A couple of weeks ago my friend Melissa asked to borrow a Crock-Pot for the church potluck. I was shocked that she didn’t have one. I thought every mom had a slow-cooker. Don’t they send us home from the hospital with one?
She could have told me she didn’t own a vacuum or a sofa or a toilet and I would have been less surprised.
Apparently hers broke a while back and she didn’t feel like spending money on a new one. I get it. Crock-Pots are not expensive, but they aren’t a sexy purchase either. I can see where passing it by once becomes passing it by every time when a mom is desperately trying to get out of Target with her credit score intact.
But at the same time, I thought it was an act of treason for a Minnesota mother of four to be without such a sacred appliance. So I bought her one for her 40th birthday.
At first I thought it was a brilliant idea. But soon, doubt crept in.
I got my friend a Crock-Pot for her 40th birthday. A Crock-Pot. What kind of friend buys a slow-cooker for a milestone birthday?
Questions swirled in my brain along with a nagging fear that I screwed up. Will this insult her? Depress her? Remind her of the middleness and mundane that is life as a 40-year-old mother?
Maybe I should have gone for some wine. A spa day. A fun outfit or a snazzy new purse. Maybe I should have taken her out for a night on the town. Dinner, drinks, dancing until midnight. You know, jazz it up. Live like we are 20 and all that. YOLO!
But then it hit me. The truth that is inescapable. We ARE middle-aged mothers.
We are smack dab in the thick of it. We are wiping noses and driving to activities. We are volunteering and helping with homework and making dinner. We are up all night and henpecked all day. We are caffeinated to combat bone weariness and grasping for the energy to dole out snuggles and stories. We are cheering at soccer games and bursting with pride at piano recitals. We are kissing preschooler boo boos and wiping teenage tears and pouring all the love we can into our babies.
Motherhood is not glamorous. But it is precious.
As I approach 40 I can number the days with my family under one roof. And if I could hit pause at any moment of a chaotic day and look around at the scene … happy kids, piles of dishes, backpacks, toys and a home full of the detritus of family life … I would smile.
I don’t want to wish this season away or pretend I am in some stage of life I am not. I want to celebrate the middle. Because in the grand scheme of life, this season is short.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized Crock-Pots give a mom the most precious commodity she can have … time. Time for the kids and time for the husband. Time for a book or time for a nap. Time to be in two places at once. Heck, time if we want to go out for drinks and dancing.
My preschooler and I worked to wrap her present in Christmas paper. (It was all I had around.) We brought it along to church because in addition to receiving a Crock-Pot on her 40th, the day consisted of meeting a bunch of friends at the church to decorate for a women’s event.
Again, I felt like we were failing big time on Melissa’s birthday celebration.
But later that night, after we were finished hauling chairs and arranging flowers and decorating tables, Melissa sat quietly on a bench in the hallway. Her husband settled beside her and gave her a squeeze. Kelsey snuck into the kitchen and pulled out a beautiful homemade cake. Ali and I herded the kids together shushing them all the way down the hallway. Melissa pretended not to notice all of the commotion.
All of the kids gathered together, the candle casting a glow on their excited faces. They giggled and sang out Happy Birthday to this woman we all love so much.
It was everything beautiful about motherhood and friendship and community wrapped into one moment.
And I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate.
It turns out, Melissa’s husband also got her a Crock-Pot. So apparently great minds think alike. Here’s to celebrating the middle, Melissa! Happy 40th!