I was volunteering at an event last week where my kids were encouraged to tag along. There was a woman there, a mother herself, yet years ahead of me in experience as her children are now long grown and gone. We made small talk throughout the morning; I learned a little about her family and she learned a little about mine. Or more likely, she learned a lot about mine as she observed our current dynamic of a high-energy, strong-willed three-year-old-boy, an 18-month-old tag along sister trying her mightiest to keep up, yet keep out of the way of his physicality, and me, eight months pregnant and just trying to stay awake, to stay active, yet rest when it allows, to stay patient, loving, nurturing, to enforce, but not interfere, to monitor, but not helicopter, to enjoy when both are happy and no one is crying, stealing toys, pushing, screeching, and I actually get a break from the never-ending refereeing it seems I’m forced into so often as of late.
She was so encouraging of the littles, both mine and the others that were there, so happy to be hands-on.
I was grateful for the extra set of hands that were around, and also a little embarrassed that I preferred to sit and watch instead of jump in to play trucks, eat pretend pizza, and build block towers to crash and build again and again. I told myself it was because my growing belly just doesn’t allow me to do as much as I want to right now, and that’s mostly true. Lately I’m happy to be handed book after book to read until we’ve got a stack toppling off the table vs offer another piggy back ride.
Through one of our later conversations, I learned she had stayed at home with her own two children when they were babies till they turned young school children, and her days no longer revolved around constant hands-on motherhood.
Instead of it making me feel so good about being in the beginning with such young children close together in age, the years ahead of us with so many firsts to experience together…it just made me sad.
Because last week didn’t feel happy.
It felt hard.
And exhausting. And trying. And like even though I wanted to enjoy my kids playing, I wanted a break from it. From the constant emotional and physical demands of two toddlers that expect me to be hands-on as soon as I hear their little pitter-patter in the hallway as daylight has just barely started to stream in through the cracks of the bedroom blinds. I wanted to ignore the to-do lists of being the mom, the chef, the maid, the chauffeur, the playmate and the disciplinary, the event planner and executor, the lifeguard, the photographer, the business owner, the dog-walker, the table-busser, and the laundry-doer.
It felt like it was meant to be an encouraging hug from the giving end, but from the receiving end, it ended up being a too-tight squeeze that knocked the wind out of me.
Are these really going to be the happiest years?
Because surely they’re meant to be different than this?
They’re not. Thankfully.
These days, these weeks, these years may be the hardest, but they are also the happiest.
I’ve never smiled bigger than when smiling at my babies. I’ve never felt more beautiful than in these blissful moments of motherhood. I’ve never been more loved, needed, and rewarded than my children make me feel right now.
I’ve never been more tired, yet joyful. More tried, yet valued. Tested, yet full of worth.
It’s a period where one can’t exist without the other, not in place of the other.
It’s always made me cringe a little to hear mothers far beyond me in years doll out advice to newbies like myself – “oh, enjoy every second, it goes so fast.” Because did you really enjoy being sleep-deprived for months on end, cleaning poop out of underwear, having your made-from-scratch meals just tossed to the floor?
I appreciate the sentiment. I believe you as you try to convey the unfair speed in which these first few years really do feel like they are fleeting, slipping between my fingers as I put my baby to bed, and he wakes up a child surely growing inches merely in a matter of hours. But enjoying every second is too unrealistic, too grandiose, too much pressure.
But making these the happiest years?
I can do that.
I am doing that.
And bless the circumstances that brought that woman and I together, just for a few hours, to remind me.