About That Old Lady In The Grocery Store…

shopping cart
I’ve been mulling over a blog post written by Glennon, a blogger and mother of three young children. The post, which has turned up on my Facebook feed at least seven times today, is all about the idea of “Carpe Diem” and motherhood: specifically, about how annoying it is when the old lady at the grocery store tells you to “enjoy every moment” when, during that very moment, you’re covered in baby puke, have a toddler screaming in your ear, and haven’t gotten more than two hours of sleep at a time in months.

From the huge reaction the post is getting, it’s obvious it’s striking a nerve with a lot of moms.

From the post:

I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Double failure.  I felt guilty because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.

Uh-huh. I’ve been there.

But I can’t help but feel a twinge of discomfort when I read that kind of raw honesty about motherhood, and then the hundreds of comments venting about the fake “happy mommies” and their unrealistic advice and reassurances. Because for the most part? I am that old lady.

Even though I wouldn’t dare to tell a struggling mom “Some day you’ll look back on this and wish…” (I’m a new-enough mom that I can fully remember how annoying that is!), I’ve been doing this motherhood thing long enough to see how much perception shapes reality; how quickly the time flies, how much I wish I’d gone easier on myself in those early years as a mom and simply enjoyed it, moment to moment: not every moment, no; and not as some kind of contest or good-motherhood requirement, but simply because I deserved to feel good about what I was doing, and because even in the midst of the hard stuff there was almost always beauty to be found…if I could just breathe, take a step back, and look.

I hope newer moms understand the difference. And I think Glennon does. Her post goes on to describe the different kinds of time: Chronos, the minutes that creep by when you’re waiting for bedtime, the slow crawl of the clock during the witching hour…and Kairos, God’s time, the magical moments:

Like when I’m stuck in chronos time in the grocery line and I’m haggard and annoyed and angry at the slow check-out clerk. And then I look at my cart and I’m transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles and piles of healthy food I’ll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world’s mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos.

In the 14 years since I’ve become a mom, I’ve gradually gotten better at coping with motherhood’s ups and downs. Some of that is because I’m finally neither nursing ’round the clock nor pregnant and am getting a decent night’s sleep. Partly it’s because my older children no longer bolt at the grocery store and I can even count on them to babysit their toddler sister for a half-hour while I run an errand. Partly it’s because nearly a decade and a half of parenting has given me superior selective-hearing and tuning-out-chaos abilities. And in large part, it’s because I’ve worked hard at it.

But after reading Glennon’s post I think I’ve figured out another reason: I’ve had enough time for those Kairos moments to add up and blend together and create a warm, fuzzy background; a context against which the Chronos moments start to seem less powerful, less pervasive.

When your oldest child is three or four, each Chronos moment still represents such a large percentage of your life as a mother: it’s easy to get the feeling that those sweaty, flustered, confused, exhausted moments will always make up the bulk of your days. But as the kids get older, those moments of peace and clarity and wonder – the Kairos – create a thick, warm blanket in the background, and you realize that despite all the mistakes you made, all the less-than-ideal choices you made, the Kairos moments always meant more than the Chronos.

So I am the old lady at the store, the one wanting you to enjoy the moments, to seize the day. But if I had one hope for newer moms, it wouldn’t be to try to wish away the Chronos moments, nor would it be to ignore the hard stuff, pretend it doesn’t exist, or to enjoy every single moment – because yes, that is impossible.

Instead, it would be to lift the Kairos up. To make a little extra space for them in your soul. To make them count just as much as – more than – the hard parts, even if they don’t seem to come quite as often. To give yourself a little credit for the fact that you have them at all and to give them more credence in your memory and the way you feel about your parenting.

That’s what this blog is about. I’m trying to remind moms – trying to remind myself! – that we do have a choice: to elevate the snuggles and the laughs above the vomit and bickering and spilled milk. To set up our lives in such a way that we’re more rested, more ready, more able to cope with it all. To forgive ourselves when we screw up and move past the unrealistic expectations that make those moments of “failure” feel so much more awful to begin with.

Untainted, all-day-long blissful happiness is impossible for anyone, but we aren’t victims of circumstance: we really can choose to be happier moms.

Even in the midst of the Chronos moments.

Or at least, in anticipation of Kairos.

Thanks to Glennon at Momastery for inspiring this post!

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