I have a postcard with a picture of a woman sitting on the beach. The caption says, “How beautiful to do nothing and rest afterward.” I actually have days like that every once in a while. I feel a little guilty about it when I talk to one of my daughters and am reminded of the life of a young mom. Those were days I thought would never end.
There was no resting. I couldn’t imagine afterward. There were mornings when I woke up feeling like my bed was a launching pad. As soon as my feet hit the floor I’d be on a treadmill that picked up speed throughout the day until I finally flew off backwards at midnight, and staggered back to bed for a couple of hours.
I sometimes felt like a punching bag. It seemed there were always little feet in my stomach. Before my babies were born they kicked, then while they nursed, while we read stories, and even while I slept. My kids picked my most vulnerable moments of sheer unconsciousness at 3 a.m. to report a nightmare and climb into our bed. The next thing I’d know they were sleeping sidewards with their feet digging into my side and their head in their dad’s back.
In those days I always had a headache. About 3 in the afternoon I’d realize it was because I hadn’t gone to the bathroom all day. Mothers don’t have time for such trivial things. Besides, whenever I sat down for a minute alone on the john, some kid or another would open the door with a few neighborhood friends to tattle on a younger brother. Why invite that humiliation? It’s less trouble to just “hold it.” I was keeping track of so many other people’s potty schedules, I had to eliminate my own. I don’t think anyone cared much about my sacrifice.
I was always tired. It felt like I hadn’t slept for years! When I was in bed I had so much rattling around in my brain, I’d have to get up and write it all down. Since I was up, I usually checked on something or someone, remembered to write an excuse note to the teacher, took the milk bottles out, wiped off the sticky counter and put some shoes away. Then I’d sit down on the couch and think. It was so quiet at midnight, I almost hated to waste it by sleeping. If anyone asked I could boast, “I never sleep on the job.” Nobody asked.
Mostly I felt unappreciated. “Yuck…does this have onions?” was the usual compliment at dinner. New clothes were greeted with “Mom, the tags itch…I don’t like it.” An outing to the park always ended in tears, and the darling brothers and sisters I’d thoughtfully provided for everyone were annoying and smelly. I sometimes wondered what the point of it all was. I never got a promotion or a raise. Our next door neighbor told me I looked like a mother quail with all her little chicks following her in order down the street. Was this the fulfillment of all my dreams?? My dedication to this career went unnoticed. My husband was always supportive and encouraging, but I didn’t feel valued by society.
Let me tell all you moms out there that I appreciate you. Every time you say, “How many times do I have to tell you…” you are teaching your kids responsibility. When you say, “Don’t hit, bite, kick…” a hundred times a day, you’re promoting peace. Every day when you’re still there, you’re teaching your children trust and dependability and love. You may not realize what you’re doing, but you are changing the world, one kid at a time, one day at a time.
One of my favorite scriptures is “Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work,and out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” Is there a greater work than providing a happy, safe home for kids? They need the strength you give them to survive and grow, and then they will contribute.
However, I admit that I love being free of everyday motherhood responsibilities. I’m appreciating middle age a lot! You guys, hang in there. The greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home. You can rest afterward.
Marty writes at her blog, TravelinOma.