I’ve learned in my four years of either being pregnant or being a mom, that we, in the mother hood, feel that our mom-onality gives us an unspoken right to disperse nuggets of mom-wisdom to one another freely. There is one such nugget I’ve heard so often recently, that I had to ask myself, when mamas tell me that I will surely miss this stage of motherhood, do they actually even remember it?
With a precocious 7-month-old, a sassy 2-and-a-half-year-old, and a husband who works out of town, I am always exhausted and often frazzled. It never fails that in my weakest moments, sweating in line at the grocery store while my baby, my toddler, and my ice cream melt down, that another mom watches me with sympathetic eyes, and says, “Believe it or not, you’ll miss this.”
In these moments I am so taken aback that all I can do is reply with a half smile. It always leaves me wondering how that could be possible. Can’t this woman see that I am falling apart?
I haven’t eaten a meal where someone wasn’t sitting in my lap, or that I didn’t have to inhale, in at least three years. I used to long for leisurely, romantic dinners at a fancy steakhouse, but now I’d settle for 27 uninterrupted minutes with some Southwestern Egg Rolls at Chili’s.
I know this sounds like a small thing, but combined with the inability to complete a task as simple as brushing a tiny mouth of teeth without a debate that usually ends in tears (for both of us) or an arm-bar to get her to stay still, these “small things” start to add up.
Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been on time anywhere since my first daughter arrived on the scene. The astounding amount of gear necessary to leave the house with a baby and a toddler requires 90 minutes to gather and a Sherpa to move. Only you are the Sherpa, and back pain becomes your constant companion.
I have almost completely given up on wearing anything other than a momiform, because the second I dress up, I am undoubtedly splattered with formula/spit-up/drool/snot/markers on the way out of the door. My professional, pulled-together ensemble quickly goes from “confident business woman” right back to momiform.
Most often on these days, my eyes well up on the way to work, thinking that no matter how hard I try, or how early I get up, I will never be on time or feel like the polished version of me that I used to be.
But more than that, I am awash with mom guilt that I’ve rushed my girls out the door, lost the battle of the toothbrush, and had a breakdown when the baby puked all over her clean onesie, just as I was strapping her into the car seat.
In the evenings, if the little one isn’t crying for a bottle, the other one is crying for juice. If one doesn’t need a diaper change, the other needs to go to the big-girl potty. It’s constant movement, question-answering, and channel-changing until I’m done serving up chicken nuggets and wrangling them to bed. Then, I drown in a sea of bottles and laundry that need to be washed and try to get to bed before midnight — or before the little one wakes up for her next bottle.
How could a daily grind that leaves me perpetually covered in some variety of DNA, running full tilt right up until the moment I collapse, and questioning my ability to be a good mom and role model to my girls ever be something that I would miss?
Then I think about the moms who have told me that I will miss this stage of motherhood. They usually have children who are at least several years older than mine. I think of how their daily grind no longer consists of the quiet moments when a tiny face looks up at you and smiles during a middle-of-the-night feeding. How their daughters don’t need them to help pick out their outfit or brush their hair anymore. How a little hand doesn’t reach out for theirs when they cross a parking lot. How no tiny voice whispers, “Mama, I love you,” as part of a bedtime routine.
I think about those things, and I remember how I didn’t believe those very first mom-wisdom nuggets that were imparted upon me during pregnancy: “You’ll forget all about labor the second you see that baby’s face,” and, “Your love doesn’t divide when you have a second baby; it multiplies.” I didn’t believe those things before I’d lived them for myself, but now that I have, I can say that both are resoundingly true.
So this time around, instead of looking back and realizing they were right, I will do my best to remember that the women who’ve walked before me in the mother hood already know the truth.
I will cherish every challenge, hold those little hands, and kiss those tiny cheeks every chance I get, because the day they outgrow all of that… I know I’ll surely miss this.