I shouldn’t be writing about motherhood today. Today my husband is in Alabama instead of here in Austin, which is where he has been for the past week. Today I picked up my two exhausted kids from preschool and dragged them downtown for the toddler’s doctor's appointment, which included a lengthy hearing test throughout which he screamed hysterically. You can imagine how well the hearing test went, and how much I actually heard of the good doctor’s medical advice. Right now I have a brief respite while my overtired kids sleep (for like a minute) before I have to cook them (and hopefully myself) dinner and then drag them to the preschooler’s swim class, throughout which the toddler will try to hurl himself through the glass partition. And tonight I will bathe them, brush their teeth, and read and sing them to sleep before I can even think about eating or showering. Or sleeping. So, today I should not write about motherhood. I should save that for Saturday after my husband returns. However, a girlfriend said something today that resonated with me and inspired me, so here I am, writing about motherhood. Today.
My girlfriend just had a surgery and her entire arm is stuck in a sling, and her entire body is stuck in her house. She can't go back to work for at least a month, and this is the first time she’s been home full-time with her kids. While she is certainly enjoying certain aspects of being home with them, she is also feeling drained in a new kind of way. That’s the word she used, “drained.” She told me that constantly working to meet her kids’ endless needs is draining her, and she rather appreciates that usually when she returns home from work, some of these needs have already been met by someone else. Of course it isn’t all fun and games for her after she gets home from work, but she feels that she is able to enjoy her kids more. She feels that being home with them all the time is making it difficult for her to really enjoy her time with them. Listening to her talk caused something to click inside of me, or I should say “re-click,” because lately I have thought a lot about how I'm living in a constant state of feeling drained. I love my children dearly and I have made deliberate choices to stay home with them. I never regret these choices, but none of this changes the fact I spend a good part of each day feeling relentlessly drained. As a result I sometimes (more than sometimes, if I'm being honest) find it difficult to actually enjoy my time with my children. Ironic, huh, since I’m staying home with them in order to really enjoy their early childhoods.
There are exquisite moments, of course, but not as often as I would like. Sure there are stolen moments during the day when my preschooler and I can play a board game without the toddler cannonballing his round little self smack into the middle of it. Or we can read a chapter book together and take turns guessing excitedly about what’s going to happen next. Or my toddler and I can roll around on the living room floor, giggling hysterically for no reason at all, or, my favorite, he can jam his thumb into his mouth and climb into my lap for the sweetest of snuggles. I desperately love these moments with them, but these moments seem to number fewer than the ones that include preparing countless snacks and meals each day, much of which gets thrown on the floor or, even worse, in my face. And the moments that involve at least five poopy diapers a day (I'm talking about a toddler, not a newborn), countless battles over bathing and teeth-brushing and medicine-taking, yelling about too much bickering (or outright fist-fighting!), too much television, and too much, you know, overall "tantrumming." If I weigh the fulfilling moments against the draining moments, the scales are certainly tipped but not in the right direction. This is not okay with me anymore, and if I asked my children, I imagine they’d agree.
This is not about stay-at-home versus working moms because I imagine that we all feel this way at some point, regardless of whether we work part-time, full-time, or not at all. This about tipping the scale back in the right direction and cultivating more moments of joy, as many as possible, and feeling less drained less of the time. Parents of grown children stop to observe my crying, screaming, biting, fighting, throwing-each-other-out-of-the-cart children, and they always smile wistfully and tell me how fast it all goes and how much I’ll miss it when they’re all grown up. I know you know what I’m talking about because I know that these seemingly-crazy people say the same to you. And I know that they’re right. I know that in no time at all, I’ll be the crazy person stopping to warn other mothers about the tragically fleeting nature of childhood. But for now, when the crazies stop me and advise me to “enjoy it,” I want to be able to say, truly and sincerely and with joy in my heart, “Don’t worry. I am.” Some days I can say this, and I’m not so deluded to think that I’ll ever be able to say it all day every day, but I’d like to find ways to be able to say it more. I'm going to spend the next month (and by month I mean lifetime) exploring, experimenting, and trying my darndest to just enjoy, and I'll let you know what I came up with in my next post! In the meantime, please share the ways in which you cultivate joyful experiences with your kids and how you keep all the minutiae of motherhood from leaving you utterly drained!