It’s eight o’clock, and I’m finally about to sit down for what feels like the first time today. I have just walked out of my children’s bedrooms -- closing their doors, pausing the needs and putting away the little arms that cling to me, the little voices that sing to me throughout our days. Another day is done, and I might be sad about that if I didn’t know that I would be opening the doors back up again tomorrow to do it all over again, Lord willing.
The house is still and quiet now, allowing my mind to make noise. In the silence, I am filled with reflective wonders from the day. Did I give my children enough? Did I enjoy them as I should? For the years are short, they say.
But the days are long. And sometimes they can be hard to enjoy right now.
I don’t think I’m alone in that I don’t enjoy cleaning smashed blackberries off kitchen walls, or listening to siblings bicker. I don’t enjoy being late everywhere, and I don’t like smudgy handprints on windows. I don’t enjoy eating meals standing up, or doing endless laundry and dishes. I don’t enjoy cooking for people who don’t eat. I don’t enjoy wiping snot on my sleeves or getting splashed at bathtime or wrestling my thrashing daughter to get her changed. I don’t enjoy chaos, disorder, constant noise and mess. I don’t enjoy listening to Cocomelon while I drive. I don’t enjoy drawers of tupperware being emptied, or catching slimy frogs for my son when Dad is gone. I don’t enjoy surviving over thriving, and I don’t enjoy being asked “why” after everything I say. I don’t enjoy whining or screaming, or eating my kids’ sandwich crusts for lunch. I don’t enjoy brushing toddler teeth, frequently wiping rear ends, or waking up multiple times in the night to a crying baby. I don’t enjoy drinking coffee cold, and while he certainly has his perks – I really do not enjoy Blippi.
And right now, these are the images that define my days. Of course, there are sweet moments tucked beneath the trails of crumbs and tears… open mouth kisses, before-bedtime cuddles, newborn squeaks and snuggles, and the way my four year old’s face lights up at just about anything– like marshmallows in his cereal, his pet roly poly named Ryan, the car wash, a bunny under our back deck. These are the moments I know I’ll remember someday above all the rest – even though they do not represent the reality of our toilsome days.
I am aware that children are the greatest blessings, that the precious time with them is fleeting, that I’ll miss this all some day. In fact, I’ve never felt the weight of these truths more than now in these last four years in this role. I know that amidst the inconveniences and struggles in motherhood, the challenges we are given as mothers are the ultimate privileges.
But some days, everything feels hard. Right now, we seem to have more bad days than good. Lately, I struggle with not having enough arms to meet the needs of my three children throughout the day, playing triage all day, deciding who needs me most in each moment.
Like any job, there are frustrations, failures, and burnout. Mothers do not earn sick days or vacation days. Motherhood requires the strongest work ethic a person can have, as they must show up and get the job done no matter the circumstance, and without reward;
And what I am beginning to learn these last four years, is that motherhood is not simply meant for our enjoyment and fulfillment, as modern society encourages us to believe. There is an idea that’s gone viral that kids are for us, that motherhood is meant for pleasure– and if you love your life too much, you shouldn’t have kids because they’ll ruin your happiness. I held the expectation for a long time that my children would bring me great joy–and many days, they do. But while motherhood has filled me with more purpose and happiness than I have ever known, it has been the hardest thing I’ve done in this liftetime.
I continue to learn that our role as mothers is far more, far greater than to be entertained by our children. They are not here for us, but rather we are here for them. The goal of motherhood is not to have good days and easy times. It’s okay to not enjoy every minute, like they tell you to. It’s okay if you run out of patience, you’re at your wit’s end, you make mistakes; and it’s okay when 8 o’clock is your favorite time of day. This all just means you worked hard, and spent your energy in productive meaningful ways, serving something greater than yourself. Our role as mothers is meant to be challenging and sanctifying, calling out the selfish nature within us. It builds us into our best selves, and requires us to raise up the next generation to be better, to do better. It’s okay that it feels exhausting sometimes. It’s just proof of a job well done. There is no greater job, no higher achievement than learning to love and care for a person above yourself.
However, I have also learned that while motherhood is not always served alongside enjoyment, I must make the effort each day to make my children feel enjoyed. I want them to look back one day and remember the feeling that their mother fiercely loved spending time with them; that their presence was appreciated and longed for. Even on days where I feel the monotony creeping in, I try my hardest to keep my children from feeling they bring me any sense of boredom, or inconvenience. Only joy, even in the trenches.
And in the hardest moments, I remind myself that there will be days ahead when I would do just about anything to get just one more day with my children when they were small again. There will be a day when my house finally achieves the cleanliness and quietness status I so often crave – but I know the attainment of those things will not compare to the magical mess in the early days of motherhood… sprinkles and glitter dirtying the floors, missing marker caps, dried play dough on the kitchen floor: all proof of the fun times we had; picnic baskets needing to be emptied from our days under the sunshine together at the playground; the cries and endless demands from people who were so tiny but made me feel so big and important; the people who made me feel needed and loved each day; and lastly, the feeling of utter exhaustion as I climbed into bed each night, meaning another day well spent.
Most importantly, motherhood is teaching me that any task I am given, no matter how great or how small, is not for my own glory and fulfillment but to the One who called me to those tasks, to the One who gave these children and this life to me.
As a military spouse, I am often required to brave going out on my own with three young children to stores, parks, and other public places. And in doing so, I frequently hear something along the lines of “You’ve really got your hands full!”
I always reply with a smile on my face, “Full, but blessed.”
Similarly, as we all know it to be true as mothers, the days are long.
Long, but blessed.