The Years Are Short, But These Days Are So Long

by Janie Porter
early motherhood
monkeybusinessimages / iStock

monkeybusinessimages / iStock

Monkey Business Images

Dear everyone who tells me, “The days are long, but the years are short”:

I know you mean well.

But today, I need to tell you something.

You forgot how long the days really are.

You forgot about these days of early motherhood—what it feels like to be jolted awake by a 2-year-old, screaming for oatmeal and Octonauts at 5:03 a.m. And then you get up to make the oatmeal, and then negotiate your way through 12 minutes of decoding toddler instructions. You jump through all the hoops, adding the required peanut butter and honey and serving it in the yellow bowl with the red spoon.

Just to hear, “Mom, I don’t like this. Can I have cereal?”

You forgot.

You forgot what it’s like to go to the bathroom at 4 p.m. and realize it’s the first time you’ve looked in a mirror all day. That the 5 a.m. oatmeal is smeared across the yoga pants you’ve been wearing since Tuesday. And that your hair is greasy because the baby’s been teething and the husband’s been working late, and there hasn’t been five minutes to take care of you.

You forgot.

You forgot what it’s like to not finish a sentence. To not finish a thought. To live your life in fragmented snippets of trying to communicate with other adults but never quite completing any message in any meaningful way.

You forgot.

And now that I’ve said what I need to say, it’s your turn.

And I already know what’s coming.

Because it’s so true.

I know.

I’m forgetting too.

I’m forgetting that, someday, I’ll wish I had little ones who get dirty in the backyard when they aren’t supposed to. But today, these muddy feet are just one more task between me and dinnertime—a dinner that I’ll spend 30 minutes making but no one will eat.

But you’re right. I did forget.

I forgot that, someday soon, this needy baby face who only wants Mommy to hold him will be a little boy who won’t even hug me in public.

I forgot.

I forgot that, one day, I’ll be able to go to nice dinners with my husband, every night of the week if I want to. But I’ll be sitting in front of my steak and fine wine, longing to hear the voice of a child interrupting our perfect dinner with an impossible request or a silly story.

I forgot.

I forgot that, one day, I’ll see my children grow up. They’ll get married and pursue dreams. They won’t need me anymore. I’ll be so happy for them. But I will weep inside, as I see them walk across that stage, or drive to that airport, or walk down that aisle.

Because they don’t need me anymore.

Someday, no one will ask me for the oatmeal with the peanut butter or that silly red spoon.

But today is not that today.

Today was long and tiring and thankless and taxing. And the children were needy and misbehaving and far from perfect.

And that’s totally OK. That’s life. That’s motherhood now.

Even at your dream job, you’re still allowed to have hard days.

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

I promise, there are plenty more days when I’ll want to hear your thoughts about how short the years are.

But today is not one of them.

Because you forgot how long the days really are.

Now please excuse me while I strap a crying baby to my back so I can break up a toddler fight over the Spiderman cup, fold 17 loads of laundry, and whip up a gourmet dinner. Spoiler alert: No one will eat it, and I’ll end up microwaving hot dogs at 8:47 p.m.