“Perfection is not a polished thing. It is often simply something that is sincerely meant. Perfection is a job complete, praise given, a prayer heard, it can be kindness shown, thanks offered up. Perfection is what we discover in each other — what we see reflected back … And if perfection alludes us — that doesn’t matter, for what we have within the moment is enough.”
– Mature Jenny
I am about a decade late to the party, but I have recently gotten into the Call the Midwife on Netflix and I must say, it’s been quite awhile since a show has brought me this much delight! It’s hard to say what I love so much about it because it all just works so well together (the births, the colors, the era, the sisters, the music, Chummy…just all of it!) and continues to warm me right up like a mug of tea, but one of my favorite parts has got to be the beginning and ending narration from mature Jenny. It’s a combination of her humble tone mixed gently with the layers of wisdom she offers us watching on the other side of the screen that always leaves my soul in a state of peace. It’s beautiful to me how the narration starts off the show by weaving a theme into the fabric of each episode, whereby the characters make you fall madly in love with each of them through a series of events around midwifery, and them comes full circle again as if you’ve just witnessed a little miracle, perfectly packaged in all of it’s imperfect splendor. The truths mature Jenny shares are not ones of perfection but of humanity, rooted and raw, and they always give me life when I need it most.
Last night I was up late sandwiched between my boys in our little bed with Stella bear on the cot folded out beside us because Andrew is away on business, which means the kids sleep with mama. Don’t get me wrong, we co-sleep regardless if dad’s home or away, but they tend to not start out in our bed if we can help it. And also, we love sleeping with them. We truly do. We love that it gives our babies security and comfort and closeness to us, and yet it’s so hard, almost too hard, sometimes. And and and. Parenthood lives in the land of “and’s”, and I’m forever learning more and more to embrace the multitude of paradoxes along this winding road that is our journey of lessons and love together.
Anyway, Andrew has traveled a considerable amount this year, however this trip marks the very last of his leaving until March. Hoorah! And while I know this confession is due to come with a host of judgement, which is sadly often the norm for us mothers these days, I’ll share it anyways: parenting alone is lonely and hard and far more exhausting than anything I’ve ever done. Bedtime especially, because it’s the end of the day when everyone has had their fill, rightfully so, and feelings begin flying and tears start streaming and negotiations to have one sleep in his/her bed just becomes far too much work for the weary. It’s the part of the day that my husband and I usually get to unwind together, and when he’s not home it just doesn’t feel as homey. It’s then when my patience is worn particularly thin, lending little time or energy to self-care in the slightest. Single parents and caregivers, I do not know how you do it, but I look up to your strength and admire you.
And Andrew doesn’t even travel full-time! Alas, I miss him terribly when he’s gone, and that bout of sadness always gets folded into the extreme and never-ending responsibility that is mothering 24/7 for days on end, taking care of three little ones who need their mama for everything and seem to need her much more when there are not two of us tending to our family. And I totally get it, they miss their dad too! They miss our rhythm and what our days feel like when we are all together. I understand why they need more of their mom during these times, and I know I will look back fondly on the memories we are making when sharing a room and bed, but it also takes a lot of energy and means less sleep, which can be maddening. While trying my best to keep perspective and know this this too is a season, I think it’s also important for mothers to be able to say aloud to one another without judgement, “This is really hard. I need help, encouragement, and sisterhood – and a few “me too’s” wouldn’t hurt.”
So there I was, cozied up in bed with three snoring babies nearby and my favorite girls on the screen. It was an episode about adults with special needs, the hardships and surprises of pregnancy (naturally), familial relationships, and new beginnings. I was teary-eyed through most of it, as I often am, every so often wondering if what I was doing as a mom was enough. It’s crazy how the mind rolls and loops on silly things, self-doubting things, when the house is still, dark, and quiet. It’s usually when everyone is tucked in that I look at them and wonder, “Oh, heavens. Did I do enough today? Was I enough today? How can I do better tomorrow?” I was just about ready to turn in, when Jenny’s familiar voice started speaking and I tuned in for a final embrace, her words catching me in in soft moment, as if the evening was choreographed by something that can only be called divine. As someone who has struggled with perfection and worthiness and far too often believes her insecurities, these words were ones that sang right to my core, sending a spell of goosebumps from my toes to my nose. “Perfection is not a polished thing.” They lifted me up and pushed air deep into and out of my lungs, making me feel alive and whole as a mother who’s doing her best in a moment that was hard and not perfect, yet wonderfully enough.
I knew as soon as I heard them I needed to share them with you, because if this space is anything, it’s a safe one where we can share our wonderfully unpolished lives and how we as women are striving to see good and do better. Not to be perfect or to achieve perfection, but to rest in the present, to know in the marrow of our bones that this moment, in all its sincerity, vulnerability, connection, kindness, and mindfulness, is everything already. I am going to write these words from my favorite new/old show on a piece of paper and carry it with my in my purse, and maybe even make a book mark out of it to redefine perfection when its archaic definition seems to have a tighter grip. For you, from me, from Jenny…we can do hard things, you’re not alone, and we are stronger together.