It was 2:30 am when I heard the regular cries for a night-time meal from the other room. My then six-month-old was still struggling to sleep through the night. I looked over at my husband who peacefully slept next to me, not even wincing at the sound of her cry. I really, really disliked him in that moment. I was exhausted. Six months into parenthood and I looked like I had been run over by a freight train. I remember thinking it was just me. It was just my abnormally difficult baby. It was just my husband’s crazy work schedule. And it was just this phase. Once she started sleeping through the night I wouldn’t be so tired. And once she was one-year-old I wouldn’t worry so much about a tiny runny nose or a mosquito bite on her arm. It.was.just.this.phase. Next time it would be easier.
6:30 am and my bouncing baby was ready for the day. I pealed my eyes open and snuggled her in my arms. A few hours later we headed to the park. I watched as one of my friends struggled up the hill with her massive double stroller, crying newborn and busy toddler son in tow. I noticed the exhaustion in her eyes and her worry over a tiny runny nose in her second child. Suddenly, the reality of motherhood hit me like a ton of bricks. This is not just a phase.
My husband and I just finished “babysitting” three teenagers while our friends (their parents) went on vacation. These kids are as perfect as they come. I remember walking into my friend’s established home and frolicking through her gorgeous kitchen! ‘What a fun life she must lead,’ I thought. She has a beautiful house and amazing teenagers. Her kids could now all wipe their own noses (and bums for that matter), pick up their toys and sleep through the night. In my mind, I was certain my “phase” of motherhood was more exhausting. I knew her phase had its challenges – but mine, mine was far more exhausting. Two hours into my stay and my mind was blown. Games, swim meets, school, church, friends, art classes, and COOKING. May I repeat, COOKING for a family of five. Her life (although very different from mine) is exhausting!
As I drove home that night the lights blurred in front of me as I thought of what lies ahead. All of the work of motherhood flashed before my eyes, Motherhood, in every phase of life, is demanding, difficult and tiring. The work of motherhood is not just a phase, it is never ending.
The next day my friend called from her vacation. I watched as her super cool teenagers squished around the speaker-phone to talk to their Mom (imagine if I put that image on their snapchat). They didn’t say it, but I could see just how much they missed her. Tears welled in my eyes as I watched from the other room. These teenagers, as cool and busy as they are, cherish their mother. For their entire lives she has been their rock. They don’t know most of the daily difficulties she has faced over the span of their lives. All they know is that she was there when they got home, with a snack on the counter, a warm smile and a giant hug. In my heart, I longed to be that experienced, cherished mother on the other end of that phone call. What a glorious reward for all of the long nights and tiring days.
Slowly but surely I am learning that motherhood is not a sprint, it’s not even a marathon. Motherhood is for life. I will have rough patches. But I am not alone. This is not something no other Mom has faced. Whether it’s how tiny my apartment, how sick my kids or how busy my husband – I can handle it because another warrior mother handled it before me. It is not just a phase, it is just motherhood.
Two days after returning home from my rent-a-parent gig the thought of those kids piled around the phone still flashed in my mind. After our loooong bedtime routine I kissed my baby’s forehead and said my usual “I love you” as I walked toward the door. Without skipping a beat my frustrating, maddening, exhausting little toddler popped her pacifier out and said “LOVE YOU” stuck her pacifier back in and closed her eyes. I clicked the door shut and collapsed on the sofa. The work of motherhood is not just a phase. But thankfully, the reward of motherhood is not just a phase either. That night, instead of picturing all of the work ahead, I imagined all of the hugs, the chats around the table and the “love yous.” Motherhood isn’t just a phase, and my goodness I am grateful.