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Have I been condensed to the space on the counter? Is that what I have become? Is that what I have been reduced to? There is no definitive check list for the SAHM. Oh sure there are the blogs, the pamphlets, the workshops, websites, books and experts who say, ‘This is the guideline to follow.’ But they don’t really know. The reality is that none of us do. It’s the beauty of it I suppose. Our intrinsic differences that make us each so beautifully unique and so impossible to meld together.

I grew up like so many girls. An avid movie watcher and book reader. A huge supporter of the romantic notion, I lived in the dream of someday to avoid the realities of the days I was in. When I got married the only thing I knew for sure was the man I was marrying was the right one. But what in the heck did being a WIFE to him mean?! Children came so soon after our “I do’s”, I was grappling to put on the mom hat before I came remotely close to the vicinity of finding the elusive ‘wife’ hat.

That dear friends, is because there isn’t just one hat.

I was stuck somewhere in an ideal I had created. My perception being that I needed to fall somewhere between June Cleaver and Claire Dunphy. The house is to be clean, the budget set, the bills paid, the well-balanced diet dispensed through pre-meditated meal plans and prepared into delicious meals. My hair was to not only be clean, but done up. My face painted, my clothes pressed (or at least wrinkle free). Yoga pants if worn were for the intent to actually do. . .yoga.

(Insert long bouts of uproarious laughter here.) Go ahead, I can wait.

If you aren’t laughing, perhaps you are crying at the level of disillusionment. Both are an appropriate response.
My first pregnancy played on my insecurities and my hormones laid siege on my emotional well-being. I was lost. I remember a moment moving into my third trimester where I sat on the floor, hands on belly weeping. ‘How can I stretch any further than this?’ My body ached, my heart was sore. I was terrified. I had only ever wanted to be a mom and now it was coming – would I ever measure up?

After our first child was born I learned how to bake. There was something about a fresh loaf of pumpkin, banana or apple bread that allowed me to feel that I had accomplished a tangible thing at the end of the day. By the time he was two he became my side-kick, my kitchen helper. Together we mastered both the chocolate chip cookie and muffin. By the time our second was born, “Thing One” could recite the required ingredients and rough concept of measurement required to make a batch of a dozen.

Then the dishwasher broke.

I followed shortly thereafter.

Two under two. Both either fussy or too full of (what I assume) unprecedented energy. Neither slept. Chronic broken sleep. No naps – for anyone. Relentless tears and need. Husband working nights and sleeping days. Money tight and now a broken dishwasher.

I rarely showered. My hair always in a bun to avoid hair pulling and to hide the long since faded colour. I never wore make up, why bother, I never left the house. I wore my maternity pajamas throughout the day even though I wasn’t pregnant. The house looked like a war zone. The kids lived on bananas and granola bars, there was no meal plan. The budget was easy – don’t spend anything. And still the dishes piled up.

That became my station. My role. This was my checklist. I stay at home. The kids are alive and the dishes get done.And so it was, I had become a kitchen sink.My life in a season of perpetual exhaustion, emotional limits being pushed to the brink and utter chaos, I stayed faithful to my sink. I was never without a job to be done. Because you see, a clean dish can be put away. It creates a spot momentarily cleared of a piece of chaos, a check on the list of what was ‘required’ of me. Dishes clean and cleared put me closer to June Cleaver and further from. . .that mom suffocating as she treads water to the light she can only assume must be at the end of this tireless tunnel.

A switch to day-shift.
A new house.
Baby number three.
And the dishwasher. . . breaks. No, has grown tired through years of use. And again I find myself, a kitchen sink.

And then.

Oh what two more beautiful words can a person hear?

As I stood, feet firmly rooted side by side facing what I had begun to believe would be my undoing, it happened. I caught my reflection. I saw her. That girl, remember the one? The believer in the romantic notion? There she was, clearing away the dishes her small tribe had made dirty through a meal shared together. Cleaning the goop from an experiment sparked by curiosity. I saw the hands that wipe away tears, rub bellies, and tickle toes. I saw that glimmer, faint but clear, in the corner of her eye. Her, that girl, it was me. At this, and through God’s unending grace, the sun began to rouse the sky awake. Faint wisps of deep purple, long streaks of red ripped open the sky to make room for a lumbering sun to rise above the back field and up and over the barn.
Have I been reduced to a sink full of dishes? Have you? Are you that mom, unsure or scared or hurting?

If you have made it this far, I ask that you now pay close attention and lean in to this truth.
You, the mom, feeling reduced to the culmination of duties you complete, you have been fearfully and wonderfully made.
You, the mom, feeling lost, scared or alone, ‘..may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long and how deep his love is’ Ephesians 3:18

You matter. What you do matters. Regardless of whether you are doing laps or are barely keeping afloat, you are more than what you do. You are more than the checks off your to-do list of requirements.


Be encouraged!

Amy Bruinsma

Hello! My name is Amy and I am The Optimistic Mama! I am a stay at home mom married to the love of my life, doing the best I know how to be to our three little people. My hope is to grow them into difference makers, each their own beacon of light. I live in rural Southern Ontario where I enjoy (extremely) early mornings with my wee ones leading to full coffee mugs and beautiful sunrises, walks amongst the trees, small hands in mine, adventures in stick and pebble collection and anything in between. The intention behind The Optimistic Mama is to be voice of encouragement in a perpetually exhausting season of life. My hope to all who read my words is a simple one; be encouraged!

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