It’s another Monday morning and I’ve just spent the last 5 minutes holding my large cup of coffee and staring into space. The big kids are off to school and the baby is still in bed. Theo is having a sandwich next to me and he’s happy because there’s food. This is my me time, a little pocket of minutes that belong only to me and I hold on to it as tightly as my mug of frothy latte.
I think of all my mornings, waking up and doing the same things, just plodding along chasing the next weekend. Then the weekend comes and I wonder why I was looking forward to it all week because it’s possibly even more tiring than the weekdays.
I think of how exhausting every single day of the past 8 years have been and I come to the conclusion that I really do enjoy being a mom.
Of all the things I’ve ever had to do in my life, this is the one thing that’s made me the happiest by far. How else would I have gotten to this place of 5 kids and no downtime?
Motherhood can drain your soul, but at the same time, it fills you up so that you find more to give the next day, and the next, and the next. It’s like carrying around a magical bag of love that fills up as you pour it out; that’s the only way moms can wake up every morning and keep doing what they do.
Do I look at the kids and wonder if we overestimated ourselves and bit off more than we can chew? All the time.
There are so many days when it feels like I took a huge mouthful and then realised that I can barely even bring my jaws together and bits of food is just falling out unglamorously and maybe I should just let it all fall out because my mouth is starting to hurt and I’m feeling chokey but I know I can’t just give up, so I try to shove everything back in with my hands and power through it slowly the best I know how. Just doing enough to keep it together till the end of each day so my magical love bag can fill up again.
So much of my day is exhausting and maddening and difficult, but also deeply satisfying.
Like for example, mealtime. Why is it so hard for kids to put healthy, (sort of) delicious food into their mouths? They know nothing about the journey of their lovingly-prepared dinners – mommy selecting the freshest produce from the market, paying for it, cleaning it, cooking it, arranging it beautifully on their plates. They just poke at it, make rude faces, walk around, decide to go poop midway because the food looks gross, spill it all over the floor. But then some days, they polish off everything in 5 minutes I’m filled with so much joy. I never thought I’d be so happy just watching another human being swallow food, but I am.
And then there’s bedtime. Putting a child to bed is the ultimate test of one’s patience and sanity. It’s when you discover answers to important questions like how many times can you say “lie down and close your eyes” before losing your mind. Kids have a special radar to know when you’re distracted or in a rush to do something else and they’ll deliberately slow things down until they know that you’re all in, it’s infuriating. I’ve learnt that the only way to do this with my sanity intact is to let it go and be fully present as I lie next to them with their heads snuggled up against my chest. I get to breathe in the faint scent of kids shampoo and feel their tubby hands in mine until all I hear are the long, deep breaths of a sleeping baby. I’ve had the chance to do this enough times and I’ll tell you right now, there’s no better therapy than having a baby drift off to sleep in your arms as you gently munch on chubby baby rolls.
How about homework time, the most miserable time of all? Should I even be a hardass about academics? There’s a lot of groaning and hair grabbing and sad faces (mostly by me) when I’m making them learn things. But when I see their eyes beaming with pride knowing that they killed it in a test, that’s all the payoff I need.
And also all the other in between time. Having to deal with a raging, tantrumy toddler and five minutes later, they’re holding my face and kissing me on the nose just because. One moment I’m physically breaking up fights and the next, they’re holding hands and feeding each other gummies. Urgh.
At the end of every day, I think about whether I’ve achieved anything at all, which is a sobering thought. I’ve driven kids around, fixed some snacks, read a few books, went through homework, cleaned snot from drippy noses, nothing noteworthy or important. There will be no medals or congratulatory high fives for the day.
Most days, I’m just getting into the trenches and just grinding out the routine but come bedtime, I look at my babies who are safe and healthy and thriving and I think, “I did it. These babies are still alive and happy because of me and that counts for something.”
These guys are all the trophies I need.