Before a woman has children, perhaps she has a few misconceived notions of what it will be like. Maybe she dreams of her daughter sitting on the counter as they bake Christmas morning cinnamon rolls together, only a slight smudge of flour on her daughter’s nose. Or maybe it’s her sneaking out of the room in a long delicate flowy “postpartum” robe, hair pinned just so, and the baby sleeping peacefully in his or her Potty Barn nursery. Bookshelves organized and untouched. And perhaps some do have these pre-kid visions. But I never did. Being the oldest of five, marrying into a family of five boys, having loads of nieces and nephews, and working as a nanny, I KNEW BETTER. But nevertheless, and with all the chaos that I knew was part of the deal, I wanted to have a baby. And Shawn did too (gosh, I hope he didn’t have those preconceived notions… him sneaking out of the nursery in a long flowy robe). We were married, happy, and it was something we wanted in our married lives. Raising a child was something we wanted to do together.
And here I am now, three years and six months in, and I can say that:
1. Yes there’s all the chaos and then some. You can run but you can’t hide, honey.
2. There’s never just a “smudge” of flour. Lord have mercy, there’s never just a “smudge” of anything.
3. It’s the greatest thing to parent together, to raise a baby together, to be a mom, to raise little lives that we prayed hard for.
4. It’s hard, just as I knew it would be.
5. It’s worth it!!!
Even with these things spelled out, I still have days when I’m like WHY is this day so long, and WHO signed up for this!? (Especially on nap strike days, which this day has been one of…please pass the dark chocolate with sea salt and hazelnuts) WHY is Shawn still at work, and WHY do I have to clean up my kitchen and THEIR PLAY KITCHEN TOO. *stomps out of the room like a child* I know, I know and I AGREE that the days are long (holy living Mary and Joseph they talk a lot now too, like without ceasing) but the years are short. I couldn’t agree more.
But when all you can see are the long days and not the short years, here are a few things I’ve been trying to come back to:
It’s done in God’s strength, not mine – “It” being all of it: cleaning mud out of the tile cracks, not yelling when someone pushes someone else, not giving up when the day has already been exhausting and now they’re crying at bedtime because God-forbid there’s a tiny amount of light coming in from behind the curtain and they can see it, being patient when they’re just now learning something for the first time (how to use a spoon, how to button their pants), how to respond slowly and in love… all day long. Every day, and again the next, and again the next. Even on nap strike days. YEP, gotta be done in HIS strength, cause otherwise I’ve tapped out around 11pm.
This is the last day they’ll ever be this little – OKAY, sobbing! But honestly, I love this perspective, because it help me value the time I have with them, this day I have with them, knowing that one day they’ll outgrow their baby cheeks and interest in having me hold them. I know that the more I focus in on treasuring them NOW, on this last day they’ll ever be this little, the more I’ll look back on this time and know I did what I could to treasure them and make the most of this time I’ve been given with them.
“I get to” vs “I have to”- this one comes from Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt and that perspective brings life into the every day. I GET to stay home and create fun memories and experiences for our girls, I GET to do the hard work of training them and teaching them to love God and others, I GET to love my family by taking care of our home, I GET to tend to needs, I GET to spend a lot of time with them, I GET to make them lunch! This can also be a prayer request when it doesn’t come naturally. “God, help me have a “get to” attitude” when I just really want to be in Cancun with friends right now.
The little things are special to them, so let’s live it up – to this day, Noella remembers the lemonade she had at the fair last February, even down to the green straw. The little things are special to them, and we’re taking it slow and letting them enjoy the little things now, knowing the big things will also be special later on, so why rush it? Sharing a sleeve of Smarties is fun for them. Watching Shawn build a snowman (yes, Texas has experienced a taste of winter this year) is fun for them. Jumping in the car and getting Wendy’s for lunch or driving to see the lake is fun. I love this quote from Mandy Arioto in her book Have More Fun: “Hot take: mothering can be fun. It’s amazing what can happen when you start by assuming this rather than the alternative. The narrative we hear over and over is that being a mom is hard and exhausting. I am here to challenge that assumption. What if it was invigorating, transformative, and the most fun work we will ever do?” WOW. If that doesn’t turn a long day into something more. Bubbles, nature walks, and dance parties, let’s show our kids that fun is worthwhile. And that we enjoy being with them as they take in the little, but special parts of their days, and ultimately, their childhoods.
They need me – I’m the only one who can give my children a happy mother. ME. I’m the only one who can model a mother who forgives, offers grace, but has standards of obedience in the home, laughs, dances, apologizes. They need me to love them, to listen to them, to care about them. It’s not a point intended to make you feel more pressure, but to show the value in just simply who you are to them. You’re mom. And you’re needed. Long after they’re weaned, and walking, and maybe even living in another state, you’re needed, because God chose you for the role of mom in their lives. So love well today, even if it’s one of those ‘days are long, years are short’ kind of days.
God sees the bigger picture and He’s working in all of our lives – through the longest, hardest days when I just don’t “feel” like being home again, doing the same mundane thing, with whiney kids and fights to break up, I have to remember that as I seek God’s strength and wisdom in raising our girls, it’s done by faith that God sees the bigger picture in all of our lives. He’s using this time, even the frustrating days, or the greatest days ever, to mold me into something, someone that He wants me to be. And He’s doing the same in the lives of our girls, if we ask Him to. And trust that He will.
I think often of the quote, “What you plant now, you will harvest later.” Planting is hard work man. But by God’s grace, the rain will come and beautiful growth will appear. We just have to take it one (sometimes long) day at time.
This is what we prayed for – this perspective is a game changer, because it reminds me that we prayed big, and that God in His goodness answered BIG. And that’s all I need to take on another day as ‘mom 24/7’ to two girls we have the privilege of raising in our home for a few short years.