dolls. In between, I folded laundry and unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, making sure everything was in its correct place. I picked the kids up after school, hurried to make dinner and get everyone bathed, then turned to getting the books read and all homework completed.
Where is the forgiveness for myself when I have fussed at my kids for something petty?
Next, it was up to me to get everyone in bed at a reasonable time — then working toward finishing up the nursery, folding tiny clothes, and arranging tiny shoes.
Throughout the cleaning of our home, I’d often find myself cleaning out other areas of our lives, too — finances, personal relationships, issues with the two big kids. I would push for everything in our family to be resolved, like line items on a list as opposed to everyday life circumstances. Some may call this the pre-birth “nesting” instinct, but for me, this is how I am — regardless of whether or not I am expecting another child. I was setting myself up for failure by striving for perfection, and never quite measuring up to my own expectations.
This past week in meeting with my midwife, I told her how much I was pushing to resolve all of my issues within my family before the baby was born — that I was hoping to get it all in order.
Her response? “This is your order.”
How freeing her words were — what I call grace. Why was I so unwilling to extend this unburdening to myself? The midwife’s thought — that the busy craziness in my life just was how my life was to be — allowed me to view things far more objectively.
So often women are willing to extend grace to people in our lives who seem to need it — the harried mechanic rushing through our oil change, the slow older couple walking in front of us at the grocery store, a family member who has forgotten to return a phone call. We easily put ourselves in their shoes and see that they must have a lot going on. What we are not willing to do, more often than not, is to grant ourselves that same understanding.
I have stopped by the homes of so many friends who incessantly apologize for laundry on the couch or dishes in the sink — and I quickly dismiss it, ignoring the slightest hints of forgotten domesticity in exchange for conversation and community. Throughout some of these same conversations come apologies for the interruptions made by crying toddlers or hungry babies.
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“Oh, it’s fine,” I assure them, as we continue our time together.
Where is this level of understanding for myself and my self-perceived shortcomings? Where is this forgiveness for myself when I have fussed at my kids for something petty, or have rushed through conversation with them for the sake of finishing up dinner?
Sometimes it’s best for us to take a deep breath and say, “This is my order.”
While learning to be gracious with others is a skill needed in many relationships, the same can be said for learning to be gracious and understanding with ourselves. When we choose to be hard on ourselves, we neglect the important things around us: the friends who stop by, the neighbor who calls, those amazing little people who call us “Mom” or “Dad.”
When we’re rushing around trying so hard to perfect our surroundings and our lives, we miss what is truly happening — setting us up for wasted days and wasted opportunities.
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We have messed up in the past. We will again in the future — no surprise there.
But when that time comes, perhaps we can choose to give ourselves grace — for the piles of laundry, the miscommunication with a loved one, the choices of our children. Some things do call for us to take personal responsibility and to make amends. But in other moments, sometimes it’s best for us to take a deep breath, look around and say, “This is my order.”
Liz Logan lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her growing family, which now includes a healthy new baby. She is pursuing a master’s degree in creative nonfiction.