If I could describe the perfect day to early 20’s Ashley, it would look something like this:
Sleep in. Wake up, eat bowl of crappy cereal. Immediately call friends when fog lifts from eyes. Spend the day with them running around the mall. Grab something to eat with them. See a movie with them. Stay out ridiculously late doing Lord knows what at Dunkin Donuts. Go home. Repeat on Sunday.
If I could describe the perfect day for myself to you now, it would look something like this:
Wake up to a blissfully quiet house. Make a pot of coffee while I clean up the kitchen from the night before. Take a cup of fresh coffee with me to the porch. Sit in a rocking chair. Drink cup of coffee. In one sitting. While it’s still hot. Without uttering a word. To anybody. Go back inside. Shower. Get dressed. Probably clean some more. Take a drive into town. Have lunch by myself. Poke around shops by myself. Head home and watch a movie by myself. All without uttering a word. To anybody or anything.
I now appreciate the value and simplicity of…silence. Of space. Of doing things on my own. How easy it was before…well, you know how that sentence will end. My idea of relaxation looks a might different from what the Ashley of ten years ago would have chosen to occupy her free time with.
Time on my own, or time to do as I choose, is more like a fine wine now. It’s to be enjoyed slowly, not gulped. Savored. Appreciated. To get a good bottle, you have to spend more, so maybe you don’t have it as often. You don’t really drink it to get drunk (at least, this is what wine snobs say you should do, but what do they know) you drink it to taste every sip, to appreciate every drop.
Time to myself ten years ago was more like a wine cooler. Still very good, still gets you tipsy. More plentiful and easy to get. But you don’t savor a wine cooler, you don’t go slowly. You drink it down and then it’s on to the next.
I like doing things on my own. I don’t consider myself lonely when I’m home by myself writing on my blog, reading a book or soaking in a bubble bath. I remember telling to my husband that I am definitely the type of person to go on a weekend trip on my own and his puzzlement at my admission. He thought I would be lonely. Phffft. I’d check into a Motel 6 with a bag of greasy fast food so long as the door locked and the room had cable. I’ve pretty much done just that at least once since becoming a mother.
There are instances where I actually do feel incredibly lonely. They just aren’t instances where I would expect to.
In the trenches of the toddler years.
I could never have foreseen how lonely I would feel during the toddler years. That I would feel lonely when there were little people literally laying on top of me or clinging to my pant leg. Or while I’m trying to use the bathroom while little hands knock on the door. I feel so lonely when it’s my child melting down in the grocery store or being loud at a restaurant. How lonely it is to feel like you’re the only one out there doing dishes after 11 p.m. or washing sheets at 2 a.m. because you woke up to a chorus of children coming down with that stomach virus thing that has been going around.
How lonely I feel when I’m surrounded by so much noise and chaos and so many bodies.
How exactly does that work?
This could be sleep deprivation talking. I currently have a four-week old in the house and there is hardly anything relaxing about having a newborn when you already have two children underfoot. There is no more “sleeping when the baby sleeps,” whatever that looked like before anyway. There is rocking and walking and nursing and breast pumping and cradling and rocking some more and then repeating all of it 23 million times.
All while I watch the messes pile up around me, all while my older children want attention and a playmate and I can’t, nor really even desire to if I’m being fully honest, satisfy all of their needs.
Is it weird that I feel a little bit like Batman? I’m the mom that they need right now, just maybe not the mom that they deserve? There is something incredibly discouraging about feeling like “the only one.”
It’s hard scrolling through my Facebook news feed and seeing what people are up to – world travel, college, Saturday night trivia, wine tastings- and not feeling the slightest pangs of jealousy. I feel like they’re out there, amongst the land of the living, while I’m off to the side, still wearing the same pajama pants I went to bed in at lunch time.
I feel like a one woman island.
One thing that I have learned about motherhood is that so much rides on our perspective. How easily we can become trapped by how we perceive things are. How easily we can forget to find the joy in the mundane because we’re caught up in either how we think it should be, or because we’re so discouraged by how difficult it actually is. We don’t feel like life, the day-to-day stuff, should be this hard. But it is. We don’t feel like it should take so much of ourselves to get through. But it does.
The only things I feel like even remotely combats this attitude are these three pieces of knowledge: my children are not the enemy. I love them. And I am not the only one.
These years are going to be hard. Does anything about raising small people and teaching them not to wipe their noses on the sofa, color their arms with marker and how to wipe their own bottoms sound easy?
We should probably cast aside our romantic notions of raising small children as quickly as possible. When things don’t go “right,” when there is chaos brewing, I have to remind myself that my children are not the enemy. They may do things that drive me nuts, and sometimes they do fight me tooth and nail, but ultimately, they are not my opponent.
They’re my children.
And when we’re about to lose our marbles, when it seems like things are purposely being stacked against us by some unseen, malevolent force, we have to remind ourselves that it’s the nature of having tiny, loud, occasionally ridiculous people living with us. Making it feel more like what is simply the mechanism for raising a family, rather than a personal affront when my child piles a wad of toilet paper the size of a football in the toilet or when my infant poops immediately after I have changed her for the second time rather than a personal affront takes the edge off.
Remembering that these years are chalked full of some of the greatest chances for connection with my children is profoundly important. Remembering that these years are sanctifying, that I will emerge more disciplined, more focused, more fulfilled and better off is paramount. I’ll also probably emerge with way more gray hairs, wrinkles and circles under my eyes. But you get it.
I love them.
Whispering to them, and to myself, that I love them every opportunity I get works wonders. It’s less a conversational statement and more of a reminder to myself. I love them. I do love this. This is what I do. It’s choosing to pursue love in all of these mounds of ridiculousness that gets me through the day sometimes. Love IS a pursuit. Love IS an action. Love IS, at times, a stripping away of oneself until there is nothing left…but love. We just have to see it for its possibilities.
And I’m not the only one.
Where my tired, frazzled feet have tread has surely been walked upon by other mothers. Some with heavier loads and greater hurts than I. I’m not the first mother bathing children at 3:30 in the morning. I’m not the first mother to have an infant who cluster feeds until midnight. I am not the only one, despite whatever going on around me in close proximity suggests. There are others who understand, and if I’m being honest, others who have had it much harder than I.
It gives me a leg up to realize that I’m not the only mother scared of failing. Or whose kitchen floor hasn’t been mopped in a month. Or who hasn’t had a haircut in over six months. Want proof that you’re not alone? Google and read the vast ocean of mom blogs out there, written by women who are trying, who sometimes mess up and who seek the grace to try again the next day. You’ll see you’re not the only one. It doesn’t undermine your experiences or your feelings, if anything, it should validate them. They’re valid and they’re understandable. But they don’t have to control you, they don’t have to rob you of your joy.
Do you feel at all better? I know that after writing all of that, I most certainly do. See, I told you it was all mostly perspective.
If all else fails, there is also, wine. Wine is good. And bacon. And a nap.
So I know it’s technically what should be Day 4. But I have a newborn,
and I haven’t showered yet today. I am going to be participating in NaBloPoMo as much as possible.
I hope you’ll stick around and check it out. You can click to follow my blog
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