My family is more than four months in to this temporary situation of living apart – my husband in Chicago during the week, the kids and I in Houston. There are many things about our circumstances for which I am grateful: a company that is taking great care of my husband, a good job that provides for our family, the knowledge that he isn’t (typically) away for too long at a time. We keep in close touch via the phone, computer, and texting. And my kids are – when properly motivated – a great help to me.
Life is good.
And life – as a mostly-alone Mother of 5 – is hard.
But if life is hard, it bears asking: “as compared to what?” I mean, life is life. Which is what I’ve been trying to tell myself recently.
Sometimes I’m not very convincing.
When I read the following excerpt on a friend’s Facebook wall the other day, I burst into tear. YES, yes, yes was all I could say. This is why I’m so exhausted, this is why some days I feel defeated, this is why I have so little left right now for friends, housekeeping, taking care of myself.
(from the Washington Post advice column “Tell Me About It,” by Carolyn Hax. first appeared May 2007)
When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm’s way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.
It’s needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.
It’s constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.
It’s constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends, well-meaning and otherwise.
It’s resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone’s long-term expense.
It’s doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything — language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything.
I don’t mean to seem ingrateful for my very blessed role as Mother. In fact, columnist Hax went on to recognize that yes, motherhood is a choice, and certainly a joy. And I absolutely agree.
It’s also just nice to see validated – in black and white – all the very reasons why I as a Mother feel challenged and stretched every day. This is a tough gig. It’s hardly ever just one thing, but everything that conspires to test my mettle.
Which is exactly why it’s my everything I will continue to put into this phase of my life, along with God’s daily gifts of strength and encouragement, and the knowledge that this too shall pass, that I will pass, and that everything will be well in the end.