Motherhood is messy, and I’m not just talking about the laundry and the toys. Fortunately, our Catholic faith helps us find the beauty in our chaos. Anni Harry shares how she discovers beauty in the motherhood mess.
As I sit here typing this piece, I don’t feel well. But, everyone knows, a mom never gets a true sick day.
Instead, as I try to relax to write, I survey the house – the pile of dirty clothes unceremoniously dumped next to the laundry hamper by the five-year-old. The dog fur that, while vacuumed up yesterday, escaped the contraption and multiplied overnight. The dirty dishes in the sink, waiting for the dishwasher to finish running from what was supposed to happen overnight, but failed to work. The toys lying in the middle of the floor, waiting for the next battle between two siblings in a failed attempt to share, or waiting for the next battle I will face in trying to get the kids to clean up the abandoned toys. The unkempt hair from a two-year-old who has a world to conquer, rather than sitting still for hair brushing or styling. The spit up stain on my shirt, from a little one who has just finished nursing before being deposited into the capable arms of the young lady watching my children. I have thankfully outsourced parenting to my mother’s helper, who is keeping my five-year-old, two-year-old, and eight-week-old entertained while I retreat to hide in my locked room to work on this piece.
Everything around me screams mess
This house is a hot mess…
My kids are a hot mess…
I am a hot mess.
And, it feels as though no matter how hard I try and no matter how hard I work, the role I play in life is to keep wading through messes, trying (and often failing) to get them cleaned.
That is life, especially with three small children.
It can be thankless, it can be messy, it can be aggravating. Life with small children can be described as a wild adventure, and while we as parents have some sort of clue about a schedule or routine, we can never control the monkey wrench that is our children. They are the unknown quantity in this journey, and cannot be controlled, no matter how easy that would make our lives.
Life as a parent can feel so heavy and burdened some days, and so self-defeating as we look at the endless mountains of laundry, the cups we clean on a daily basis, the battles we face trying to teach our little ones to handle big emotions.
And yet, at the end of the day, no matter what the day has brought, our lives are beautiful.
There is a saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” To find something to be beautiful means it is only beautiful if the person gazing upon it says it is beautiful. As parents, we are surrounded by mess and chaos, and yet, we are reminded in Jeremiah 29:11,
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you – oracle of the Lord – plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”
Believe it or not, the messiness in our day to day lives translates into something radiantly beautiful, when we begin to look at the mess through the eyes of our Creator.
You see, God knew exactly what He was doing when He gave each of us our lives – and, when He gave us our families. It is through Him that we are granted such an amazing opportunity to work toward sanctification. However, we can’t use the messes in our lives as a path toward sanctification if we don’t acknowledge them as such.
In the midst of messiness, it is so easy to allow ourselves to get overwhelmed. We allow our aggravation to build. Between children’s squabbles, a messy house, and trying to get dinner on the table, we allow our annoyance to crescendo. Some of us curse, others yell, and still more have other reactions which lead most of us mothers into confessing the same sins of mothers everywhere the next time we grace the inside of a Confessional.
And, it’s hard – bone-wearying tiring – to find the beauty in the mess.
But, it’s there… the beauty is there!
The challenge is to recognize it in our daily lives. It can be found in the little moments when we take our first sip of coffee prepared just the way we like it. Perhaps we have to overlook the fact the coffee is cold – or, that we’ve had to reheat it three or four times.
The beauty is in the smile of a little child who proudly pronounces, “Tada,” as they master pouring liquid from one container into another. Perhaps we have to overlook the aggravation of the new task of cleaning up the spilled water all over the table and floor.
The beauty is in the smell of freshly laundered shirts and shorts. Perhaps we have to overlook the pile of newly dirtied clothes on the floor next to the hamper.
God has given each of us a family, and while it is a struggle and pain at times, there is beauty in that vocation.
Not only does He know the path He is offering us to sainthood, He knows intimately that we will struggle on that path. As we are reminded in Mark 10:25, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” God knows we are going to have difficulty with our vocation, but that is why He doesn’t leave us alone! The struggle is real – and, so are His graces!
God offers us His grace every. single. time. we take a moment to recognize the beauty in our homes and in our lives.
Every single time we sigh as we plod toward the full sink, wishing ourselves to scroll Facebook, but instead picking up the scrubber.
Every single time we want to curl up on the couch with a good book, but instead pick up the broom to tackle the latest round of floor dirt and dust.
Every single time we want to hang our heads, wave the white flag of surrender at a child throwing a tantrum, but instead stay the course, teaching them that parents don’t cave on their expectations and boundaries.
Beauty abounds all around us if we are able to look for and recognize it.
Our lives, messy as they may seem to us, are beautiful to God.
He created us for all our moments of mess, and also our moments of beauty. He ensured we have a path to Him through our vocations as wives and mothers. He created us for the children we would have, charged with the mission to lead them closer to Him. He trusted our abilities and knows what is good for leading our own souls closer to Him. He created us precisely for our families.
He has faith in us, even when we struggle to find the faith within ourselves.
God delights in our lives, as only a proud parent would. He doesn’t discount the pain and struggle, but He does delight in what He sees we have. He has gifted our lives – and, our families – to us. While we may wonder what He was thinking, giving us these awesome burdens, He has a plan for each and every single one of us.
God delights in the beauty of our messes.
God delights in the beauty of our lives.
God delights in the beauty of our motherhood.
Because God knows through our motherhood – all the messy moments combined – we are being brought closer to Him. We will be brought closer to Him.
And, that is beautiful.
Anni is a proud Army wife and mother to two young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked extensively in both clinical settings, and as a case manager. Since the birth of her children, she has taken a hiatus from paid employment and devotes time to volunteering at whichever military chapel the family attends, and currently blogs about topics of Catholicism, parenting, and military life at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life. You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.