It’s 5:45 a.m. and I can hear rain pattering on the window and birdsong in the morning air. I get up and head downstairs for my morning ritual—warm lemon water and morning pages a-la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Before the tea kettle ever whistles, I hear the hissing and pour the water. I cut and squeeze the lemon—setting my physical digestion and giving my lymphatic system a boost. I grab my journal and my tattered copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance for a little morning centering after my journal work. And then I sit down to our table.
The minute I sit down, I hear “Mom! Mama??? Mooooommmmmmmmm!!!!!!!” I really should just call it my attempted morning ritual. Because it’s rare that I get it in. Some days I gulp down the lemon water while heading back upstairs. Some days I only write a sentence. Some days I start my morning pages, stop to tend to waking children, and finish later—as they eat breakfast and I sip on cold coffee that was never meant to be a cold brew.
But today, I grab my phone and head back upstairs to lay next to my oldest who wants comfort—in the form of me lying next to him. Instead of doing self-work, I find myself scrolling Instagram and seeing the lives of sooo many inspiring people I follow. I see their stories—waking up at 5:00 and running or meditating or working in their studios. I see them living mindfully and magically, creatively and authentically. I see them live this way, and sometimes it reminds me to sneak in little snippets of the same into my day. Other times, it reminds me of a time when I lived in a similar way. Before kids. And sometimes I catch myself rolling my eyes at how much easier they have it because they don’t have tiny children. But if I stop to examine—I don’t begrudge anyone who is living a wildly authentic, creative, mindful life. What I’m really thinking is that I wish I had more of that in my life now.
There was once a time (before kids) when I thought that people who had kids and didn’t make time for self-work or working out for self-care or a clean house were maybe just a little unmotivated---or dare I say it—even lazy. I worked a ridiculous amount of hours then, and I thought to myself—if I can do it, anyone can.
Dining on my own words every damn day. Because you can never know just how much time and how much work it takes to raise tiny humans until you are doing so. My own body hasn’t belonged to me for almost 5 years because I’ve been growing humans in it or with it. And you know what? Most of it is not photogenic enough for Instagram. But I’ve come to accept that it is The Work. Mothering is living out a constant prayer imperfectly said, a constant meditation and breath work practice—because you get pulled into the present moment every 5 minutes or less by small children who need you. It just doesn’t feel glowy or magical or spiritual or lovely. It feels messy and mundane and sometimes maddening.
And herein lies the hard and holy work of parenting. You may no longer have the time to sit for 20 or more minutes each morning, but you may learn to breathe through tantrums or tough hours. You may learn to tend to curiosities and wonders instead of keeping a constantly clean house. You may learn to mother your own inner child through living each day and being present with your own children. You may learn fierceness through love and as a result of that you may finally be able to advocate for yourself because you’ve spoken up for your children. You may learn the strength you doubted you had, and watch it grow each day. You may learn gentleness through wiping noses or braiding hair, and it might drip from your fingers and shine from your eyes as you go about your daily life—even if you are too busy to notice such changes.
A good meditation practice changes us in ways that we can’t predict when we begin those first uncomfortable sitting sessions. A good yoga practice shapes us beyond the shapes our bodies take in asana. A constant journal practice illuminates aspects of ourselves we might have not consciously noticed before. Good friendships and close relationships often mirror our inner most strengths and weaknesses, and encourage growth as a result. Parenting does the same—even though the work might feel much more mundane. Through mothering, I’m learning to live with a messy house, a messy mind, and a full and fully exhausted heart. And this too is the soul’s work.