It was the end of a long, long day at home with my toddler. She was finally asleep, and as I sat down to have a cup of tea on the couch, I burst into tears. It had been a rough day, and I was overwhelmed. It seemed like every other husband on our street had been home two hours before my hard-working, exhausted partner-in-crime came through the door.
“Why are you crying?” he asked with a look of concern.
“I’m really not sure,” I replied. “It just seemed like such a hard day.”
“Sweetie,” my thoughtful husband replied. “Look around. These are the hard years.”
That really took me by surprise. How could the years where my daughter was at her most adorable and where we both sacrificed, but I stayed home with her, be the hard years? We took lessons and played with chalk in the driveway … how could these possibly be the hard years?
But then my thoughts shifted. If these are the hard years … maybe that makes all my worries and exhaustion okay.
Maybe these are the hard years. The years where we just wipe up seven milk spills before 10 AM because we don’t have any house elves running around. If these are the hard years, I know I can clean Goldfish crackers out of the couch just one more time.
For us, these are the years of student loans and diaper runs. Where we have budget meetings late into the night. These are the years where our neighbors might have better cars and more beautiful gardens. If these are the hard years, then I don’t even want those material things people cling to so tightly. If these are the hard years, then being short on money and big on love is perfect for me.
These are the years of someone else always being better at Pinterest décor with fluffy duvets and picturesque photo collage walls. If these are the hard years, I’m okay with my juice-stained carpet, my doors that are covered with tiny, beautiful handprints waiting for Windex, and mostly too-bare walls for now.
These are the years where it seems like everyone else has shared photo upon photo of their fancy salmon and quinoa toddler dinners just to emphasize how together they must have it all. If these are the hard years, I’ll take Chick-fil-A drive-thru or pizza with a thrown together salad for now, as long as it’s enjoyed with my chaotic little family.
These are the years of “one more snuggle mommy” and “just another sip of water please.”
These are the years of carefully ordering a first backpack for preschool, and holding her little hand as I drop her off. The years of sending her off into this world as tears run down my face.
These are the years of wiping little noses and putting Band-Aids on invisible boo-boo’s.
These are the years of sneaking a Snickers bar in the laundry room just so I don’t have to share it. Of waking up at 5:30 a.m. just to have a moment alone — a moment where nobody was needing mommy. Sometimes, these are the years of passing my husband like two wary warriors, glaring over misinterpreted slights. Who got a night out with friends, who had to clean up the jelly on couch incident, and who gets to go to bed? For us, these are also the years of giving up the fight and just hugging it out, because being in the thick of parenting really can be quite hard.
If these are the hard years, I think I’ll keep them a bit longer.
If these are our hard years, it’s easy to stop comparing and embrace them for what they are — really hard. But they are also really beautiful, fun, and amazing, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
Because even though the days are sometimes long, these years are really quite short.