I called my husband a few weeks ago on the brink of tears. It was 6:15 pm, and those long afternoon hours that precede his evening homecoming (that time any stay-at-home mom knows full well) had already stretched into infinity. Sometimes I think the clock spins backward between the hours of 3 and 6 pm.
He answered at his office. “You’re still there?” I blurted out. Realizing that it would be at least another 30 minutes before he was home. Home to take the baby from my hip, home to wrestle with the boy, home to break-up the sibling argument, home to give me a moment to breathe, just breathe.
“I’m just about to leave,” he said. “What’s up?” And then the dam broke; tears that had been welling up just below the surface all day spilled over into an ugly river running down my cheeks.
“I can’t do it all!” I cried. “Someone has a need at all times. One is hungry, two are fighting, one is bored, one is wet, one is poopy, the house is a mess, the dogs are barking to go out, then they’re barking to come in, they’re shedding all over the floor, the baby cries when I put her down, dinner needs to be made … I can’t meet all their needs!”
It had been one of those days. You know those days too, when you’re stretched so thin it feels as if your skin has become threadbare, your patience worn out. When one more child clinging to your leg may just cause you to collapse into a heap on the floor.
The truth is, I’ve had more than my fair share of days like that lately. Days when a simple t-shirt and jeans qualify as dressing up, when Starbucks is sanity in a cup, when a drive to the grocery store is a reprieve.
This mothering of multiple little ones isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a standing appointment in the refiner’s fire, a harsh pruning of selfish desires, a tearing down of individual independence. Yes, it’s chubby toes and dimpled smiles, hugs that drape around your neck and eyes that melt your heart, but it’s also diapers changed, mouths fed, tears dried, cries quieted, lessons taught, babies carried … all with nary a thanks.
I remember sitting in the rocker with number two shortly after she was born. She was wailing, and I was trying to quiet her while tears fell silently from my own eyes. Tears of intense love, exhaustion, frustration and guilt, all in one mangled mess.
I hadn’t expected the transition to multiple little ones to be so difficult. I was stretched in more ways than I could have imagined. My time was divided and yet my demands had doubled. But slowly sleep-deprived nights gave way to less-sleep-deprived nights. She grew from tiny tot to precocious toddler, and I grew (quite uncomfortably at times) into the new role of Mommy to two, complete with its new set of trials and joys.
And then just six months ago, number three came along, and that intense stretching began again. The heat turned up on the refiner’s fire, the pruning of selfish desires commenced. Number 1 needs help with his Legos, Number 2 needs a diaper change, they’re both hungry, my phone is ringing, the dogs are barking to go out … and all this while the baby is nursing.
The reality is, no matter the number of children, mothering is never easy. It’s a daily (and all too often nightly) laying down of yourself. It’s watching your heart take on flesh and walk around with a mind of its own. It’s a tempering of the spirit: boil, cool, repeat. It brings us to our knees and softens the rough edges.
Those of us who have little ones, we’re knee deep in the trenches and elbow-deep in macaroni and cheese. There are Cheerios underfoot, spit-up on our shoulders, and battle scars in the form of newly discovered crow’s feet. Our knees are bruised from stooping to tie shoes, and our arms ache from lifting up babies.
And yet, we awake each morning, and we do it all over again because our heart swells with more love for those little ones than we ever thought possible. We look at them, and we’re amazed that we have the immense of privilege of hearing them call us, “Mom.” But sometimes, when the days stretch long and the nights longer still, we need to know that we’re not alone in this high calling of motherhood.
So if you’re feeling tired and discouraged, stretched thin and worn out, let me just say that we’re right there with you, and it’s ok. There’s an army of young moms—your comrades in the trenches—counting the hours till bedtime too. And while tomorrow is a new day and those days will eventually stretch into years … It’s ok to be worn out now, it’s ok to shed tears. After all, you’re doing the hard work, the sanctifying work. And sanctifying work is nothing if it isn’t gritty. Just know, sweet mama, that you’re not alone!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
THE WINNERS OF THE GREEK KEY BRACELETS (according to Random.org) ARE: Meredith Carter and Hanna Deland. Congratulations ladies! Send me an e mail with your address (shalene(at)shaleneroberts(dot)com), and I’ll ship one to each of you!