We arrived to our weekly homeschool group a few minutes late, as usual. No matter how highly I personally value punctuality, I have not been able to reliably get myself and six kids to destinations on time since my youngest was born nearly a year ago. With all my heart, I want to arrive on time, but I’m only one woman and there are quite a few personalities in my family that frequently prevent me from finding success in that quest.
Still, every time I arrive somewhere late, I feel defeated.
The other moms are huddled in a circle, sharing pertinent announcements and prayer requests with the group. I’m late, but my friends open the circle and draw us in with warm smiles. I have one hand on the stroller where my little guy is squirming around, attempting to escape the clutches of his 5-point harness. My other hand pats the head of his 3-year old sister who is sitting on my foot with her arms wrapped around my leg while she warms to the new environment. The other kids have dispersed to look for their friends who are in the adjacent gym space, bouncing balls and running about with energy to spare.
I’m here. Whew. I’m here.
One sweet newcomer to our group begins sharing about the tumultuous journey of watching her elderly father approach death. His health has been steadily declining, and everyone expects him to pass at any time, but whenever the family makes peace with his passing, he rebounds back from the brink of death for a few days.
She tells us how it is hard to be caught between savoring the last days/weeks with him and mourning the life that is slipping away before her eyes.
Tears are streaming ferociously down my face. I genuinely feel for her, but there is also a moment where I realize that her vulnerability to share with our group has poked a hole in my brave-mom facade, revealing the raw and tender part of me that I’ve been hiding all week.
We comfort her and pray for her, and then I find the courage to say out loud:
I feel like a constant disappointment these days.
I’m always late. I can’t seem to get everything done. I fell down the front steps of my house this week and sustained a minor injury to my leg as well as my pride. My children have been bickering more than usual and my patience is paper-thin. I have not been able to deliver on several commitments to friends. I am buried in laundry, dishes, and toys for six children at home.
They listen and nod, and they know.
I wipe my big tears away with my coat sleeve, as others share their own things before we close our eyes and pray with fervent hearts for God to meet us in this humble place and strengthen us for the school day ahead.
One sweet friend leans over to me and quietly says in my ear, “Emily, I want you to know that in all the years I’ve known you, you have never disappointed me.”
She squeezes my hand, and the lump in my throat appears again. I’m not sure if that is entirely true, because I know there are things I’ve come up short on, but I receive her words as the balm they were meant to be. Those are the kind of words that carry a weary mama through.
It occurs to me that this circle—where we meet in the morning to pray for our children, our homeschool endeavors, and for our families—this is me flourishing in motherhood. Here I am, journeying alongside mothers who also shoulder the great responsibility of raising little ones. Here I am in a circle of women who share my burdens, who bear witness to my growth, who encourage me in the tough moments, and who celebrate successes with me.
Flourishing in motherhood is not about keeping up the appearance of having it all together. It is not proving one’s competence as a mom through punctuality, organization, well-behaved children, or keeping a sweet motherly disposition. Flourishing in motherhood doesn’t mean we don’t struggle through some days. I am fairly certain we all do.
Flourishing in motherhood is about nurturing small humans, but it is also about recognizing how capable each mama is to love her family and care for their unique needs. It is about thriving in the real lives we’re living, not the pinterest-perfect one we constantly feel we are not living up to.
Flourishing is about honestly sharing in the joy and sorrow of this motherhood journey together with the sisters around us, listening well and speaking words that breathe life into each other on the way, because we are not alone and we are stronger together.
This is my heart and desire for Kindred Mom. I pray that you would find refuge and encouragement here in the honest stories of other mamas who flourish in the face of real challenges.
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Emily Sue Allen is the founder and visionary behind KindredMom.com, an online community and podcast dedicated to helping women find joy and purpose in motherhood. Emily is passionate about living a deeply nourished life and celebrating the beauty of ordinary moments. She is forever marked by the rescue and redemption Jesus Christ has accomplished in her life. Emily is a featured contributor in Strong, Brave & Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, a collaborative volume of essays written to encourage moms in the weeds of parenting kids at home, a member of Hope*writers, and an ongoing devotional writer for Joyful Life Magazine. She lives with her husband and seven kids—three girls and four boys—in the Pacific Northwest. Emily’s website is emilysueallen.com. Subscribe to her newsletter “Flowers, Children & Other Lovely Things” at emilysueallen.substack.com and find her on Instagram.