This is for you, moms in the trenches. Moms with two or three kids under 5 years old. Moms with nursing babies and potty-training toddlers. Moms with spouses who work long hours or travel for days or weeks in a row. Moms who cannot see the ends of their days, as they never actually end.
I see you at the grocery store, trying to shush and entertain your antsy kids while double checking your list. I see you at the park, pushing the baby in the swing while simultaneously watching your toddler careen down the slide over and over. I see you bouncing the baby on your knee at your 3-year-old’s gymnastics class. I see the giant bag of cheerios and bottle and half-chewed books you brought in the hopes of entertaining him, even though all he wants is your set of keys and your necklace. I know you regret wearing it, but you shouldn’t — it made you feel pretty, something that might seem rare these days.
I know what your days look like. I know you’ve looked at the clock at 10 AM on a Tuesday and wondered how in the hell you were going to pass the next nine hours. Or the rest of the week. You’ve read the Thomas the Train book 11 times. You’ve built the tower of blocks, knocked it over, clapped at how exciting that was, did it again, and again, and again. You’ve played peek-a-boo and baby dolls and put all the Little People in a row 900 times. How is it only 10 AM?
And I know that you seethe with anger when your husband walks in the door and riles the kids up right before bedtime. I know how badly you need your day to be over. How desperately you long for a minute when you aren’t Mommy. You’ve been counting the hours until bedtime and now fun Daddy is here to prolong your day. But you can’t actually be angry because what kind of wife would you be to criticize him for that?
This is your life. You know you should be grateful. You are grateful for these perfect little humans of yours. But you also wish you could run away, just for an hour. Or maybe a whole day. But you can’t say that. You can’t even think it. Because what kind of mother would you be?
I know that you want to smack moms of older kids who whine about having their kids home for the summer or on a snow day in the winter. There are no “winter breaks” for you. This is your life every day of every week of every month. Summer looks like fall which looks like winter. Tuesdays look like Fridays and March looks like October.
I know how isolated you feel and that the loneliness can be crippling. But I also understand the effort involved in going out with babies and toddlers. I understand the dilemma of a park invite — being appreciative of something to do while processing the reality of what that means. Sun screen and and snacks and drinks and hats and sand toys. You will return home exhausted as you won’t sit and relax the entire time. Your toddler will fall climbing up the slide. You’ll have to scoop up the baby and perch her on your hip while you wriggle your 2-year-old out of muddy clothes to go potty. Your car will be a soggy mess and you’ll have an extra load of laundry to do. But oh, to have plans for 90 minutes of the day might make it worth the effort.
I know that you see yourself in the mirror and think you should be doing more to take care of yourself. Other mothers do it. Why can’t you? Why don’t you exercise more? Eat healthier? Wear makeup? Dress better? I know that it’s just so damn hard to care right now, while you are down there in those trenches. It is hard to care about your belly flab when your shirt is covered in spit-up or peanut butter most of the day. It is hard to prioritize a shower when you are on your last three diapers and your toddler refuses to eat any vegetables and the baby was up all night teething. I know that you are just too tired to care about yourself.
I know where you are because I was there not too long ago. But I am coming out of the fog now and I can tell you, Momma, it is so beautiful here. Today my kids had friends over and they all played upstairs or outside. I sat at my dining room table and talked to another mommy friend for an hour straight, uninterrupted. Yesterday my kids crept downstairs and played on the iPad and ate breakfast in the early morning. I did not get out of bed until 7:30.
We recently traveled with our kids, and guess what? Packing took an hour. That’s right: Only an hour. I no longer needed 90 diapers, a pack & play, 15 pacifiers, a sound machine, a baby monitor, baby shampoo, or burp cloths. This time their bags consisted of clothes, shoes, pajamas, and toothbrushes. Done. We can now spontaneously meet up with friends at the park. We can stay later than planned or run an extra errand without the worry of a nap schedule.
I know it is so hard right now, but let me tell you this: It gets better. It gets easier. Your exhausting clingy babies will soon be fun young people you can play Monopoly with and take to the movies to share a popcorn. You will be able to breathe again. And one more thing: Those other moms you’re jealous of who seem to have their lives together? They don’t. It’s a dirty little secret. None of us do when we are down in the trenches.
Hang in there, mama. You’re doing a good job. You got this. I’ll see you on the other side.