As I sit in the airport, carrying with me only my purse and a laptop bag, I see you, mama.
I see you see me, too, and I recognize that look in your eye as you push your stroller past. You think I have it easy, even that you wish you could be in my shoes, if only for a moment.
You'd love to trade that stroller, diaper bag, the three character backpacks your kids lovingly asked you to hold in addition to your own. You'd love to trade places with me, just long enough to catch your breath, to be able to brush your hair out of your eyes (you haven't been able to reach it since your oldest tossed another bag over your already-full arm 15 minutes ago).
I see you look longingly at my light load and wish for a break that will likely not come for years, not until long after you've forgotten what it's like to only carry along a purse. I get it. I have those days too.
In fact, before I left for the airport today, I was enthusiastically looking forward to my break. Yes, it's a business trip, and I will have to work quite a bit, but it's amazing how freeing it feels when you can hear yourself think. Compared to the constant demands of our precious children, I often find myself comparing work to vacation.
And, I really was all set. Set to relax on the plane, read a book, and enjoy the peace and quiet. I was good.
Until I saw you.
And I saw you see me. But I don't think you saw me see you. Or your beautiful family. I noticed your heavy arms and that your clan took up half the walkway and that it must have felt chaotic for you. But I also saw your ability to move three people under the age of five through a crowded airport.
They listened to you, trusted your guidance, and were at complete ease in a strange place simply because they were with you.
I am waiting for a flight that will take me away from my kids for a week, and yours will never know that separation, at least not until they're old enough to better understand.
And, while I trust my family's plan for work and life balance, I also had a moment today, seeing you, when I would have loved to trade places, to be able to provide that consistency and familiarity for my kids, the quiet sense of calm amidst a busy, strange, new place (or even at home).
So while you may have wanted to trade places, if only for a moment, please know that you weren't the only one.
Perhaps the proverbial grass is always greener. Or perhaps, every now and then, we just need a break, time to reflect, reassure, and rest ourselves in this busy life that takes the decisions we consciously make and runs away with them so fast and so furiously that we often times find ourselves looking up with doubt.
It is hard not to doubt sometimes, when life seems to offer so many options, so many other solutions, and so many judgments. Please know, though, that I did not look at you with judgement today, and I did not doubt your choices or the option that you have chosen.
I looked at you with awe. I looked at you as an inspiration and with a little hope that you could see in yourself what I was seeing with my own eyes—that you are more than enough. That you are amazing.
So mama, I hope for both of us that when our load is heavy, whether the weight is emotional or spiritual or literally the four extra backpacks our kids could not possibly carry for themselves, we remind ourselves that we can carry this load because we have a strength inside of ourselves that is unique to mothers.
As mothers, we carry the love and heartache, the joy and sorrow, and the highs and lows along with the bags, blankets, and teddy bears.
The weight of this load is often so heavy that we are tricked into feeling weak, that we are not doing a good job, even that we are failing. We worry that we have not done enough yet, so we couldn’t possibly deserve a break. There is still too much to be done.
We use so much energy just trying to hold everyone up around us, that we forget how much strength we already possess in order to do so in the first place. We look in the mirror and wonder what we could have done better or what we should have done differently.
Please know that the answer is nothing. Nothing.
You are already more than enough. You are stronger than you know, and searching for a break does not make you weak. We all need time to restore ourselves. Our physical bodies literally need time for muscle recover after intense activity, and we know that the heart is the hardest working muscle in the human body.
Take the time you need to recover. You deserve it. You need it.
And you will return with an even greater strength.