Dear Current Jessica,
Hi, it’s me. A wiser, wrinklier version of yourself who is—as Holly Flax would say in her best Terminator voice—“from da future.” I’ve been watching you with amusement lately. Not in a mean-spirited or vindictive way, but simply because I remember the depths of the emotions you’re wrestling with. I remember how it felt to sweat and struggle and wonder if you’re failing in all your roles—especially as a mother. I’m sorry to say you’ll never fully shake this feeling of inadequacy, but you will learn to diminish its power.
It isn’t easy. Days with little kids can be monotonous, like you’re living in a veritable Groundhog Day of laundry piles, sibling bickering, and vacuuming crumbs from the kitchen floor. I know you sometimes feel lost and invisible amidst the tasks and to-dos, but those things are like pebbles at the water’s edge. They’re real, yes, but they will be washed away. Release your grip; you’re giving too much weight to things not worth holding on to. Try not to worry so much.
I don’t mean to sound dismissive. I know saying “Try not to worry” is akin to asking you to fly or not reload the dishwasher after someone else does it. It’s like that day when your husband asked, baffled, why you were cutting red peppers for school lunches at 10 pm and you spat out, “Because I care!” Oh, my sweet, well-intentioned psychopath, you really do. I remember how consequential it all felt back then, like your kids’ ingestion of healthy veggies was directly correlated to their college acceptance. You care deeply—about everything from artificial sweeteners to the patriarchy. That’s your superpower. But it’s also the reason you grind your teeth at night. It’s a lot of pressure, trying to fix the world.
You have this habit of looking at deficits. This motivates you, but it also keeps you from seeing the glimmering miracles at your fingertips everyday. Notice them. Notice the way your heart leaps when you run your fingers through your son’s tousled bedhead. Notice the taste of strong coffee and the smell of lavender shampoo in the baby’s hair. Notice the sound of knock-knock jokes and whispered prayers and shrieks of childish glee from under a pile of blankets. Yours will be a life of window-rattling noise and vibrant color. It will always be too much and never enough. Accept this. Savor this. When you get overstimulated and overwhelmed: breathe. Let the small miracles buoy you.
I also need to tell you something you easily forget: You are a good mom. Before you start listing all the reasons to the contrary, hear me out. You track shoe sizes and dentist appointments and read parenting books in the school pick-up line. You clothe your kids’ bodies and feed their bellies. You fly kites and kiss bruises and fill your Amazon cart with craft supplies to fuel their creativity. Sure, you also spend a lot of time obsessing over small things, but you obsess because you care (now there’s a t-shirt slogan). You’re not going to do everything right, but that’s ok. Your family doesn’t want perfection, they just want you.
Dear one, give yourself grace. Be gentle with your discomfort and uncertainty. I know you often feel like an imposter. Like you’ve been handed your roles—mother, farm wife, functioning adult—but don’t have the basic skills to do any of them well. But God didn’t give you this beautiful life to watch you fail. No one gets it all right. I know those words may feel empty, but I have the benefit of hindsight and decades of perspective (as evidenced by all these forehead lines). It may feel like you’re in the trenches now, but frankly, these aren’t the trenches. This is just life. This is what it’s about. Pain and joy. Boredom and delight. Uncertainty and promise. There is abundance bursting all around you—just open your hands.
So, how to end? Shall I offer some vague platitudes? Motivational cliches? Tips from the future? I wish I had all the answers. But, even now, I rest in the liminal space. In lieu of certainty—which we know is a fallacy—let me offer permission. This messy, miraculous business of living isn’t always easy. But it’s worth it. Care for the people around you. Care for yourself. Center your heart on the only One who really matters. Be in the moments that count.
(Also, take more walks and start using retinol, but that’s another conversation for another time.)
My dear friends Kim Knowle-Zeller and Erin Strybis wrote a book called The Beauty of Motherhood that releases in a little over a week. Kim and Erin are exceptional, gentle writers with a heart for mothers and ability to see the magic in ordinary life. I know this book will provide so much hope and solidarity to women like me, particularly those holding the beautiful tensions found in motherhood.
This post is a part of the blog tour for The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years (read two more perspectives from my friends Fay and Melissa). With scripture, stories, prayers, and practices, The Beauty of Motherhood provides mothers with refreshment and the reminder that they are not alone as they mother. Order your copy at Amazon, Target or Bookshop. The Beauty of Motherhood releases March 21!
pc: Allison Christians Photography
9 thoughts on “Mother to Mother: A Letter From my Older Self”
Jessica, I love this! “Oh, my sweet, well-intentioned psychopath, you really do.” Laughed out loud at that. So good. And all so true.
I also laughed at that! I feel SEEN 🤣
Your voice shines so strongly in this piece, Jess. I found myself chuckling and smiling and nodding my head while reading this letter. Just wonderful!
I appreciate that so much, Erin! ❤
“ You care deeply—about everything from artificial sweeteners to the patriarchy,” love this and love your care and cheers to releasing the grip. I felt so much of this essay!