I can’t get up another night with a sickly child. I can’t. But I will. Because it’s my job.
I can’t put your coat on again. But I will. Because I’m your mom.
I feel like I might scream if one more person throws up on the floor this week. But I’m going to bust out the Lysol wipes and take care of it without externalizing those feelings. Because “nurse” and “hazmat officer” are both well within my professional wheelhouse.
I lie in bed at night vowing to do better in the morning, to be cheerful and adventurous and to squat down at eye level and fling open my arms wide to each child with every boo boo, every altercation. tomorrow, I think to myself as I drift off, tomorrow I’ll be that kind of mom.
Tomorrow has yet to arrive. I mean sure, I have moments of joyful, bear-hugging compassion. Daily moments, even. But most of the time, 98% of the time, what love looks like, in this particular season (and somebody tell me it’s a season. If it’s not a season, well, I don’t want to know that) is gritted teeth, a faked smile, and a healthy dose of coffee mingled with duty.
Is the smile fake if it’s painful? Maybe the realest smiles are ones that cost something to the giver, come to think of it.
I’m debating pulling a third shot of espresso for the day, even though it’s well beyond my typical hard and fast noon caffeine cutoff, because it’s a late night at the office for Daddy, and I’m staring down the barrel of solo bedtime duty + vomit.
I’m tempted to gloss this over because it’s unseemly for a prodigious procreator like myself to complain about the proverbial bed I’ve made. But there’s something deeper here too, a growing awareness that real life and real love have less to do with feelings and a whole lot more to do with acts of courage, acts of grace, and acts of quiet, desperate surrender.
Motherhood is not easy, be your children few or many. And living a life totally given over for others, day in and day out, is as grueling a mission as could be assigned to a human being.
I’m pretty sure that’s why Mother Teresa looked the way she did, living conditions aside.
And while I’m no Mother Teresa (uttered with a straight face), I can appreciate the reality of a life given completely over to one’s mission.
Except sometimes I forget the mission. I fairly easily lose sight of it, truth be told. Especially when I’m sick, or tired, or feeling overwhelmed. I can get all worked up over how hard my life is, how much it costs to give the way I’m being asked to give, and how grueling the conditions often are. And when I start down that path, it’s so easy to draw the natural conclusion: that my children are the enemy of my freedom, that my decision to live as wife and mother has robbed me of some elusive and precious “real” job, that my 33 year old body would look like some kind of masterpiece were it not for the ravages of childbearing and chronic sleep deprivation.
But they’re pretty little lies. Benign little fantasies that I entertain from time to time, letting them flit in and out of my subconscious as I wipe that nose or pay that bill or fill that sink.
As much as I’ve endeavored lately to better guard my heart and mind from what comes in from the outside, I’m not always as vigilant with interior intruders, those thoughts and suggestions that might be my own, or might not be. Little half truths that sound almost like my own ideas, but if I were to stop and confront them directly, they might scurry away into a dark corner, fleeing the light.
It’s kind of like spiritual cognitive behavioral therapy. Challenge the faulty cognitions and, if they come up lacking, refute them with truth.
The most helpful refutation in my own mental struggle for peace is to claim my freedom and autonomy in the situation.
Yes, this is hard. Somebody just barfed Costco sushi in my hair. And while I did not choose this particular moment, it is of a piece of the collective “fiat” I gave when I accepted the position of mother of this particular child.
Or maybe, true, I am exhausted. Sleeping for 5 broken hours is challenging. But I will sleep again, perhaps not tonight, but at some point in the future. I’m here 0f my own free will though, and the coffeemaker is under my direct supervision. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Stuff like that. When I remember to have recourse to it, it’s incredibly helpful. And even just tapping it out right here has been a great mental reset to a Tuesday that has involved all manner of horrors including but not limited to regurgitated sushi.