Welcome to this space for sacred storytelling.
Each week, we’ll be exploring what it looks like to walk in the darkness from someone who is in the thick of it.
Today our story of Hope in the Hard comes from an interview with my friend, Rachel.
I have a GREAT life. I have a kind and gracious husband, a baby on the way in March, and a vivacious and healthy toddler. I am ludicrously privileged to be able to stay home with my daughter, and I have a supportive family and community. I have more than I need and certainly more than I deserve. That being said…
Every so often, I feel the need to check the mirror and make sure that someone is looking back at me. Every so often, I feel like I am vanishing. The work that fills my too-early-morning to exhausted-nightfall is constantly undone or needing to be redone, leaving absolutely no sign that it ever was, at one point, done, and no reason to think that it ever will, at some future point, stay done. More frequently than I care to admit, my husband comes home from work to a mediocre dinner, an unkempt house, and me in a heap on the sofa, unable to identify what exactly made the day so exhausting. And while I try and fail over and over, my diplomas and hobbies and resumes and interests collect dust.
I go to the grocery store and everyone fawns over my daughter (she really is that adorable!). While in some ways, the shift in attention is a grace on my unshowered self, it leaves me as inconsequential as a chauffer. I am visible only in my proximity to my daughter, and as my pregnant belly swells, I know that I will be noticed only as the person attached to it. Even the work of converting food, water, and oxygen into a human is unseeable, though the perpetual nausea, insomnia, and miscellaneous pain are quite tangible. Tangible for me—invisible to everyone else. Altogether, I’m disappearing.
I am the Invisible Mom.
I used to be good at things. I used to be known. While I certainly was no shooting star in the corporate world, I earned a reputation for being intelligent and friendly and definitely worth my paycheck. I got annual evaluations and pay raises and lines to add to my resume. I did things that could be quantified and validated and actually seen. I really miss that.
This fundamental shift in my external visibility and validity has been… difficult to navigate. It’s been a lot of wandering in the dark—bumping into things and stubbing my toes—frequently painful, consistently humbling. I’ve also found a couple things that, somehow, help me move forward.
Mining for Gratitude
Each night before bed, my husband and I share at least three things we’re thankful for—specific to that day. Because we’ve done this for a while, I can usually find 6 to 10 sources for gratitude. A successful naptime. Completing a load of laundry. A text conversation with a good friend. Clear sunshine and a cool breeze. Fresh fruit with dinner. My daughter learning a new word. Finding the missing puzzle piece. The fact that I never have to live through this day again. (Some days are easier than others.)
I’ve come to think of this type of thankfulness as mining. Mining is mostly slogging through (literal) tons of stuff you don’t want to deal with and diligently sorting until you find the flecks and glint of treasure. Gratitude spots those bits of brightness and holds them up to the light.
When people ask me what I do, I tell them that I’m a Holistic Human Wellness and Development Manager. When they look impressed (and bewildered), I clarify that I’m a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps it’s a bit silly and small to create my own job title, but I wanted to dignify my “job” if only in my own eyes. After all, combining the functions of an informal counselor, facilities manager, inventory specialist, social secretary and event planner, fashion director, professional cheerleader, life coach, personal nutritionist and chef, budget manager, medical triage and in-home healthcare provider, literacy coach and general tutor, conflict negotiator, transportation coordinator—not to mention the intentional nurture of emotion/spirit/soul/body and instillation of moral values—is a bit of a wide load. This self-given job title is a way to readjust my focus on the privilege and opportunities that constantly hover at my fingertips.
Check the Story
When frustration starts to bubble in my soul, something inside me whispers “Check your story.” In those moments, have I cast myself as the ill-used heroine, Cinderella-slaving for a demanding and ungrateful family? If that’s the story I’m telling myself, then it’s no wonder that I’m exasperated and exhausted. What if I changed the story? What if, instead of a scullery maid, I’m a royal gardener, commissioned to faithfully prune and nourish, skillfully helping beautiful things take deep root and flourish. Or what if I’m a warrior, protecting the vulnerable, contending with evil face-to-face, training the next generation of defenders to be worthy of the fight. In all those scenarios, I end each day covered in grime, but it’s not the soot of servitude; it’s soil, rich with purpose and potential, or the dust and sweat of a worthy battle. Changing that story—even mid-internal-dialogue—changes everything.
When I started writing this post, I truly thought I was writing about how (or if) I was seen. The drafts and edits since then have made it clear that this struggle is really about how I see. How do I see myself? Am I deprived or blessed? An abused drudge, skilled laborer, chosen warrior? How do I see my world? Full of trial or full of treasure? Rife with obligation or rich with opportunity? Choosing and changing my own viewpoint is… powerful. And empowering.
Realistically, the majority of my work and position as a mom will probably stay unseen. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe the better endeavor is to improve my vision.
Seeing more clearly is invaluable, even when I’m invisible.
Rachel Yorkowitz lives in central Indiana with two delightful daughters (toddler and fetus) and a husband who graciously navigates her terrible puns and lackluster housekeeping. Curious what would happen, she made and released 1,000+ little clay birds which migrated all over the US and beyond. Rachel loves vivid vocabulary, fresh bread, and turning discarded bits of “nothing” into Something (it’s a Redemption thing).