Note: Can you insert your name whenever you see a blank space, ________________?
Could you do that for me for the next ten minutes?
Hi. You don’t know me. My name is Ashley.
Otherwise known as the woman at the grocery store with three children hanging off of the side of her cart, or the lady who stands on her porch with bed head, and shouts at her dogs who won’t come back inside.
We have never met before. Or actually, we probably have. Lots of times. Probably every day.
We just might not ever even know it.
I’m a happily married, mother of three. I write about them a lot, actually, my husband and my kids. Especially my children.
My children are such a joy to me. I love being their mom. They’ve reshaped my life in countless ways. There is no stone left unturned on this path of motherhood.
So, how’s about you, _______________?
Here’s the thing: I’m sorry.
I. Am. Sorry.
You see, when I introduced myself, part of my biography was about my children. In fact, they were about 90% of it, save for the bit about me standing on the porch with a mound of matted hair on my head, shouting at my pets. That’s pretty much the only picture you have that doesn’t involve having children attached to the side of me.
…Which makes me want to apologize again, actually.
That’s not why I was saying sorry, though.
I’m sorry. I am sorry if you have ever felt not good enough. I’m sorry if you have ever felt short-changed. I am sorry if you have ever felt incomplete. I am sorry if you ever felt small next to the mountain of expectations that family, friends, coworkers and society has placed on you.
I’m sorry if you have ever felt any of those things because you don’t have children.
Before I get further, this is not a post to try to convince you to have children. I can try all day to sway on the subject, but that would only make the both of us uncomfortable.
Here’s how I see it:
Many people I know speak of the wonders of Nutella or brussel sprouts or visiting Canada, (stay with me.) Well, to be honest, Nutella makes me nauseous, brussel sprouts and I have a love-hate relationship and don’t even get me started on Canada, (the issue goes back a ways and you do not want to hear about it because it’s very stupid. Vancouver looks absolutely stunning on Google Images, though!)
The point is that when other people talk endlessly about something being so magical and perfect and wondrous, it will only serve to do two things: either remind you that there is something you are missing out on, even though you really, really want to be a part of it, or make you feel like there is something wrong with you because you just don’t see what you’re missing.
Let me say this:
You’re not incomplete without children.
Read that sentence over and over again: you are not…incomplete…without children.
But what’s that you say? Parents talk all the time about their children being a part of them, how they complete them, that they fulfill them in ways that other things cannot. Parents speak pretty much the opposite all. of. the. time.
Yes, it’s true. I would be incomplete without my children. I would miss them. They’re a part of me now. Figuratively, but in some ways very, very literally. As in I can’t go to the bathroom without them or sit on the couch with a bowl of popcorn by myself and expect not to share.
But you, my friend? You are not incomplete.
I wasn’t incomplete before I had children, either.
That Ashley was on her very own journey. One within this world, and one in her own heart. And that journey was so, so important, and so, so valid. Much like you and your life. Right now.
Now that I have had my children, and they are part of me, an extension of me, this world just would not be the same without them. They have enriched my life wonderfully.
But no one is incomplete before children.
Children hasn’t happened for you yet. If they will at all, even. But you are still on a journey. An enormously important journey.
I love being a mom, having children is the best decision we ever made. But I know what it is like to have the narrative rewritten once the babies come.
I sit in the church pews, even, and I want to hear about how we are each a complete person in Christ, before and after children, and only in Christ. That there is an identity for each of us that only He knows and has planned has been a great source of comfort for me.
I want to hear about how Jesus called me to be a disciple. And He did in my story. It just starts for me within the walls of my home.
And He calls each of us right where we are, in this moment, in this life. You don’t have to wait for your life to begin. It’s already started.
I’m sorry that I sometimes simplify your life. That I condense it into one that is seemingly picturesque and uncomplicated, instead of seeing the uphill climbs that you have had to make.
Here’s something to consider:
Sometimes, I admire you.
While I’m happy about it most of the time, there are times where I am saddened to admit that it pains me to know that I will forever be largely known as someone’s mother.
I love wearing that distinction and try to do so with all the efforts befitting a proud, involved, hands-on parent.
But there are times when I want out.
When I want to be seen for myself. There are days when my words fall on deaf ears. I can’t remember the last time someone, save for a dear friend or husband, sat down and asked me what I want.
The ache is lonely at times.
And I see you, and the world is full of questions that aren’t answered yet. I see a freedom to explore that I don’t always have in my life. I see a woman who is making herself into something. I see a person who has people expecting her to be searching for something. And sometimes, the search seems like the funnest part of the story.
We may have more in common then we both realize.
I occasionally still stop and wonder about what I am going to do with my life. I wonder when things will get a tiny bit easier. I wonder when I’ll feel entirely at home in this skin. I am just as uncertain of a multitude of things as the next person.
But let me say:
The road to children is sometimes a long one, sometimes a short one, sometimes an untraveled one. But there are stops along the way that matter. And every step on that road is worth it, and marked and known. You will recall those steps forever. And you will be glad you took them.
Dear ________, I promise to see you as an individual woman. A complete being with hobbies and passions and pursuits and flaws. If you will see me as more than the mom in the mini van doing five below the speed limit. If you will see me no less a modern, liberated woman as the next person.
I promise that I won’t be afraid of you. I promise to seek the common ground that we share, children or not. I promise not to furrow my brow when you say that you aren’t looking to have children.
I promise that you can talk to me about things other than my children, if you don’t mind asking how they are doing once in a while and don’t furrow your brow when they spill punch all down the front of themselves.
And I implore you to enjoy using the bathroom by yourself, and spreading yourself out in your bed before you have to share it with anyone. Those things are also very, very important. Remind me what they are like when we talk?