It’s 6:07pm. It’s not supposed to be bedtime; but tonight, it’s bedtime. For everyone’s sake, the children must go to bed. Today we played in the lake and stayed out a bit too long in the sun. We skipped a nap, had cereal for dinner, and daddy is working tonight. I believe this is what one would call the perfect storm. It sure feels like it to me.
Before I was raising babies, I recall many days that were full, but not long enough. Days when I could have used just one or two more hours to squeeze in a workout, meet a friend for coffee, finish that writing project, or get one last thing done around the house. We’ve all said it, haven’t we? That “sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day” phrase. I know I have. Not too many years ago I believed it. And I’m sure one day I will believe it again. But, if you lean in closely and promise not to judge me or give away my secret, may I confess something to you? Sometimes, as a mama with a few little ones, it feels to me like there are just too many damn hours in the day.
With my whole heart, my whole soul, I love these precious gifts of mine. I will stare down any bully who chooses the wrong words and hurts them, and I would chase down and scare away anyone who threatens them. I can’t think of anything in this world I wouldn’t do to show them how far my love for them goes. But right now, I’m feeling really done holding the little one and, quite frankly, not too smitten with the older one. And the one growing in my belly, well, besides the fact that he makes me feel exhausted, we are on good terms. Still, today, I’ve got a parenting tank flashing the empty light at me, and it is time to put the white flag up and call this what it is: quitting time.
We are mamas. We get through hard days, that’s just part of what we do. And we forgive and regroup and God-willing, we sleep a little bit, and start over. But between tonight on empty and tomorrow morning on full, a few other things should help…
First, text a friend—not just any friend, but the friend who gets it— and tell her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Tell her what time it really was when you put the three year-old to bed. Confess to her that you let that three year-old talk to herself for the better part of an hour before she fell asleep. Tell her you never thought a moment would come when you wouldn’t really like your child but in this moment, you don’t really like your child. And tell her you need to laugh at something or you might cry. One hundred times out of one hundred, this friend, because she gets it, will respond with something like, “I’m hiding in my bedroom eating dinner alone.....left the kids in the living room with my husband an hour ago and haven’t had any desire to see them since.” And you fist pump through cyberspace in solidarity, because knowing that hard days are not unique to your home goes a long way toward living through the next one.
After that, do something that makes you feel some semblance of control: make the bed, load the dishes, shave your legs, write out a prayer, pour a glass of wine, put your cozies on, throw every single toy in the closet so you can remember for a few minutes that adults live in this house, too. Choose your thing, but really do the thing. Because doing something for your home or your heart gives you ten minutes of breathing room. And it may be the first ten you’ve had all day, so take them.
After you’ve sent your SOS and created just a little bit of margin in your physical or emotional space, fill your time until the house is quiet. Because the next and final step is the most important one. You can’t skip it, but you also can’t rush it. When your home rings of nothing but the beautiful sound of silence, walk softly down the hall, lean your ear close to make sure there is no sound of a little wiggling body, slowly open the door, and look. Look down at your baby sleeping. Watch her breathe. Marvel at how big she has gotten. Brush the hair from her face. Pull the blanket back over her legs.
It does not matter how rough the day was, or how bad the storm really got in the evening. It is impossible to not fall in love a hundred times over with your sleeping child. In an instant, she is innocent and carefree again. She looks like a three year-old, and you remember in that moment that some days she is just going to act like one. But you’re the mama, so you better put your big girl panties on and parent her to the best of your ability right on through the hard parts. In the soft nightlight and sweet silence of a little one’s bedroom, there is no room for anger, no space for re-living the drama of the day. There’s just you and the little miracle that you felt kicking in your belly what feels like yesterday. She made you a mama, all you ever wanted to be. You are the one God picked out to raise her, you are the one she needs.
Now close the door, and head someplace comfortable. It’s been a long day, and it’s okay to want it to be over. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. Motherhood is the greatest of greats and the hardest of hards. And no one can prepare you for the heavy emotion of simultaneously loving someone so much you could burst but wanting four hours away from this little someone at the exact same time. Tomorrow is a new day, with new mercy for the babies and new mercy for mama. This is the job we have. This is the job we get to do. How lucky are we?