Nothing Will Break You (Or Restore You) Like Motherhood
I am having one those weeks. Nothing seems to be working out the way it should, nothing’s getting done, unplanned expenses are piling up (like my toddler spilling coffee on the keyboard of my work laptop, and also breaking a tooth), and my entire household has been congested, coughing, and cranky for over a week. Nothing too monumental or earth-shattering, I know, but enough to frazzle all of my nerves and leave me overwhelmed.
I left out details, but decided to reach out on Facebook: “I’m on the struggle bus this week, and it’s only Tuesday, folks.” I made it known that I wasn’t looking for advice, but solidarity. I knew I wasn’t alone, and I know that sometimes knowing other people are riding the bus with you makes everyone feel a little less isolated in their troubles, however trivial they may be.
I didn’t preface it or add a footnote about “but I love my kids!” because of course, I love my kids. Having a shitty week, or reaching out for support, or opening up about a current struggle in our lives, doesn’t mean we love our kids less. It doesn’t mean we value them less. It doesn’t mean we don’t love them so much that we feel like an elephant is sitting on our chest, and we can’t fucking breathe because our love for them is so consuming. It just means what it means — we are having an off day, week, month, that shit has hit the proverbial fan, and we need to commiserate.
Because that is the thing about motherhood: Sometimes the shit hits the fan. That is a guarantee.
Sometimes all the little things pile up, and you hit your breaking point, and you feel like you’re teetering on the edge of a legitimate nervous breakdown.
Sometimes something completely outside of parenting shakes up your world, then your toddler hurts himself jumping into a pile of laundry while you are literally drying your coffee-drenched keyboard with a blowdryer while your baby clings to your leg because he wants to nurse again and your 7-year-old just announced she’s “not feeling so good.”
This is about the time I slammed down the hair dryer, looked around at my disaster of a kitchen, and yelled at nobody, but also at everyone, “I just can’t freaking do this right now!”
And the truth is that I couldn’t do it all right then. I couldn’t be the multitasking supermom people love to conjure up images of in their mind. Sometimes I can almost get there, but today was not that day. I couldn’t comfort my crying toddler while nursing my baby and assessing my daughter’s symptoms and praying to the gods above that my laptop would make a miraculous comeback.
I couldn’t call in though, so I did an expert triage. Because that’s what we do as moms; we keep going even when we are at the end of our rope. Even when we “can’t freaking do it,” we keep freaking doing it. I scooped up the baby, and ran to the toddler after the thud. He was fine, save for a new shiner on his right eye, and just needed some frozen peas and a big hug. Then I tucked my oldest into my bed with a cold drink and a stack of picture books. Then I latched the baby, and cried, well, like a baby.
I was done.
Later that night, I was discussing the next day’s plans with my spouse (and my need for some respite) when we both paused as we heard the slap, slap, slap of little feet on the hardwood floors. We smiled, because we knew that shortly our “tiny muffin” — the baby — would be rounding the corner on his wobbly little chicken legs.
Sure enough, there he was. Instant smile, arms thrown up in the air as he walked toward me. My breath catches in my throat because I realize this might be the very last time we have someone this tiny slap-slap-slapping his chubby little feet down our hall. It’s my favorite sound in the entire world, and I feel like that elephant is sitting on my chest again because my heart is so full of love for this amazing little person that I am convinced I must have been an absolute saint in some past life to deserve this.
The meltdown I had just hours earlier seems foggy, distant, as I scoop him up and he nuzzles his tiny head into the crook of my neck.
Damn you, motherhood. You fucking break me into tiny pieces, and then you restore me. You put me all back together. Good as new.
Every. Single. Time.
I will happily replace a coffee-drenched laptop. I will gladly tackle more days of clingy kids crying in unison for my attention when I’m already at my wit’s end.
Because that’s what moms do. We rally. We push through. We break down, and we build ourselves back up. We let the love and the adoration from our children fuel our fire. We let that love bring us back to life. And we wake up tomorrow, and we do it again.
Because there are slap-slap-slapping little feet coming down that hallway, and duty calls.
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