I got a message this morning from a friend saying she waits with bated breath for my friendsday posts, and while I am sure she was being dramatic for effect, she’s not the first person to express his or her excitement over reading these posts. While I would flatter myself to think that you love reading because I’m such a spectacular storyteller, the reality is that I think it’s something so much more.
We are all busy—some of us too busy—and yet, each week, somewhere between 150 and 250 of you have taken the time to pause in your day and read a story. And you want to know why I think this is happening? Because in a time where more information is at our finger tips through cable news and smart phones and social media, we all want to be reminded that we’re human. When every other story on my Facebook wall is something about war or mass shootings or corrupt politicians or celebrity gossip, I don’t just want to read something uplifting. My spirit NEEDS it.
I have friends who use their talents as nurses and baristas and teachers and booksellers to bring smiles to the world’s face through their work, and in that vein, writing is the talent I can use to heal and serve and encourage and educate all of us into a better place.
So, with that, let me introduce you to my friend, Leigh.
I met Leigh when her husband, David, took a call to be the associate minister at our church in Charleston. The majority of our friendship-building happened over wine and cheese at the women’s Bible study Leigh held at their house, where we and a few other “same stage” women studied the Bible and other spiritual-ish matters, while bonding over the challenges of toddler-rearing. It was on those Wednesday evenings, when I was stuffing my face with Danish blue cheese because I’d forgotten to eat lunch that I realized just how wise Leigh was. Also, she always had wine. Did I mention that?
At the time, there was a book circulating among my peers called Mommy Wars that addressed the issue of the tension and criticism happening between moms who chose to work and moms who stayed at home. The “mommy blog” phenomena was relatively new, as well, but the conversation being had at the time was one similar to what our mothers experienced in the years during and following the women’s lib movement. What is the “right” choice? Can we “have it all” so to speak?
Leigh is a CPA whose schedule is typical of her profession—long hours. With each of her children, she took the requisite maternity leave and then went back to work. I, on the other hand, was the poster child for stay-at-home moms. Together, we were the benchmarks of motherhood, and our culture was telling us that we should be at odds, judging each other’s choices, and feeling inadequate based on that comparison.
Often times, I think the fear/judgement/tension involved with anything that is different is dissipated quickly when one is exposed to living, breathing, fleshy difference. As I got to know Leigh, I had a real example of what a working mom looked like—not some cartoon character of a frazzled executive whose children call their nanny “Mom.” I hope in return Leigh saw that I was not a disheveled, crafty, jumper-with-baby-spit-up-on-it-wearing nightmare with no ambition that is often portrayed. Was she frazzled sometimes? Maybe. Did some spit up slip by me once or twice? Sure. But the reality—and this is the case with most issues that divide us, I believe—is that we both lived in the middle most of the time.
Leigh’s girls are smart and funny and loving and opinionated. Watching Leigh mother her children was and is a gift because it is obvious that they know they are loved and are being raised to be caring citizens of the world they inhabit. David and Leigh’s kitchen is covered in school artwork, and their family room is full of games and toys and books and comfy chairs for snuggling. I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is steady independence—the sense that when they go out into the world, they can hold their own, and when they come back, we are their safe place. When I saw pictures this summer of Leigh’s oldest daughter’s trip to her first overnight camp, I thought—man, Leigh knows what she’s doing. (Sidenote: I’d put David on a list of top ten dads I know, too.)
And in all of that, you know what is not a factor at all? Leigh’s choice to work outside the home. My admiration for her as a mother has nothing to do with that choice and everything to do with the fact that while her day-to-day hours look really different than mine, she has clearly placed loving her children at the top of her list of priorities. It’s evident in both her attitude toward her children and in the way those girls love their mama.
In a season of my life when I was sorting through the messages being sent about motherhood, Leigh encouraged, edified, and supported me on the good days, and she commiserated with me on the bad. She’s the kind of friend every young mom would be lucky to have, and she’s one of the reasons I try to be that person to all my friends who make different choices than mine.
Leigh, you are one of the most honest, caring, down to earth women I know, and it’s an honor to watch you grow your happy little humans. Thank you for your inspiration.