Encouragement for the Road Ahead
Motherhood is such a funny thing. When you're in the trenches, you want so badly to be out of them. When you're not in them, you long to be back in. Or is this just me?
Although I don't consider myself out of the trenches by any stretch, this phenomenon has already happened to me a couple of times, and it's been such a distinct heartache that I can't even begin to think about how I'll feel when we are truly in the Big Kid Years (or beyond). I am truly becoming that older woman in the grocery store who smiles and says to the young mom how quickly these years go by.
When the girls were in school one morning this past fall, I found myself in the library during toddler rhyme time and I was truly sad that I wasn't in that conference room with a buddy in tow, even though I was pregnant with George and knew I'd be back there one day!
Yesterday Mimi and I were at the grocery store picking up a couple odds and ends and I saw another mother with two very young children in the cart, and she looked like she was expecting her third. My heart ached because my big kid was at school, my baby was home with my husband, and I missed the days of doing a full grocery shop with two little ones in the cart. Am I sick in the head? Those times were far from easy! But they were simple.
We are starting kindergarten in the fall so I'm sure this has something to do with it, but it feels like life is getting busier and a little more complicated, even though we are still in the baby years. For a moment, I missed having nothing else to do other than grocery shop with my two babies, even though it took us all morning and was truly exhausting, especially when I was pregnant with #3. Now it feels like we rush around a little bit more--not a LOT more yet, thankfully, although I know those years are coming for us--and there are always multiple kids in different places, instead of all at home with me all day.
For the same reason I loved winter break this year, I am looking forward to summer. I could easily dread it--all 3 at home with me every day for weeks and months on end--but I'm looking forward to laid back, simpler days with less rushing around and having all my chicks under my roof. I wonder how many times I'll cry about kindergarten. Brace yourself, Nick ;)
Remember when everyone wrote "Never change" in your high school yearbook? I am so glad this isn't a real thing. I think if I don't let motherhood change me, I'm not doing it right. If I'm not allowing them to make me kinder, stronger, more selfless, patient, and compassionate, what am I really doing here? And what am I teaching those little eyes and ears that are always watching and listening?
As a fairly low-energy introvert who loves peace, quiet, and order (and naps), I have had many times through the past 4.5 years where I've wondered how I'll ever reconcile my temperament with my desire to have a big, thriving family life. Wouldn't I do better with just one kid? Or maybe I shouldn't have had any?
I am so glad that God designs our families. My life is so much different than I could've ever imagined a decade ago, and so much better than I could have dreamed. There are so many myths out there that work against families, and I think the pervasive "me culture" gets into our heads and causes entitlement and also self-doubt. This job, when done right, SHOULD exhaust me. I SHOULD be pouring myself out for my family daily. They're not an annoyance--I chose them.
That doesn't mean I shouldn't do the things I need to do to recharge, but I think this should look more like a sustainable daily plan rather than the feeling that I need a spa weekend or a week away in the Caribbean. For me right now this means 1) plugging the girls into a morning show during the baby's first nap while I finish my coffee, do a morning devotional/pray, and do whatever I need to do on the computer for the day, 2) resting during their nap/quiet times, 3) going to bed early, and 4) making sure there's something fun on the calendar to look forward to that's just for my husband and me.
I was looking through Eloise's baby album with George early this morning while everyone else slept, and I wish I could've reached into those pictures and taken myself by the shoulders, given myself a pep talk, and instilled some confidence that I was doing a good job. Even though I did plenty of babysitting growing up, motherhood hit me hard. There was a long period of time when I didn't know which way was up. It did NOT come naturally to me. I struggled with breastfeeding, loneliness, insomnia, anxiety, and self-doubt. I remember during one of the dark times I asked my mom "Why do people do this???" and she said "Because they want to have a family!"
I wish I could have told myself that breastfeeding would get much easier, sleep deprivation wouldn't kill me, I would find my comrades, and that that baby blob would turn into a little person with a little personality that's fun to hang around with. I would tell myself that investing in my family is always worthwhile, even when it feels thankless and exhausting and lonely. I would tell myself that there will be hard times, and there will be really good times, and that these are the best years.
And if you really want a good cry, listen to Trace Adkins' song "You're Gonna Miss This," which Nick jokingly sings to me anytime we have multiple children crying at the same time or some other kind of high-level shenanigan. But really, I will miss this.
You're gonna miss this You're gonna want this back You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast These are some good times So take a good look around You may not know it now But you're gonna miss this