I could feel its intense glare on my back; a stark heat or radiation of sorts.
It remained silent, with its presence unnaturally heavy.
I stood wondering if I should say something, but sneaky as it was, it was present before I even realized it.
If I had the guts, I would’ve turned around and faced it.
The fact that I can no longer stay up past 10 p.m. should have given me the hint that it had arrived.
This thing called "Midlife" that I read about 15 years ago in my psychology class in college — I have a vague memory of studying articles on aging, parenting, and motherhood, but somehow, no one informed me that one of the most difficult battles would occur at the beginning of every day.
The elusive attempt to get from out of my house, into my car, and arrive at work in one piece and with sound mind.
For the past 15 years, I have been waking and leaving for work every day.
Each morning feels as though an awakening tsunami is approaching, in which my kids willingly decide to ride the tumultuous tide.
I’m currently considered a “late mother,” as I birthed my youngest (Ella) at age 34. My oldest (Tayler) is 15, and yet our journey to get out of the house remains difficult.
From waking my teenage daughter from her deepest sleep (she stays up most nights from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.), to attempting to wake myself after a long night of toddler-size-8 feet have rested neatly on my head, most mornings feel like a daze.
At this stage in Midlife, those mornings feel as if I am drifting in the river of sameness.
And yet, these wild and unstructured mornings on my way to work have taught me several lessons over the years. Lessons that I plan to share with my daughters when the time is right.
Lesson 1: There will always be baggage in life. Learn what to carry and what to throw away.
Somehow, we can never seem to leave with no less than 6 bags. Between the purses (the 3-year-old has 2), backpacks, and lunch boxes, to some, we may appear as doomsday preppers.
The truth is, most moms carry baggage, and much of it is hidden. We hide our hopes, our dreams, our frustrations, and make sacrifices for our families. We sometimes feel guilt over our choices, and play childish games of “mommy-comparison,” wishing we were more like other moms.
The older I get, the easier it is for me to downsize and get rid of things that aren’t beneficial. Whether it’s negative friends, poor habits, or today’s lunch, the daily journey to work has taught me to make better, calculated choices.
Lesson 2: Sisterhood is irreplaceable.
My 3-year-old keeps a pocketful of questions ready at all times and has a thirst for knowledge. She initiates conversation quite early in the day and does not cease until her eyes close.
My oldest, however, has a diagnosis of Down Syndrome is non-verbal. She uses a few signs but communicates through her body language mostly. The morning conversations are invaluable. Ella refuses to sit in her car seat until she kisses her sister. She frequently praises her and says positive statements like "Sissy is the best sister ever", and often tells me and her father that we are not allowed to “fuss” or “correct” her older sister. She wholeheartedly believes her older sister should receive anything she wants.
Even though Tayler (15) gives her an occasional eye roll, I often catch slight glimpses of them hugging.
I have a sister similar to that too. Every female needs at least one friend to “have her back,” throw her some positivity, and stand up for her; an added plus if that female happens to be her sister.
Lesson 3: The key to happiness in life is balance.
Most mornings, my 3-year-old corrals her brigade of Barbie dolls and arms herself with her Sunday "church" shoes, complete with her denim shorts. It is her form of expression, as she feels she must be "fashionable" (her words) everywhere we go. I've tried several tactics of negotiation and usually, we settle on a snazzy brown sandal.
I only recently found out that my husband has been paying her $1.00 to change her shoes.
In this war to get ready for work and school, I have learned compromise and balance. It's okay to give in sometimes and let go.
Knowing which battles to pick in motherhood and life is a process. Learning when to give and when to take or let go, is a key factor in finding peace.
And as far as Ella and her father’s shoe negotiations and contract, if it isn’t broke, I have no intentions on fixing it.
Lesson 4: It’s okay to have my own desires.
Many times, after arriving at my work destination, I simply sit in the car for just a few moments, inhaling the day's upcoming activities.
With no kids or husband, I take the moment to be, and I know that it’s okay to want some time for me. If even for that brief moment, time, and space, I have a chance to look into my heart and think about my own personal desires. Whether it's a growing career or business ownership, I recognize that it's okay to have desires separate from motherhood and that it is okay if my Vision Board includes more than just my kids.
Lesson 5: The car ride and journey to work won’t last forever.
One day, I know that our roles will be reversed.
Ella will drive her dad or me to appointments, and she will ask me to hurry. She may even show me patience and help me change my awkward, out-of-style attire. Maybe she will entertain my pocketful of conversation and humor my many “older-in-age” questions.
I’ve learned to appreciate the car rides, the laughter, and even the exhaustion.
For the river of repetition and sameness will eventually cease, and those things that appear to be a “hassle" will become but a fond memory.
Until then, I’ll do my best to take time and enjoy the ride.