- It is exhausting. It is exhausting in that exhilarating, new baby, so excited to be a momma way. The way that is empowering because you chose to grow this life and there is power in that choice. It is exhausting in the haven’t slept, let alone showered, in four days because your little one is going through some sort of sleep regression. This is not empowering, just tiresome as you try to help a tiny person figure out what their normal sleep pattern is. More than sleep though mothering tires us because of its constancy. Because there is always, at every moment of the day and night, someone who needs us. There is always more on the “to do” list, always one more enriching activity to engage our children in, one more event to attend. More even than those “seen” activities are the hours spent tucking and re-tucking blankets around cold toes, quieting angry or frightened cries, simply rocking in the lamp-light with a feverish baby on your lap. The unseen hours of being a momma are the ones that can draw us close to the edges of our sanity. These are the hours that cause our weariness. My husband used that word in conversation last night and I was caught by how true it was of how I can feel. The word weary defines how the exhaustion seeps into our bones, into our very tissue.
- Mothering is lonely. Or, it can be. If you have not found your mom-friends you can be physically lonely. By yourself, surrounded by littles all day. Later, you’ll be lonely for a truer type of friendship, people who have kids that play well with yours, sure. But also a woman or two who you connect with, a woman that you’d be friends with regardless of children. I often feel lonely simply because I am so not alone…I am completely overwhelmed with all of the kids. There is no “me” apart from “them” and I miss myself, the me I worked so hard to be true to, and to grow into is missing. Isolation inside of a busy house is such a difficult concept to understand, you have to experience it yourself to get it. That built in village somehow eludes us. We want it, need to have a group of people to do life with, but we hesitate to ask for it, instead feeling we were meant to be alone in this raising of babies. This is such a lie and I can’t live in it anymore. I know I need people. I know that I can not be lonely or all of the other aspects of mothering become overwhelming. I know that by allowing others to see my struggles and my failings I am helping them overcome their own. By being open to helping and to being helped I create a less lonesome environment and this is what I have longed for.
- It is chaotic. As in there is always a mess, always something that needs fixing, someone that is screeching. The chaos of mothering is seen in those videos about how a mom gets nothing done. Again there is more to it than that though, it’s a chaos in my mind. A never-ending stream of things to do, things that I will never, ever get done. It is a constant lowering of expectations of myself; that can break a person, let me tell you. It is always hearing all of their questions, always knowing where every item is in the house, always knowing what’s next on the calendar. It’s like being a secretary for several demanding, tiny people who will give me no time off. Keeping all of those mental tabs open can make me feel like there is a hive of angry bees buzzing inside of me. There is no remedy of this chaos. There is only begging quiet or stealing it from the wee hours. There is sweeping the floor around stacks of laundry because that’s just as good as it’s going to get. There is sending the screeching outside and one day realizing that in chaos we must create our own peace.
In all of this I see that being a momma is overwhelming. I wonder at the God-given ability in me to handle this life. I know that I don’t do any of this alone, and I know that if I had to I would have failed years ago. In the chaos, in the exhaustion, in the loneliness…the only respite is in Christ. I had tried to learn to meditate once, tried to still my mind and find clarity. Let’s just say it was hard and leave it at that. Recently a friend recommended a book that brought meditation back to mind and last night as I lay not quite asleep wondering how long before my tiny awoke crying (it was twenty minutes), I practiced. I breathed in and out focusing on the rhythm. While I had low expectations, I did find the quiet place in my body for a moment or two, that place in which no one is calling for my attention. It is freeing to get there, if only for that moment. I trusted again that God is right here, a calming presence in the chaos, a constant companion in my loneliness, the strength I need when I am exhausted.
Then I exhaled and went to soothe a three-year-old through her distress, not for the last time this night. As the chaos woke with me this morning I tried to remember that peace-filled place. While calm has eluded me so far, I have felt God’s presence all the same. I know that when I don’t get the quiet my body and brain scream for, I can still have rest. “Come to Me all who are weary…” Matt.11:28 The rest, the peace, the calm, the quiet. These are things missing from my mothering, true. Today I choose to focus on the good though. While I have struggled with the heavy load that mothering causes, I can choose joy even in this. And with a few good friends who understand when I wail via text message about the littles and their particular brand of crazy, I am better able to see the joy. The joy of being a momma, the joy of living in community, the joy in the sleepless nights and in the chaos, because I am not alone.
And so while mothering is exhausting, sometimes lonely and terribly chaotic, what I choose to feel this morning is none of that. Where I choose to focus my mental energy is on the overwhelming sense of how much love there is in my life. Yes, it is exhausting that my little people require so much from me, but they will not always. This part of my life is when I get to be so loved that they fight over who sits by me at dinner! There are days when I want nothing more than a long walk with a friend, days when I am lonely while surrounded. I try to remember that all too soon my children will be grown and it will be them that I am missing. The chaos stills at the end of every day, maybe not for the entire night, but it is there. Early in the morning when I wake to tap out feelings and emotions surrounded by the chaos of Legos and pop-beads I can see what’s missing from that mess; already my nine year-old has fewer toys on the floor. Her mess changing from dolls to drawing supplies.
It will happen, the day will come when my children would rather be in their bedrooms than on the sofa next to me. A morning is not far off when they will sleep later than I would like and I will go to wake them. One afternoon I will go to sweep the floor and I won’t have to pick up crayons or tiny animals first. It will happen, and I am saddened just thinking about it. So while this did take me four days to write out because of erratic sleeping patterns and a fussy toddler, and I did have to take a break from home last night, I know that my life is filled to the brim with love. That this time with my littles is fleeting.
My husband quoted this snippet of a verse to me once; “…Quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep…” I found the full poem long ago and I have always wanted to paint it on my wall as a reminder. It holds special meaning for me and I sing-song it in my head when my own fifth-child is making me question my sanity. As I turn off my computer now to jump into mothering I hope to stay in the joyful present all day long.