I admire the extended arms and elegant movements of skaters on the ice, ballerinas on a stage, and women who carry themselves with strength and dignity. I watch them, enraptured by their grace and beauty, impressed by their freedom and flexibility, inspired by the confidence expressed through their skillful momentum through hidden challenges. All I see is beauty, not the strength that carries them.
It is only a moment after I have savored such a glimpse that I feel a knot in my stomach and find myself acutely aware that I do not have that same gracefulness. With a kid on my hip, a three-year-old melting down at my feet, and four other children squawking and wailing their way through the day, I struggle to see the beauty in my days, to see the beauty or strength within me. It’s a bonafide mess around here.
My whole life seems like my deplorable laundry system. There are dirty clothes on the floor, clean clothes untended in a pile, and a fresh load that I’ve just rescued from the dryer out of sheer desperation for clean kid pajamas to employ during bedtime, which can’t come soon enough. With warm garments gathered in my arms, I transport the oversized load to the existing disheveled pile, haphazardly dropping assorted items as I walk. There are clothes everywhere. Crumbs everywhere. Children everywhere. No matter how hard I try to pull everything together, to clean all the messes, and neatly stow our stuff out of sight, it never stays like that.
I sweep, vacuum, Swiffer, and steam. I gather, and straighten, and organize. I inhale, hold my breath for ten seconds, and exhale only to discover that new crumbs have magically appeared, and new bins have been overturned. The gross feeling that I am still, always, and constantly missing the mark hangs on me, along with all the tasks that are never done.
While I would love to feel more successful throughout my days, the truth is I am working out resilience in real time. I am confronting shame and conquering my fears as I move forward and daily take faithful steps toward, doing what needs to be done without a furrowed brow and a negative attitude. I want my kids to know they are capable of hard work, that some things require us to dig in and do what is needed even when we feel like it’s all a mess and we’ll never get it right.
If I want them to do that, I have to show them how by doing it myself. The mothering years are hard, but they are also pregnant with joy, full of wonder and discovery, and these hidden treasures are discovered and appreciated precisely through the challenges we encounter and overcome.
9 Things I’ve learned about Becoming a Resilient Mom:
1) Resilience is not about results, and it doesn’t hinge on the words success, fulfilled, feeling in control, or even graceful.
2) Resilience often feels like floundering.
3) Discouragement is not meant to be a default mode of being, but a momentary acknowledgment that where I am is not where I want to be.
4) Resilience is about recognizing the power I have to move myself in a new direction.
5) Resilience is about movement; an expression of inner strength in motion toward freedom from fear and shame.
6) I cannot become resilient if I’m waiting to be rescued from my own responsibilities.
7) Resilience requires first being honest with myself, and then with others, about my personal struggles, allowing myself to be seen.
8) Healthy self-care is critical for becoming a resilient mom.
9) It is easier to identify resilience in others than it is to see it in ourselves because the struggle speaks loudly to us, but the strength we exhibit in our lives speaks loudly to others.
As moms, we are being tested, strengthened, made flexible and strong while our souls learn to navigate new seas. We can’t wait to be rescued from our own responsibilities. We can look up and see the value of a woman—even one who is struggling through life—is enormous.
On ordinary days, even the graceful figure skaters and ballerinas are not dressed in glamorous costumes, with lights and cheering crowds all around. They are in their business clothes at the rink or on the stage (and by business clothes, I mean yoga pants, sloppy shirts, and a top-knot hairdo) honing their craft. Practicing, falling, and trying again; testing their limits and growing their strength. Floundering, falling and getting up again: This is resilience.
(photo by Hill Smiley Photography)
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.