One of the things I respect most about the way my mom raised my brother and I, is the fact that she was never afraid of a nice, big mess. She likely would have done even more laundry if it had been up to her, but I was the peculiar, little girl who was known to have once refused an ice cream cone because I didn’t want it to drip onto my hand.
My mom, on the other hand, was the one who suggested we invite all my neighborhood friends over for a mud party the day after we dug up our large, backyard pool. We grabbed the hose and let the water run until the hole where we used to swim turned into a pit of sticky, brown slime. I remember not being quite sure what to do in the muddy mess when my friends arrived, but them quickly showing me how much fun it could be to be covered in mud from head to toe as we flung big globs at each other.
My mom was also the one who put a package of flour on the kitchen table and told my brother and I to have fun when we were about three and eight years old. When it ended up causing the entire kitchen to look like a winter wonderland, my brother and I included, she laughed and got the camera before going to get a mop and broom.
I was recently brought back to that moment when I was making pizza dough with my one-and-a-half-year-old. Since my husband and I built a learning tower for our son so he can join us at the kitchen counter, one of Ellis’ favorite things to do is cook with me or his Papa. And although I quickly came to terms with the fact that I often must trade our clean kitchen for clean eating when a toddler is involved in the process, I still hesitated for a moment when I got to the step in the recipe that instructed us to, “Add the olive oil to the flour mixture and knead the dough with hands until smooth.” As I slowly reached for our handheld mixer, I paused and smiled, knowing my mom never would have turned down the chance for some messy fun like I was about to. Instead, I took off my rings, then demonstrated to my son that he could plunge his hands into the sticky mass and squish it between his fingers. He looked at me as if I were doing something extremely questionable, then joined me with little giggles of delight when he realized I wasn’t making a silly joke. We continued by sprinkling some flour on the countertop and rolling out the dough as most of the white powder ended up elsewhere.
Becoming a mother has been slowly chipping away at the surviving bits of my perfectionist tendencies since day one, and I am thankful for the messy memories accompanied by lighthearted laughter that have found room in my life as a result.
There’s simply no getting around it — motherhood is messy.
Starting out, it means leaking milk and leaking diapers. Just the same, it means soft, newborn skin to snuggle up to during feeds and gently wash during baths.
A few months later, it can look like an explosion of color on the ground, but also amazement at the leaps and bounds your little one is taking as you watch him learn new things during each session of play.
It can cause you to hold your breath as you watch your toddler experiment with gravity seemingly in slow motion as he dumps his cup of water (or worse) onto the ground. Yet, it also provides you with the chance to teach your little one that he is capable of dealing with the messes he makes as you show him how to use a rag to soak up the unwanted puddle in the dining room.
Motherhood means losing your patience and apologizing for your insensitive behavior. It’s being exhausted by your 24/7 job at times, but even more so, endlessly thankful for the life entrusted to you. Sometimes it means feeling like you’ve given every ounce of yourself, yet still battling with feelings of inadequacy. Motherhood means being given the chance to rebuild your foundation as you spend countless hours revolving around the simplest things of life.
The VIP title you receive upon your firstborn’s arrival can leave you feeling torn between priorities that all insist their need of immediate attention. Yet, as new life forever changes your own, it undeniably brings on an expansion of the heart.
So when I look to my future, I can confidently say: bring on the sweaty hugs, the sticky hands, the face smeared in snot and tears, the bloody noses, the broken glass and the emotions that bubble up and pour out in a rush of hurtful words. Though I may stumble from time to time as I learn to walk in these shoes, I’m a mother. I’m not afraid of messes.