Go forth. And mother.

You are she. 

 

The keeper of fruit snacks. The laborer of nine pound babies. The rocker of colicky babies, babies who won’t sleep just cause and babies who think night is day.

Her with sore breasts, and round, tired eyes. Aching hips and sore joints. You are she who is perpetually hunched over. With shoulders sloped over a crib-side, a kitchen sink, or a sheet of math homework. You could make a bottle of formula or change a Pampers Swaddler at 4 a.m. with your eyes closed, and you damn well pretty much do.

You are her of the frazzled hair, muffin tops and post-childbirth body. Her who lost her senior-prom hard body and driver’s license weight, her sanity, her car keys and her three year old in the grocery store.

She of the cottage cheese thighs, stretch mark bands on her once smooth places, and straw-like hair. She who both avoids the mirror because she can’t bear to look, and the woman who stares into the mirror and wonders where the person she knew went. You remind yourself that she is just in the other room, only a little out of reach. But you’ll find her again. Soon. Or maybe, you’ll hang out with this woman for a while more because you like how she is turning out. 

You are the woman who does not care. She who wanders Target in mom-jeans at 2 p.m., and the woman in Walgreens at 2 a.m. in food stained leggings buying motrin. And you aren’t even worried if you look like you have been partying at Coachella in the clothes you bought at Wal Mart. 

You are the late night sentinel- both consciousness and unconscious, the mid-afternoon chauffeur and maid, and the twilight storyteller

You are the woman in line at school drop off, at the dining room table sweating through homeschool assignments and waving young adults off to college. You are she who drops off casseroles when new babies come, soup for the person who needs a pick me up and the check for the electric bill. 

You are she of late nights, early mornings, long afternoons where hours move slow as molasses, and children ripen right under your watchful eye and also draw on the walls when you aren’t paying attention. You are the woman who draws with sidewalk chalk in the driveway and puts Neosporin on bee stings on lazy summer days. 

Go forth. And mother.

You are the woman losing her mind when the husband is home late from work. You live fifteen lifetimes in that hour as you watch the clock, stir rice-a-roni and peel crying children off your legs. 

You are the woman who doesn’t even care anymore. Let people talk. Let them stare while your child has a meltdown in the produce department. 

You are a work in progress, a tapestry unending, a Mona-Lisa-smile even when it’s hard old soul who has lived a thousand lifetimes through her children.

You are the woman who has only just begun.

You are the mom who doesn’t need to watch the clock. Who doesn’t care that the dishes are piling high and who knows she needs to run a load through the washing machine, but fifteen more minutes, please. Fifteen minutes more to snuggle, rest your head on your pillow, to sit and just be because one day it will be too late.

You are the person who thinks she is always getting it wrong, so much more wrong than anyone else has ever gotten anything wrong. She who never feels like enough, never believes that her good is good enough.

You are the mom who can’t remember what eight hours of uninterrupted sleep or her bed are like. What it’s like to be out at ten o’clock on a Saturday and not feel tired on a molecular level. You don’t remember what it’s like to feel like you aren’t always forgetting to do something but you do remember the name of every dinosaur from the cretaceous period and My Little Pony there ever was.

You are the person who rests her head against the steering wheel. Who turns on cartoons for her children and leaves the room to sit on the edge of her bed. Who lays awake at night. And cries. Oh, boy. Do you cry. Did you even cry this much when you were a baby? Did you know that you would cry this much ever again, and that it would be because you were raising babies?

You are the woman in the bleachers on a Saturday morning, in a seat in the bright orange high school auditorium with nine hundred other parents, but you’re sure that you are the proudest one there. The mom who shows up even when she is bone-tired because she knows that every moment from this one to that is worth it when she sees her child succeed. 

You are the mom doing it all alone. Homework. Parent teacher conferences. Moody teenagers. Cold and flu season. Missed school buses and difficult conversations and making ends meet. You’re carrying more than twice the load while you bear the stigma of single parenthood. 

You are the mom of a child with disabilities and constant health scares. You love them wildly. You worry about what they will do when you are gone, if anyone will care for them like you do. You manage appointments, critical and condescending doctors and medicine dosages. You would rather pull your eyelashes out than sit in one more waiting room or schedule one more appointment. You wonder where self-care has gone, and when your next date night will be. But you are sure that every step forward, every milestone, every life event that they are here with you is beyond a gift.

You are she who dances with her husband in the living room when the kids go to bed. You who squeezes in romance when you can because you have figured out that romance is not about roses and brunch, it’s connection in its most intimate form.

You are the girl who stands on the back porch when she kisses him goodbye and bids him head off to work. And you watch him climb into his car and you’re sure, while those kids are still sleeping, while you’re standing there in your pajamas with a mop of hair on the top of your head, and you are both exhausted, that life will never be this simple again. 

You are the mom who works. You pack lunches, and make it to soccer practice while your lungs want to burst out of your chest from hurrying so much to be in two places at once. You are the woman who bears the scrutiny of other moms who either wish they could go to work or who think you’re compromising everything to pursue your career. And you bear the brunt of coworkers criticism when you duck out for the pre-k class party and the school play. 

You are the woman who simultaneously wishes above all that she could just give up because it’s all too much to ask. And the woman who would never. Never ever. Ever. Let go. Because hope builds the bridge between not good enough and faith.

You are the woman on the street. The woman sitting on the other end of the line at her desk working customer service. The woman in the department store. The woman in Starbucks. The woman in the church pew. The woman down the street. 

You are all of us, and we are all you. 

Now. Go forth. And mother. 

 

 

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When your heart just isn’t in it – NaBloPoMo

A pizza cutter has become my undoing.

Several months ago, our resident pizza cutter went missing.

I swept through every drawer and canister in my search, and gave up looking for it in a huff of frustration. I remembered when we bought that thing, and then I realized that it was such a small, silly thing to even remember. And how utterly ridiculous it was to feel so helpless without it.

It was a big deal to me when we bought it because a pizza cutter was something we never had while growing up. 

It was one of those seemingly superflous things that could be found at any of my friend’s houses. Some unseen marker for civility and order.

Just like the way their families promptly cleaned up right after dinner, and started the dishwasher before they headed up the stairs for bed at night. Or the way that they used fabric softener, and didn’t overload the washing machine. I remember how they had so much discipline when it came to dessert, never eating the last of something, and even saving some for the next day to enjoy.

Those seemingly unnecessary details that quietly marked where civility begins were like a breath of fresh air for me. They are the things things that we should choose to take the time to do, if for no other reason than because we believe that we should care.

Because caring makes us act.

I grew up in a home of expedience.

Overloading the washing machine got through the laundry much quicker, even if we were treated to forty-five minutes of laundry banging loudly against the side of the machine.

We hacked through our pizzas with paring knives, serving pizza slices with jagged edges to each other.

The dishes sometimes rested in the sink until us children argued about it long enough for someone to finally take the turn to wash them, or at least, for our mother to make us wash them. Even then, we’d just indifferently load them into the dishwasher, slops of condiments and food bits sometimes still stuck to them. 

The details were something we didn’t fuss over. We did what was the quickest, the easiest. 

It wasn’t until I tried to manage a family of my own, and was trying to grow into the mom and person I wanted to be, that I realized how short-sighted this way of thinking can be. 

I always prided myself in how laid back and seemingly low-maintenance my family was.

A crock pot of chili was perfectly fine for Christmas Eve dinner, because it was far easier to prepare than a ham with all of the trimmings. Using paper plates and plastic cups at large family gatherings were perfectly acceptable, they allowed us to clean up faster. And before we soaked up the last of the Thanksgiving gravy on our rolls and our dinner plates were clear, our family was on the march to clean up and restore the kitchen to order. 

Savoring was not something we wanted to do. Because savoring meant work. 

Isn’t that ridiculous? The thought that savoring takes…work?

There are so many proverbs and cross-stitched pillows that beckon us to savor and enjoy each fleeting moment. To thoroughly appreciate them, we must redeem them by believing that we are squeezing each and every drop of leisurely pleasure out of them.

But we sometimes gloss over the fact that enjoyment takes diligence and work.

Sometimes, no, almost always, the grapes from the vine taste even sweeter when it was our hands that helped grow them. 

I have struggled with this at first seemingly benign mindset. I thought it was simplest to have quiet, settled children than paint splatter all over my table from finger paint. I thought it was easiest when they went to bed without a fuss instead of reading that book for the sixth time.

I thought it was easier to lean out than in. 

Because leaning out preserves my sanity and my energies. It gets us through the day quicker with not much destruction or unforeseen aggravation. 

I’ve leaned out so much in the last few months in particular.

I lost my dad.

And what I thought I needed was this safe space to exist in. This cathartic space to simply…be. Where if I gave up, and ordered an overly priced pizza for dinner, and let the dishes “soak” in the sink for a few more days time, that it would be easier.

Where if the husband put the children to bed, while I laid on the sofa and just stared at my phone or at the ceiling, it was the best thing for me. 

I thought I needed to be indifferent. I thought I needed to let go of the reins. Because having to function while in pain was too much to even think about.

When the truth is that having that luxury of space, and zero obligation, has taken away the challenge in my day to day life. 

I whisper to myself as my fingers glide over the face of a photograph of my parents on their wedding day, that I want to finish the bucket list my dad never made. Maybe visit places he never thought of. Hike to the top of some mountain and take in the expanse of life and greenery around me. Put my toes in every ocean I can. Get lost in a small town that  is hardly a dot on the map.

I say that I want to do these things, while I struggle to remain indifferent to what is happening around me. When maybe the thing is that I need to lean in. 

Yes, paper plates and plastic silverware, and tv dinners and quick cycles on the washing machine have their place. And sometimes, you just have to drop the attempts at dinner and order that pizza so that your mind isn’t lost forever. Practicality has its place. I am all about dollar menu McDonald’s in a pinch.

But sometimes, the things that keep our hearts beating are the things that are the most challenging. The things that tell us that no, we can’t stay here. We have to go. We need to move on, because we have things that are still left for us to do.

Sometimes, I think that if my dad were here, he’d take the time to scrub the dishes. He would spend his weekend afternoon in the autumn sunshine, raking the leaves that are falling like golden waves from the trees. He would relish the time to even be healthy enough to work.

Because in the working we are living to serve the things we love deeply. 

I can’t think of any greater love song sometimes than a barefooted momma, hunched over the kitchen sink in the dark hours of the night. Listening to music, arms at work loosening grit from a frying pan. The love song of folded laundry or arranged books on the shelves. How it creates this world where the people around them matter so much they want to create just the tiniest sliver of serenity in this broken world. 

The mom who cares enough to lean in. Who knows that pretenses don’t take the place of openness and warmth and serenity, but who is wise enough to know that the world may cave in, but you will always have warm food for you belly, something to wear on your back and my arms to fall into when you need me most. 

I want to be her someday. 

 

 

 

May Day

Things have been dreadful around here. 

Okay, so maybe the word “dreadful” is taking it a bit too far. But, I don’t want to lie to you, things have not been fun. 

The Northeastern sector of the country, where we live, has been drenched with rain for nearly the entire month of May. I am not exaggerating. At all.

This means a lot of days inside. A lot of television watched. A lot children going crazy from cabin fever. 

I must have jinxed myself. Because I started going to the gym again. I dared to catch up tremendously on lots of house work, and even thought I might be able to manage repainting my master bedroom this summer. I did all sorts of productive things. 

Which meant that, naturally, half of the family would be wiped out with sickness over the course of the last three weeks, and I would be considering fumigation as a viable housekeeping option.  

Let me back up to the three-solid-weeks-of-germs thing.  

I have had boogers smeared across my shoulder, and in my hair by grumpy and needy children. Fevers. Wakeful nights. More fevers.

Now, I’m even infected. 

I recently put all of the medicine bottles back in the bathroom the other day. We normally keep them handy in the kitchen when we are dosing children around the clock. Decorating with ibuprofen bottles and medicine droppers is kind of the hipster thing to do. You wouldn’t understand if you’re not a parent. </sarcasm>

This is what I get for deigning to think that we were done with sickness. Or that life was calm.

I brought this on myself. 

I feel like this is the way it always goes. 

We have a few good weeks. I feel on top of things. Things are running relatively smooth. 

Then the pendulum swings back the other way… 

And handily knocks me over. 

This is the cycle of being a stay at home mother. 

You feel as though you pay dearly for those lulls in activity and stress. When things seem too easy, you come to find out that they probably are, and you are reminded of the way that life is supposed to be. Or really is? I’m not sure. 

Everyone is telling you that you’ll wish you had these days back, but truthfully, nobody wants cold and flu and allergy season with small children. We just think that we do. We love the idea of nursing babies and kids through colds with soup and crackers, love and snuggles because it seems so easy. We don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Then we live it, and we try not to bang our head against the wall. 

See? The pendulum does a-swingeth. 

The best that I can do, as I console myself over the amount of television my children have watched and the amount of frozen meals that we have heated over the last month, is remind myself that I’m doing my best. 

It’s nothing magical. There is nothing outright soothing about reminding yourself that you are doing the best that you can do. It doesn’t magically do the dishes in the sink, or get the laundry folded, or the smushed banana out of the carpet. It doesn’t quell the fevers, doesn’t wipe the red noses. It doesn’t make that five hour stretch of sleep you had feel like eight. 

But sometimes, it does restore a bit of sanity. It helps us reset. The only thing that we can do sometimes is our best. And maybe try to tell ourselves that our children will remember us rocking them to sleep when they were feverish. Or how we laid in bed with them until they were able to fall asleep. 

I dare say, that my kids aren’t gonna remember how messy or how clean the house was on that Tuesday in May when they were four, and I were busy realizing that the place was trashed, yet again. But they do remember how I laid with them on my shoulder, with a wet rag draped across their forehead. 

They probably won’t notice the way that we moms breathe in the scent of their hair. Or how we couldn’t get over how pink their cheeks were when we were standing over them in the dark. 

Those moments are just for us. They’re our due as we try to reconcile the perpetual hurricane that is mothering. It’s the things that only we can notice, because only we can mother them. Only we can find a couple of snot-nosed, grumpy kids the stuff of poetry. Only we can sense the divine in days spent dealing with children who argue over granola bars or dumping toilet water on the floor in the bathroom. It’s a harvest that is ripe for the gathering. 

I’m off to medicate. 

Happy Tuesday.