Being Mindful of the Unseen: Below the Surface of Motherhood

It finally happened — months of tension finally spilled over, right in the middle of Costco. And the further we walked through the store, the worse I felt (which, at 35 weeks pregnant actually says a lot). By the time we checked out and picked up our pizza for dinner, I was on the verge of tears.

And that’s when I saw her, a fellow mom- smiling at me. Her son was toddling around the carts and tables. She was watching my son happily (more like finally) munching pizza, sitting quite calmly on the bench, like an old pizza pro. And she tried to start a conversation.

How old is he? He’s eating so well! How do you get him to sit so still while eating?

I was barely functioning at that point. My husband knows me well enough to discern that if I opened my mouth for anything other than food, the dam would break and all would be lost. He answered her questions with a friendly tone as she packed up her son and moved on.

And I suddenly realized that she had NO IDEA that he and I were just having a massive fight. She caught a glimpse of a toddler boy a few months older than her own, happily eating pizza with minimal fuss and mess, and she saw hope.

But she had no idea.

No idea of the hurt roiling my heart, of the tears just below the surface, of the frustration in my marriage or home. No idea how often I fight my son to just put on a pair of pants! (Every day, people. Every single day!)

No idea that my son is at the point where he notices my tears, that his sweet empathy is both a balm for my soul and a source of anguish as I wonder how he interprets my overwrought emotions. No idea how often I sit with my reactions, measuring out how much of it is normal hormones and how much of it could be a return to depression and anxiety.

So often, we as moms only catch a glimpse of someone’s daily life. It’s an incomplete picture at best, and yet we base so much off of it. We pass judgement on ourselves and others, when we are literally only seeing the tip of these mama icebergs.

I, for one, am going to take something from this experience. I want to be more mindful of these misconceptions. It’s far too easy as I get closer to the birth of my second child to look around at other moms and think they have it all figured out (and I, by contrast, never will.)

But that mama looking all put-together may have put her makeup on in the car while her kids screamed in the background. That other mama may be mired in guilt over something she said in frustration to her daughter that morning while she tried to get her out the door.

I’m going to remember the iceberg, with so much floating below the surface, beyond what I can see, prone to so many different currents beyond my limited comprehension. In the throes of mothering littles and feeling the strain of these transitions in my marriage, it’s simply the best I can do: be mindful of what I cannot see, and not judge what I do.

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