Years before motherhood knocked on my door, when it was a dream just outside of my twenty-something grasp, I belonged to a hard hitting, very cool gym in an equally cool neighborhood. At the time I had an even cooler job, despite feeling miserable in it, wrecked with imposter syndrome and an underlying sense that at any moment the rug would be pulled out from under me. The gym and its interesting members became an escape.
Joining this gym felt like joining a church. There was a closeness between people, a camaraderie, and instant community that I didn’t know existed outside of religious institutions. The people were a mix of attendants, and once, a woman with very short hair and large earrings wore a tank top to a class with the words emboldened over the chest: don’t be basic. That memory and those words stayed with me, as small but odd things in life have a tendency to do. I carried them in my head, ruminated on them, never quite settled with the meaning of the mantra.
My husband firmly denies that I’m what our society deems basic, but I know that I am. Really, I prefer it this way. I like driving through the Starbucks drive-thru with my kids in the back. I like Hallmark movies at Christmastime. I even prefer living outside of the city now, much to the chagrin of my 25-year-old-self. I love being a wife. I love being a mother. Those roles may not totally cover my personhood, but my love for them and satisfaction in them is enough. Even as society’s message can at times be at odds with this. Once, an outspoken friend remarked that they viewed marriage as modern day prostitution. My mother bristled, I leaned in to hear more, trying to understand. A local news station ran a story whose entire thesis was that stay at home mothers end up developing Alzheimer’s. I was horrified, would these years with my children at home sicken my brain? Leaving me unable to remember the moments I work hard to create for them?
After we left the city, I joined a Bible Study group at a local church. The women were a mix of ages, but many of them elderly. At times our conversations would veer into their stories of what our town, a suburb of St. Paul, felt like in their younger years. They also told us about their marriages which had already lasted the ages of our parents. Once, another young mother and I remarked at our inability to find time to complete the homework for this study. I was pregnant with my second at the time and had a really busy toddler, too. One of the older women stopped us, “when you care for your husbands and children, you are in service and worship to our God.” This was a woman rooted in simplicity, embracing “being basic,” and all the while encouraging and uplifting mothers her granddaughter’s ages.
This Christmas I ordered matching pajamas for our kids, a tradition we’ve done as a family since Priscilla was born. A friend of mine did the same for her family. In a post on Facebook she wrote a disclaimer, “I know it’s basic…” on top of a photo of beautiful, happy smiling people. Who is telling us that matching with our kids at Christmas is a bad thing? Who cares so deeply about pajamas? Like so many, my childhood was dramatically different than the life my husband and I are creating for our daughter and son. These traditions feel like the building blocks of stability, consistency, and help form a foundation that may temper the storms of life.
Once I gave myself permission to embrace “being basic,” I found myself in a deeper place of peace. No, I have nothing to prove, just some cute kids, a good husband, and a very normal life at home. If 2020 has taught us many things, may one of them be the simple joy of embracing what it basic. Perhaps it’s not the villain we’ve made it out to be.