It is 4:00 p.m. and I have hours to go before my head will finally hit the pillowcase. Of course, that pillowcase is currently covered in crushed up crackers, a smear of cheese from scrambled eggs at breakfast and frantic crayon marks from an overeager toddler who can’t quite color inside the lines. Before I turn off the lights and crawl in bed, I’ll need to shake those remnants of the day loose. I’ll need to grab a washrag and scrub off the marks and the stains, then turn the pillow over so we can begin the whole process over again as soon as the baby lets out a wail with the next day’s sunrise.
As a mama, my heart is so full. I would even dare to say it’s far fuller than my hands are, which is saying quite a lot. Yet, as a person, I can’t help but feel pushed to my edges sometimes, which is a sentiment I think we can all relate to. I texted my husband frantically as the 5:00 hour drew near today, asking him when he would be home and if he could please pick up a carton of milk at the grocery store. Oh, and some more eggs. Oh, and make it quick because I am currently on my 100th round of Musical Chairs and I don’t think my legs or my heart can take that much more.
The thing is, I know I’m a stronger parent when I’m practicing self-care. When I get enough sleep at night, drink enough water throughout the day, take deep breaths when I’m feeling anxious and get a little sunshine on my cheeks, I’m a calmer mother. I don’t let tiny, insignificant things get to me. I look at my children in the eyes more and I actually listen when they give me an extremely detailed explanation of how they are a butterfly and how they learned how to fly. Yet, how often to I push through the day like a machine?
How many times do I perform task after task just going through the motions, like I’m just moving and handling the chores on my to-do list? How many times do my children do something spectacular, like draw a sunshine with chalk on the sidewalk, then look to me for a response and I’m too busy or too occupied by my own thoughts to glance over?
The answer to all of these questions is “more often that I’d like.” At my very core, I want to be a present mom. Even more than an always patient, always fun mom, I want to be a present one. I want to live in the moment right along with them. I want to discover bugs along the creek and make puddles on the sidewalk with a watering can in the middle of a July afternoon.
I want to take joy in something as mundane as a tiny moth and get glammed up for a tea party consisting of string cheese and apple juice. Yet, the truth is that I cannot do those things and I cannot invest in those tiny people like I want to unless I too invest in myself. As much as we like to fancy ourselves as such, we are not designed to do it all. There are machines capable of doing plenty of heavy lifting. We, on the other hand, are flesh and blood not motors and chains and as such, we all need rest and renewal to operate.
While I might not be able to draw a warm bath and light some candles in the middle of the afternoon when my stress levels tend to skyrocket, there are plenty of small but significant things that I can do to center the day.
We might be more than halfway through this year, but for the remainder of it and far into the future, I hope to practice a little clarity and give myself a little grace moving forward. I’m avowing to put my phone, and the emails, text messages and social media alerts that it carries, in a drawer until I’ve fed my kids a decent and nutritious breakfast. I plan to limit screen time and get outdoors with them while the weather is still nice.
I want to notice the sunset with them and point out every beautiful thing I see between the time we wake up together and the moment I tuck them into bed. I’ll start by feeding myself better, looking up more, and leaning into the glory that every day brings, reminding myself that things like Instagram likes, deadlines, cleaning, and other responsibilities might just have to wait or fall by the wayside for just a little while. I have babies to tend to and myself to love and no time to waste.