The day breaks early and dark, as most mornings do, with the piercing wails of my toddler as he drags himself out of bed and proceeds to stand in the hallway screaming at the top of his lungs, his diaper hanging off in a state of half-filled pee disarray.
My heart clenches as I spring from the bed in what I hope is a nimble leap, but actually looks more like a lurching cow in a futile attempt to not disturb the baby who (just!) fell asleep at the ungodly hour of 5 am.
“Shhh!!!” I hiss as I sprint/tip-toe into the hallway, “You’ll wake up your sister!”
The toddler ignores me, continuing to wail for his daddy, who has already left for work, and demanding waffles.
“WAAHHHHH!!” the baby’s cries shatter the air and my shoulders slump in defeat, my day already feeling lost before it has begun.
It is in moments like this (or, in other words, every day) that I wonder precisely two things:
1) Why on earth can’t my two-year-old wake up like a normal person instead of screaming for an hour?
2) Is motherhood supposed to feel like this?
The truth is, I find myself at a crux in my mothering journey. On one hand, I am knee-deep in the stuff of living, the sticky kisses, the chubby baby arms around my neck, the clamoring to sit next to me on the couch for movie night and I am struck with a fierce desire to open my arms wide and just take it all in. To soak up the intensity of their love, the fleeting moments of wide-eyed innocence that flash by so quickly my heart cracks down the middle trying to capture each and every snapshot in my memory. I am blown away by the gift of these moments, the pure, unedited joy of simply being near these little people, dimples flashing, hair wild and uncombed, knees scabbed rough, and forgiveness given freely in the face of a flawed mother.
But on the other hand, I am tired.
Just so tired.
I am tired of being the center of their worlds, the comber of hair, the maker of waffles, the keeper of socks, the soother of aches and pains, and the scrubber of untimely accidents on the rug at the exact moment I was hoping to eat lunch. I am tired of tasks completed one-handed, of the smallest, tiniest of things always feeling like a struggle. Is it really possible I just used to go to bed at night when I was tired? Did I really wake up and do such crazy things like put on make-up and brush my teeth without also putting on a show to keep another human being from bursting into tears?
I find myself hesitating to speak my dark truth because I know, as most mothers do in the places of logic left in their minds, that time is fleeting and life is a season and there will be a day when I will be the one smiling at the frazzled mother in the grocery store, extending a “You’ve got your hands full!” greeting in an attempt to reach across the spasms of time and space to tell her that me too, I was once there.
I want to tell myself to snap out of it, to enjoy it while it’s here, or maybe to even take a freaking break so I don’t scare the world into thinking I am suffering from some sort of untreated depression. Because I’m not. Really. I think (hope?) I’m pretty normal and as I’m starting to see, I really don’t think there is an ultimatum when it comes to motherhood.
There is no point when I will be able to say completely, “I am so happy right now,” or “All I see is joy today.”
I used to think that there was a point as a mother when I would be able to reach that elusive place to be able to transcend the human struggles — the impatience, the sharpness of my tongue, the irritated sigh that escapes my lips before I can check it. I thought that if I just tried harder, followed advice more, or maybe even woke up earlier to meditate (journal? exercise? drink coffee alone?), I would be a better version of my mothering self.
I used to think that to be a good mother meant living above the struggles.
But now I am starting to realize that to be a good mother, I must accept the struggle. To learn to live in both a place of exhaustion and elation, of joy and pain, of holding fast and letting go.
Motherhood, I am learning, is the ultimate contradiction.
When you feel like you can’t go on but don’t want it to ever end …
When you wonder if it ever gets easier but can’t imagine it ever getting better …
When you long for bedtime, yet wonder if your heart will burst gazing upon sleeping faces …
When you love so much and so deeply, yet want nothing more in moments than to be anywhere but here …
When there is no beauty without pain, no love without suffering, and no grace without failure. When there is no such thing as perfection or a sudden transformation that will suddenly whisk me into the knowledge of learning how to appreciate every instance without a semblance of impatience.
So for right now, I will have to be OK with loving — and hating — all of the messy, beautiful, mundane, and momentous moments.
Because this is motherhood.