It's no one thing, and it doesn't even have to be anything that is legitimately, inherently difficult: pouring a bowl of cereal, reading a short story book, answering my phone, SMILING, doesn't matter-- some days each and everything thing that I am asked to do feels like a 1000 pound weight on my back and takes every ounce of energy for me to do.
And on those days while I go through the motions of this vocation, straining so hard to just do the simplest things, the guilt begins to build up about the fact that I am not being cheerful, that I don't seem like I want to be doing this, that my gratitude is not palpable. I really wrestle with that guilt and then it starts to compound how hard everything already feels. And why? Why do I feel guilty? I am here, I am doing what I am asked to do, I am showing up.
The problem is that "just showing up" has gotten a really bad rap. We're told as mothers that we should "thriving!" that we should be "all in, all the time!", and yes, I totally agree that we should strive for those things-- strive to thrive, strive to be all in. However, in the mean time, while we mothers of many little ones trudge through these trenches, there will be days that will feel totally crushing, and all that we will be able to do is show up and do what we're asked to do-- and there is nothing about this that should be guilt inducing, it is absolutely OK to just show up.
To be clear-- I am not talking here about doing things with anger or with a bitter or resentful attitude, which would be actually sinful, but simply not being a ball of cheer and not being-- or even trying to fake being-- into it. This job is the hardest there is, and yet no matter how much I tell myself that, or how much other people tell me that, I still let guilt over not doing it perfectly dominate so many of my days.
Pressure abounds in every direction to put a cheerful face on everything, I have resolved to do it myself: to make this motherhood thing not look as incredibly difficult as it is, and I think that this is the ideal, this is what I hope will be the rule and not the exception for me one day. But for right now these incredibly difficult days come more frequently than the easy ones, and on the really rough ones, just showing up is actually me fulfilling the duties of my vocation as best I can.
On the really hard days, everything in my being wants to check out, call in sick, to not show up at all. So not only should I not feel guilty for only showing up, I should feel triumphant about it. I am here! I am doing it! Yes I am pouring the bowl of cereal as if my arm is made of steel and the box is a 50 pound weight, and yes, my face may look like someone just ran over my kitten, but I am pouring it. I am changing the diapers, I am wiping the bottoms, I am even reading the story book, albeit with a voice akin to Ben Stein in the eye drop commercials, but I am reading it.
During this season of my life, even the "easy" days are full of very trying moments, and no day is without it's fair share of opportunities to be heroic in virtue. But maybe showing up is its own "virtue" during this season, maybe it doesn't need to be a smile while changing a diaper, or doing all the funny voices in the story that express my gratitude for these many blessings, maybe some days just showing up and doing those things is enough.