I remember this day like it was yesterday. Davy was 5 months old, the others were 7, 5, and 3. Aaron had been out of town for work for 10 days and I was prepping to host 25 people at our house for Thanksgiving.
This particular morning I rounded up the children to head to Trader Joe’s to get the turkey and do all the shopping. This was nothing new, because as a home schooling mama, I took all my kids everywhere, all the time.
But just because I did it all the time doesn’t mean it was particularly easy. Trader Joe’s, in fact, was especially hard. Those aisles were narrow and no matter how many times I’d bark at the children, “single file! Single file!” they all liked to fan out in a horizontal line alongside me and the cart, effectively blocking any other shoppers from passing us.
It drove me crazy!
I broke out in a sweat on every TJs shopping trip, tried not to curse under my breath, and to smile with a saintly glow at the 50 + people who looked at me and said, “my! You have your hands full!”
Oh Trader Joe’s shopping trips with 4 little kids, you were so much fun.
When we arrived, I didn’t put Davy in the cart like usual, but strapped him to me in the Ergo carrier. I’d need every inch of space in that cart for groceries. We started with the turkey, a big one for our crowd of guests. And we cruised the store, filling the cart to the brim, me telling the kids to “stop jumping, stop wrestling, no, we can’t get those chips, single file!” and all the rest. I also told Lilly, repeatedly, not to hang on the cart.
Those Trader Joe’s carts are notorious for tipping. It happened to me when William was a baby and James was hanging from the side of the cart. It was terrifying. And I lived in mortal fear of it happening again.
So of course, on that day, it did.
As I was reaching for some carrots, I heard a scream and turned to see Lilly falling to the ground with the full, heavy cart falling on top of her. I lunged for it, but wasn’t fast enough. Girl and cart hit the floor with a thud. The boys and I yelled, groceries flew everywhere, eggs broke, and Lilly wailed. I tried to lift the cart off of her and to keep the panic out of my voice as I asked if she was all right.
Kind employees and shoppers rushed to help and we lifted the cart off of her.
There was no blood, and nothing seemed broken, but she was crying.
I collapsed on the ground next to her, pulled her onto my lap and sat there, with a screaming Davy between us, the tears running down my cheeks, mingling with hers, and dripping on the floor.
I tried to stifle sobs.
I was so tired.
And so grateful I had put Davy in the carrier that day.
But why did this all have to be so hard!?!
The boys huddled next to us, patting my back, trying to comfort me, scared because of all that had happened, and scared because Mommy was sitting on the floor in the middle of Trader Joe’s, crying.
In that moment, the weight of mothering all those little people felt far too heavy for me to bear.
It was just so never ending.
80 fingernails and toenails to cut and clean, who knows how many teeth to brush morning and night, children who didn’t nap anymore, sleepless nights, endless piles of laundry to do, bodies to scrub, thousands of Legos to clean up every single day, and even a simple grocery store trip that ended in disaster.
Sometimes I wanted to quit.
Have you been there?
Crying in the shower? Weeping under your covers or sobbing into your husband’s chest? I know I admitted to him more than once, “I feel like I’m suffocating.” and then felt terrible for saying it.
It’s hard, hard work, this job of mothering.
But I have good news.
It gets easier.
I’m not saying it is ever easy.
But those relentless, sometimes suffocating, early days will get easiER
There will come a time when your children can cut their own fingernails. Cue the angel chorus! There will be a day when you’ll say, “someone get in the shower!” and someone will. And they won’t even need you to wash them. They’ll wipe their own bums, and remember to wash their own hands. They’ll get their own snacks. And one sweet, sweet, day, you will be able to leave them at home while you run to the store for a minute all by yourself.
Now before you berate me for not enjoying every.single. second. of motherhood while my kids are young, understand that I enjoy much of it. Like a whole, whole lot of it. But I’m also OK with a little independence. Saying goodbye to diapers was not a sad day for me. Not bathing 4 kids every night feels pretty grand.
There are beautiful things about watching my kids grow up. From saying goodbye to those simple tasks that sometimes add up and feel overwhelming, to the much bigger and sweeter things, like deep conversations and seeing them become their own person.
And that is a good thing, because if we were stuck in the same season forever, we’d become awfully weary of it.
For me, the physically exhausting years of early motherhood are beginning to fade. And even though there are parts of their babyhood that I’ll forever miss, I’m also really enjoying the spot we’re in now. There are challenges, to be sure. But there always will be. That is the nature of this job.
What I want you to know, all you mamas of littles, is that even though it’s hard to believe now, you’ll make it. And when you do, don’t get so comfortable in your new spot that you think you’ve got it all together. Or even worse, think to yourself that those new moms who are making a big deal out of every single thing are overreacting. And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell them to enjoy this moment because it will be so much harder when they’re teenagers.
Don’t. Just don’t.
Instead, remember that you were there once too. Think of what you needed to hear in that moment. Put yourself in their shoes. Smile at those moms in the grocery store when you see them looking frazzled or teary. Tell them they are doing good work. Just like I’m telling you that you are now.
Because you are.
So if you fall down, you can cry a little, but then get back up, and keep going.
Listen to me when I say, you are doing good work mama!
“Let us not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Happy Thanksgiving to all you mamas and your little turkeys too!