Here is the scene unfolding at Target as I am standing in the checkout lane: My two year old is about to break his neck by diving out of the cart. While my back is turned to rescue him, my six year old has helped himself to an unpurchased breakfast of a jumbo-sized candy bar, and my four year old has shoved his head under the horrified cashier’s shirt. I’m pretty sure the lady behind me has already called CPS.
Exactly at this moment, a well-meaning older lady tells me to make sure I’m savoring every moment of this phase of life. While I appreciate her sentiment, the only thing I can think is: Savor this?!
An hour later we’re home, and the kids are lined up on the couch like little stair steps. They look so darling that I suddenly want to cry over how sweet their little faces look at that moment. I begin to think about what the lady at Target said, and I want to freeze time. Then I look over at my wall covered in sharpie, and I shudder.
How is it possible that these kids can be so adorable and SO MUCH WORK all in the same day?
On an hourly basis, I vacillate between marveling at the almighty preciousness of it all and wanting to tear out my hair.
The cruelty of parenthood is this: These kids need me so much right now that I’m stretched so thin that I feel like I don’t have enough to give sometimes. In a few short years I’ll have teenagers and plenty of time, which by then they will neither need nor want. I know in 10 years, heck even two years, I am going to miss these days and I should be relishing these moments.
But here is the main problem: I’m just so tired. The lack of sleep from co-sleeping with toddler who kicks me in the throat all night is brutal. But it’s so much more than that. I’m tired on a diabolical level. I’m exhausted from all the emotions raising humans entails: worrying, guilt, doubt and uncertainty.
I watch the kids changing right before my very eyes. It makes me so acutely aware of how quickly time is passing, I know I should be savoring all of it. But, most days I am just too overwhelmed trying to keep my head above water and trying to survive the daily grind to revel in these sacred years.
My life is a three-ring circus. If it sounds like I’m complaining, it’s because I am. In my defense, I just have so many people under the age of six to keep alive. But it doesn’t stop there. Apparently, I’m supposed to teach them morals, manners, and how to be good citizens.
So how on earth do we survive this motherhood thing? The best I can come up with is to keep on keeping on. Keep refilling the sippy cup, wiping up vomit, drying the tears. Go to therapy, send your kid to therapy, rob a bank, call your friend to vent. Do whatever you need to do to get through this. We’re in survival mode here, people.
We have to be mindful of the big picture but not let it dictate our day to day. Sometimes just getting the kids fed and clothed is all we can do. We just have to trust that these long days will add up to years and one day we will be the lady in Target lamenting about how rapidly time passes. Actually, I take that back. I know better than to wax poetic to some harried young mom. I will put my money where my mouth is and offer to watch her kids for a few minutes so she can pay for her hemorrhoid cream in peace.
Parenting is tough (anyone who tells you otherwise is both lying and insufferable), but it’s so dang worth it. It’s the most incredible, complicated and breathtaking journey. Once you surrender to the chaos and fully embrace the identity and calling of motherhood, it’s transformative . . . that is, if you can make it to the end of the day with your sanity intact.
Survive motherhood so you can live to tell the tale to the next generation of moms in line at Target. This is your mission should you choose to accept it.