I spend a lot of time each day thinking about how much work I’m not getting done. Like now, for example, when I should be wrestling with my washing machine. Or showering. And earlier today, when I was trying to force myself into a relaxed state of ‘enjoy them while they’re so young and squishy like a pair of puppies’ while watching the boys ‘garden’ in our window box on the balcony, but all I was really thinking of was how much top soil was getting dumped on the tiles. And how Joey will probably suffer his whole life long from a lack of exposure to urban homesteading or something, because I think this was the first time he’d ever dug in real dirt with a real shovel. And John Paul…well his first birthday is Friday. And no one-year-old portraits! So grab the camera. And a broom.
Point being: I have a hard time just enjoying my kids.
I also have a hard time just enjoying being a mom.
Maybe it’s a straight-up occupational hazard for one whose occupation is literally defined by multi-tasking. Or maybe it’s some latent internalized cultural shame for not being something ‘more’ than a mom, which may explain why I’m always quick to point out my freelance career and the news site I curate when people ask me what I do for work.
What do I do for work? Everything.
Some days it feels like nothing, though. And even though the house is sparkling and the kids are alive and well in their beds, I lie in my own and wonder why I spent the last 12 precious hours with my head down and my teeth gritted, gutting it out until the finish line where toothbrushes and prayers marked the end of my shift.
I didn’t think it was going to be like this. To feel always like a failure and never like I’m finished. But then there are those rare and precious days, days where we might spend hours eating raisins out of the bottom of my purse and lying on the grass in the park, or kicking a soccer ball through the gravel until the sun starts to set…without giving a thought to the unplanned dinner, the unwashed laundry, or the unfinished plans. Those days are so precious. But they are necessarily the exception, because we live in a temporal world where stir fry isn’t going to stir or fry itself.
My trouble is in navigating between the two poles, between the moments of ‘oh this is bliss, this is what I signed up for’ and the moments of ‘is somebody going to come and take these kids away, because I am about to scream with the windows open.’
I want to live in the former state, because I know my kids deserve that kind of a mother. But I am not her. I am not the mother my kids deserve. I fail them everyday, in a hundred little ways. Sometimes it’s more serious, like letting someone roll off the bed and crack their skull against a marble floor. Sometimes it’s less severe, like yelling at Joey for slamming the elevator door after the millionth lecture about not bothering our elderly neighbors with stairwell noise. And then his little face crumbles because honestly, I yelled too loud, and I yelled because I was mad at him, and he’s two.
And that’s somehow worse than when somebody falls off the bed, you know?
The truth is, I’ll never be the mother they deserve. At least not if I spend all my free time planning and executing my endless lists of duties and desires while they nap in the rooms next door. If I spent the same 20 minutes in prayer I spend exercising every day, I wonder what would happen to my heart, and to theirs. If I stopped dwelling exclusively (but not entirely, fear not) on how much I’m screwing up, maybe I’d have some insight into the ways I’m not screwing up today…and maybe that would be encouraging.
Listen, I’m not about to change the tone or title of my e-reign or anything crazy like that, but I do feel a certain urging to expend some effort in elevating the conversation about motherhood, from time to time. Because along with a killer margarita recipe, which of us in the diaper and vomit-lined trenches couldn’t benefit from a little of that?
Because if I start seeing my work here with these little people as something more than an endless string of bodily-fluid-related incidents and shouting matches, I think it might change my definition of a ‘successful day,’ and with it, my sense of accomplishment vs. utter defeat come 10 pm.
I know in my heart that motherhood has an eternal objective. But Lord forgive me, most days I can’t see past bedtime.