Whole Parenting Family

When Your Sister Has What You Don’t

Dear Sisters,

I can call you that, right? We who walk this world together, between our hormones, lost babies, lost loves, arms full, arms by our sides, hands slipped into one another’s?

Are you looking left and right and seeing what I’m seeing?

A postmodern home, beautifully spartan and utterly minimalistic with lavender crown wreaths at the back door alongside a leather tote that looks ne’er tarnished? Tarnished. All my stuff is tarnished. I’m constantly reminded of the meme you see floating that ends “. . . and this is why we can’t have nice things.”

A slender figure with lipstick and that one hat everyone wears on a whirlwind adventure, drinking cafe au something by herself but still has a love interest. I’m gaping at the by-her-self part of that.

A woman who has an entire collection of scripture studies wherein she actually did all the pages, all of them. Her prayer life is embarrassing for the rest of us because clearly we spend more time on Netflix than Jesus.

The friend who eschews social media and effortlessly harvests the wild mushrooms in her back 40, crafting and creating alongside her handsome bearded flannelled husband and well-mannered, self-motivated, unschooled children. I need social media for the bonds forged deep into the Facebook messaging evening.

These sound like hyperbole. Maybe parts of them are. But maybe it’s true. Maybe you look around and you simply don’t have what your sisters are having and you want a big serving of it. Maybe it’s not just Oh, no, your life is great, honey and more like yeah, you aren’t there or there and your “here” kinda sucks.

You know how this letter will end. I’m gonna wrap it up with something inspirational and reaching beyond ourselves and our feelings and tie it all up in a sweet bow so that you, too, feel affirmed.

But before I get to that part, I’d like to just acknowledge that we don’t have it all. None of us has it all. I thought this as I sat, ALONE, at my oldest’s violin lesson today. I pulled out my Blessed is She planner and took notes from his teacher’s instructions to him. No, I didn’t have my own pen but I did scrounge up a pencil from the recesses of the studio corner desk. It occurred to me: I’m not nursing someone this very second and I can leave the baby for an hour and I’m not pregnant and I’m actually taking notes at a lesson. From the outside, I looked pretty put together, like I had it all. Aside from my unkempt hair.

But that’s just not true.

My healing is slow from our daughter’s shoulder dystocia. I can’t drive far or long. I can’t sit without too much padding. I also can’t bounce around or walk too much, especially while carrying our 21 pound 7 monther. I lay in bed and feel my pelvic floor tell me I did too much today. I shift to my other side only to feel my SI joints talk the same talk and then fumble around for that special-between-the-knees pillow. I remember that I only did part of my physical therapy exercise regiment because life interrupted me. I mourn that I had to cancel my trip to Austin for the Edel Gathering even though all the parts were in place! because travel simply isn’t possible at this stage of my recovery.

I look around me at my sisters and brim up with so many unsaid longings, so many unspoken comparisons that will only end in me feeling resigned to my life instead of appreciative of it.

I don’t want to feel resigned, sisters.

I do want to feel my heart pulse out joy in its lub-dub. I do want to be happy for you, the woman in great shape, and you, the woman with a lovely home, and you, the woman who can homeschool her brood of little sweeties.

Here comes the big bow to wrap this all up, sisters. I get to choose. I get to choose to be appreciative that despite my failings and struggles, my life is one ignited by the deep flame of God’s love for me. No matter what, that will never leave me. I choose joy and I choose gritty real life. They’re not incompatible. They’re my best choices that lead me to be a bigger vessel for love for those around me.

How’s your story going, sister?





  1. Emily on July 25, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    thanks for sharing your beautiful heart.

  2. Lyssa on July 25, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    This was something I needed to read today. Thank you for being so vulnerable and honest.

  3. Celia on July 25, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Oh Nell, I needed to read this today. I’ll say a quick prayer for your continued recovery. <3

  4. Kristina on July 25, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you for this reminder- I needed it again! I’m struggling with my postpartum recovery too. It is a huge cross. One I never imagined…especially when I see other new moms bouncing back so easily-like I did with my first baby. I’m trying to give myself grace and mourn the postpartum I’d hoped for, but still recognize the beauty in the one I was given. Prayers for your recovery!!

  5. Patty on July 25, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing. I have a wee one too (9 months), my 2nd, and often feel like “sisters” with you because you always so eloquently hit nail on the head.

  6. Bobbi on July 25, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    I love this so much. xoxo

  7. Jessie on July 25, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    I long for those lavender wreaths and untarnished leather bags, too! Also, a white slipcover couch–who is the sorceress that can manage that along with kids??? It’s so hard and so crucial to make that decision every day! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Lindsay on July 25, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    I’m the one over here with the clean house and well kept kids. I’m the one who yells at my kids to get dressed and clean their rooms everyday. I’m the mom who has lots of guilt from parenting decisions and wish I was more like my sisters in Christ who can stand to have a messier house, kids with dirty faces and laundry left around. I can’t, I just can’t. My brain won’t let me focus until everything is in its place. This year I’ll be homeschooling 6 of my children and I’m already panicking and looking for something to clean so I don’t have to painstakingly teach someone to read… Again. No, none of us have it all together. Some of us make the presentation more of the priority. A symptom of my pride I think. Little by little He is tearing down those walls of mine and showing me what truly matters. That kids need their rooms to be left alone by mom ( except maybe once a week). The toy room can have toys all over and life won’t end. Dishes in the sink isn’t an emergency and breakfast for me is necessary. He is teaching me to slow down. I have preteens in my home who need to be treated very gently. Big little boys, who are sensitive and sometimes just need a hug. I’m slowing down and my well kept house, isn’t so well kept anymore. Like the old poem says:
    “Quiet down cobwebs,
    Dust go to sleep.
    I’m rocking my baby
    And babies don’t keep.”

    • Maria on July 25, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      I can completely relate to what you wrote. I am the one with the kept house, the clean children (most of the time – I do have 3 boys), the filled in Bible Study and would rather find something to clean than teach my almost 5 year old to read. I homeschool as well, so we have a lot in common. After adding our third boy into the mix 2 years ago and my husband now working from home I have been learning, by the grace of God, that my home can be a bit messier. Things can be out of place. I will be ok.

  9. Kathleen on July 25, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    This is the struggle of social media and more than that.. the struggle of life. Not comparing our life to others! I struggle with this! Thanks for being so honest!!

  10. Mary on July 26, 2017 at 3:56 am

    I do want to be happy for you, the woman with children, and you, the woman with a messy home, and you, the woman who can homeschool her brood of little sweeties.

    Here comes the big bow to wrap this all up, sisters. I don’t get to choose. I’m struggling every moment to be appreciative. I’m the pain, grief, and despair, my life is one crying out to God. The needles, the costs, the empty arms. No matter what, my children aren’t with me. I don’t get to
    choose gritty real life. It’s chosen for me.

    How’s your story going, sister?

  11. Laura on July 27, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    I hear you. I remember being very pregnant in horrible pain from my pelvis tearing apart the pregnancy prior, parked in a handicapped spot wondering how I would make it into the store and out again because this store didn’t have electric scooters. My brother called and told me that his wife who was due two weeks before me had just taught her last cycling class and was really upset that she had to stop cycling at 38 weeks pregnant. I just sat in my handicapped space and cried. Life isn’t fair and it’s so hard to feel like you’re sitting on the sidelines of your own life. It’s even harder when little people depend on you. My pain was so bad when my baby was 6 months old that I couldn’t care for him all day. So much bending and carrying. I went back to work. Surrendering to a new way of life is painful. There’s hope. I’m pretty much pain free now and can do all of the things that really matter to me. I won’t be running any marathons but I can go hiking with my family. Hang in there. I can carry my now four year old and every time I pick him up, I give him an extra squeeze for all of the times I couldn’t before. I missed that. Keep hoping for the best. Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal.

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 8, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      You really give me hope!! I hear you. Many around me had easy labors and deliveries after easy pregnancies and I struggled to remember we are all given a cross that fits us.

  12. Mara Yager on July 28, 2017 at 7:02 am

    Such a great post, thanks Nell

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 8, 2017 at 8:15 pm

      thanks, sister.

  13. Melissa on August 5, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    This is so beautiful and perfect. Thank you.

  14. Kerry on August 6, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    This really resonated with me on many levels. I like things to be just-so. I like organized schedules, neat houses, and things to go exactly as planned. I am an Catholic elementary school teacher turned stay-at-home-mom so I think part of my need for order and control comes from that but the rest is my perfectionist nature. After a surprise pregnancy at 36 (we had been told we could not have children), a traumatic labour and delivery and really horrible pre-and postpartum depression and anxiety, everything fell to pieces. Myself included. I had and have a lot of support as I continue to recover but things will never be the same in a good way. I am a new me now. Naps make me a happier and better mom than vacuuming. Sitting my tired self down when my daughter naps instead of organizing all the things is a better choice. Daily Mass would be lovely but I am confident Jesus loves our quick chats while I wash the morning dishes while crunching cheerios under my feet. Sometimes I feel the old me having a tantrum at this new way of being and doing and it is so hard to calm that voice. But there is so much beauty and joy in toys on the living room floor, duplo in the dogs water bowl, and chubby little hands pulling at my skirts to be picked up. I know that I will always struggle with my perfectionist nature and anxiety about being a good mom. But, this new way of being and doing has made me happier than I ever imagined I could be. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful reflection. It is very affirming to know that other moms understand.

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 8, 2017 at 8:15 pm

      we get it, we really do! What a good way to say it. New you. Yes!

  15. Emily on October 5, 2017 at 6:23 am

    Thanks Nell for a wonderful post. I have some on-going postpartum health difficulties and your post has made me feel a lot less alone. But oh, how I wish I had your deep faith! It’s a work-in-progress for me xx

    • Natural Mama Nell on November 20, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      I’m SUCH a work in progress. And my faith is slowly slowly growing!

  16. Grace on March 25, 2018 at 9:08 am

    My son was a shoulder dystocia birth too- at 9lbs 6 oz I thought I’d never really recover. Plus he was a TERRIBLE sleeper for the first 2 or 2.5 years. Thanks for sharing so honestly! None of us has it all is right. But we do have a chance to turn vulnerably towards Jesus and be showered in his grace. He’s always there waiting for us. Thanks for the reminder:)

    • Natural Mama Nell on April 11, 2018 at 6:47 pm

      SO HARD, sister!!