It was one of those kinds of days.
The kind of day where you spend what feels like half of it stuck in traffic, banging your face against the steering wheel and the other half of it bowing to the whims of a toddler in what amounts to a futile effort to keep your sanity.
It’s the kind of day where you don’t care if the person sitting in the car in front of you with the license plate from Virginia sees you crinkle your face while you try to hold back tears of frustration.
I don’t have an answer for why the other day seemed so wrong, except:
It seems obnoxiously huge, this motherhood thing.
I knew that I was supposed to celebrate being a mom on mother’s day, and as much as I couldn’t wait to seen my children’s chicken scratch on the inside of a card, and see the exuberance in their faces when they handed me the gifts they chose, I also wanted to ask them why they didn’t care about me being their mother the other day, when I spent 30 minutes begging against all odds for them to eat their dinner.
Why don’t they care when I have to haul 30 pounds of everything to and from the car, and that when I sit down I don’t instantly want to get back up to take them to the bathroom or fetch them a drink.
Why don’t they care that when I vacuum the floors I don’t want to do it again because they left play dough all over the carpet and it dried out and crumbled overnight?
Why don’t they care?
The other day I sat on the floor in my daughter’s room, packing up my infant’s clothes, one of my least favorite parenting tasks. I gently folded one tiny onesie after another, and my heart broke while doing it.
All that I could think was that this could be my last baby, my last time packing away newborn onesies for the next potential baby. And that Ellie is, most likely, my last daughter.
Some days, I cannot stand living in this Lego and yogurt infested circus, and yet it pains my heart to think that everyday, I am that much closer to it being over.
While packing things away, I opened up totes full of baby clothes from my two older children and saw the keepsakes that I had held on to from them and had to laugh at myself.
I saw stained onesie after stained onesie. I saw clothes that were clearly lived in, not pristine and crisp and dainty.
I tried to think about the things that were going through my mind when I decided that while I could give away other things, I just couldn’t part with the white onesie with purple hearts that had food stains around the collar.
I had to keep that knitted sweater with the pink heart on it that had pudding stains down the front.
I just had to keep the pants with all the dirt stains on the bottom of them from my little ones scooting around in the grass on their rear ends.
I kept the things that weren’t perfect. I have boxes and bags full of them. And when I see them, it lets me see that I got some things right.
I’m trying to envision that Ashley from three years ago, kneeling down on the floor, packing up those clothes. Running her fingers over the baby-food colored stains and picturing her middle daughter, then an infant, sitting in her high chair, covered in food. She pictured her son, when he covered himself head to toe in Crayola marker, while sitting on the backstops in the kitchen.
That’s what she wanted to keep close. That’s what she remembered. That’s what I still remember.
Motherhood seems so huge to me.
It’s terrifying. It’s both a calamity and a joy. It’s intimidating. You don’t just “accommodate” motherhood. You can’t simply make some room for it. Everything in your home and in your waking hours (and let’s be honest, our bed time hours, too) becomes about being a mother.
And as our family has grown, and so with it the amount of laundry and dishes and noises and messes, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and more and more hectic, and I wonder how I am supposed to do everything that I need to do, something profound occurs to me:
Life will never be this simple again.
The dishes and laundry and crumbs and messes will replenish themselves. But the children will grow. They will stop asking me to play with them. They will stop needing me in the middle of a night when a thunder-storm wakes them.
They won’t be messy, one day. They won’t instinctively reach for my hand when we walk through a parking lot, or want to go get ice cream just because it’s a Tuesday.
This will all go away.
And sometimes, after days of being grouchy because someone smeared jelly, yet again, on my table-cloth, I catch my breath because I realize that I’m forgetting to see all of it. I only see messes and inconveniences, instead of seeing how large motherhood is.
Motherhood is more like a destination. It’s too big to be just a thing, too alive to just be an idea or even a role that we play. It’s bigger than we think that it is, and our reach goes further than we think that it does as moms.
Our years spent parenting are going to amount to more than dishes in the sink, stains on our clothes and interruptions in our sleep. When we look at the micro, instead of the macro, we will miss out on so, so much.
Sometimes, for me, motherhood is like a mountain on the horizon, with an air of mystery, a sense of challenge. Sometimes, for me, motherhood is like a shade tree, a place to rest, a place to stop and savor and watch. Sometimes, for me, motherhood is a winding road, lined with uncertainty and a newness like nothing else.
Motherhood is so many things. Motherhood is huge.
It’s never just about the stains on the onesie. When motherhood feels big, it’s okay. Let it. It is big. It’s largeness won’t dwarf you and your efforts. And it certainly won’t dwarf your love. It will only highlight and enhance all that you do.