I was going to title this post, “Someday you’ll look back and long for these days, and other bull&%$.” But, swearing’s not really my thing.
The long view — enjoy every minute of this because it goes by fast — just doesn’t work for me when I’m in the middle of chaos as a mom of four. And I’ve definitely been in the middle of it this week. You see, my husband and 9-year old twins are gone on a 6-day canoe trip, leaving me flying solo with 2-year old Jax and 7-week old Baby B.
Deep breath. I’m the mom, I can do this.
And most of the time I believe that.
When Jax and I are playing Thomas the Train while Baby B quietly sleeps in her day crib, I believe it. When he’s quietly “reading” books while I nurse B and check my email, I believe it. Even when Baby B is strapped to my chest in my Moby wrap while whipping up some pathetic dinner for Jax and I, I believe it.
But then day three (of six) sets in, and I’m beginning to wonder. After three consecutive nights of four hours of interrupted sleep, I’m wondering how many more days I can hold on. When Jax is screaming so loud that I’m sure the neighbors are going to call CPS and Baby B joins the symphony with her own blood curdling newborn cry, I think I might lose my mind.
And on day four when I’m cleaning up potty-training Jax’s accident and simultaneously stepping in dog pee on my new area rug, I feel like letting out my own ear-piercing scream. And, after finally getting both kids to sleep for the night, I look at days’ worth of dishes in the sink and four loads of half-folded laundry, and declare single moms of young children my new heroes. How do they do this day after day with no help?
I’m the mom, I can do this. Or I’m supposed to be able to do this. I’ve been overwhelmed before (I’m the mom of twins after all), and I got through it. But it’s not because I think that, 15 years from now, I’m going to look back and want these crazy days back.
I roll my eyes at those well-meaning comments. And don’t get me started on Facebook posts that declare moms shouldn’t worry about cleaning their houses and should instead hug their kids 24/7 because they’ll grow up someday. I mean, how many days can dishes sit in the sink or dirty laundry accumulate? I live in the real world (and I’m pretty sure you do too), and houses need cleaning despite the fact that our kids won’t always be little.
Those comments make me feel like a bad mom. So I’m supposed to love all of this? Because clearly, if I’m frustrated or overwhelmed I’m not grateful for my children. Clearly I’m less than. Clearly I’m failing.
That long view is fine at the end of the day when I look at my sleeping cheurbs’ sweet faces. And I’m sure it will be fine when they’re in college and selective memory sets in — when I fail to recall the crazy and remember instead the Kodak moments.
But when I’m in the middle of the crazy … when my toddler is playing in my overflowing toilet only to realize that my dog’s escaped out of the backyard fence (true story) … the long view doesn’t work for me.
The long view lacks empathy. It refuses to validate the gritty day-to-day struggle of momhood. The long view rolls its eyes at my overflowing toilet and, in a condescending voice, says, “O’ it’s not so bad. If you were a capable mom, this wouldn’t ruffle your feathers. Get over it.”
The long view is rainbows and unicorns. And there are no such things as unicorns.
Instead, I need to acknowledge that this is hard. That this moment requires me to dig deep to cope.
I cope in these moments by telling myself I can get through this day, this hour or even this minute. I have to break the long view down, because the long view is simply too abstract when my blood pressure is through the roof and I feel like my chest is going to explode.
When I break it down to minutes, I realize I can do anything. I can do anything for five minutes. I can nurse my newborn while soothing my overtired, crying toddler for five minutes. Because getting through those five minutes means I can get through five more. And before I know it I’ve gotten through a whole crazy day. And that day turns into a week.
And, yes, that week turns into years. And before I know it, my four cherubs will be grown. And I’ll look back and wish I could hold their little, sweet smelling newborn bodies again.
And I’ll have gotten there by breaking down the long view — by being brutally honest with myself, and acknowledging that this mom thing is not for the faint of heart. That it’s hard. And that I’m a capable mom. Who raised capable kids, one minute at a time.