The title of my book Cupcakes On A Tuesday came from a line in chapter six, referring to having fun with my kids…in spite of the fact that I am very average at many parts of raising kids. Making cupcakes on a random Tuesday is a nod to the small acts of motherhood that may or may not be memorable…but the time and love invested in our children in that moment are important.
Being a mom is very, very daily. And I admit that, over the last few months, that dailyness has been wearing me out. The laundry, the meals, the whining, the fighting, the mess, the sticky, the loud. It has been exhausting me.
Being a mom always feels like eternal exhaustion. But this was next level annoyance.
And then a weird thing happened over the weekend. My youngest son, Levi, ran up to me in the kitchen, asked me to help him with a small task, then ran off.
The moment was seemingly insignificant, but he is nearing four…and watching his chunky toddler legs run off took my breath away. For ten straight years, I’ve overpinched chunky legs. And by this time next year, there will be no more chunky legs to obsessively pinch.
This moment shifted my perspective in a much-needed way. Those chunky legs melted away months of frustration, annoyance, and short-sightedness in an instant.
The middle years are newer to me, so I am having a tougher time navigating them. But I know the gangly tooth stage will pass as quickly as the chunky baby legs have.
This is not a plea to enjoy every moment because that phrase puts way too much pressure on raising kids. It is, however, a reminder (to myself, mostly) that the little daily parts of motherhood that can be exhausting and annoying are where real life is found.
Because these moments have power. They have the power to convey love. They have the power to strengthen a relationship. They have the power to make an eternal difference. Even when the laundry, the food, the refereeing, and the cleaning feel anything but important.
I already confessed to you that I have not been doing this well AT ALL. And no mom has to do this perfectly. AT ALL.
But perhaps you could use a shift in perspective, like I needed. And will continue to need.
My friend, Ashlie, posted a meme on Facebook, and one of the lines in it said, “Make home a happy place for the children. Everybody returns to their happy place.” (The author is unknown, per my Google searching)
I read this a couple of days after my soul-shifting moment with Levi (how dramatic can I be???), and it struck a chord.
Once again, I can not stress enough I would never expect myself or anyone to do this perfectly…and there is value in failure and weakness…but I do think it’s important to take note of the atmosphere of our homes. Especially as we are entering the holiday season (which is a whole other post in itself).
Everybody returns to their happy place.
My baseline goals of raising kids is for them to grow up to be valuable contributors to society and to have a good relationship with them.
I would say an important component to this is liking them now.
After that moment with Levi, I took a few moments to process why it impacted me so much. I realized I had completely lost sight of my role. To be perfectly honest, I had become very selfish. I had been playing the role of martyr mom.
Why does no one help me? (Even though they do.)
When will I have time for my dreams? (This is actually the life I always dreamed of. Also in 15 years, I will have all the time in the world.)
Why is everyone so messy? (I still wonder this.)
Why is life so hard? (It’s not that hard. It’s first world hard. Which is still hard. But not THAT hard.)
An annoyed, frustrated, short-tempered mom is not the mom I want to be. And it’s certainly not a happy place kids will want to return to.
This actually is the life I always dreamed about, and it’s better than I ever thought possible. I had lost sight of that, so I knew I needed to address my burnout.
The first thing I did was spend all day Friday cleaning my house. I am profoundly happier in a clean house.
Then I spent all day Saturday with friends. Both with my kids and without. I am profoundly happier around people.
Then I spent all day Sunday with my family. I adore my family.
(We played washers in the garage because it was raining but nice outside.)
My house won’t stay clean. I can’t always be with friends. And I don’t always have a laid back Sunday. But it was enough to reset my thinking.
Everyone has bad days. But if a bad day has become a bad month, perhaps, like me, it’s time to address why.
The old saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” is a way of saying that moms have the power to set the tone in the house. Kids will always be kids. They will always be sticky and always fight. I can’t change who they are, but I can change how I see them. And I can change how I react.
This holiday week is the perfect time to reset. Most everyone is off of work and school (for at least part of it.) A break from ordinary life is often a great reminder of how awesome our ordinary life really is.
My chunky toddler days are almost behind me, and this decade has passed by in eight minutes. In eight more minutes, my children will be grown and gone (that is the goal). My house will be clean. My fridge will be full. My laundry will be nothing. And I can have sex with the door open. (Sorry for that. I had to stop the pool of tears forming in my eyes.)
And, on that day, I know I will be so grateful for the days I chose to enjoy the present. For the moments I smiled when I wanted to scream. I hugged when my child expected a lecture. I supported my children’s dreams even when mine got delayed. For the moments when I loved well.
I know I won’t regret loving too much, laughing too often, lingering in a hug, saying an encouraging word, staying up too late, serving an extra scoop of ice cream.
And I have a sneaking suspicion I will long for sticky floors if it meant getting even one day for them all to be small again.
(Dang. Those tears came anyway.)