I had this moment the other day. See, I was cooking a meal for a neighbor; actually, I was cooking two meals for two neighbors. One was new and the other was going through a hard time so I just doubled the recipe and walked them both over in the same evening. Done.
I’m cooking these meals, helping two of my daughters make homemade chocolate chip cookies to send over as well, simultaneously making our own dinner and checking on the baby eating Cheerios in her high chair.
We’re mixing the flour and salt in the glass bowl, my daughters and I, and in that very instant I realized I have changed. I couldn’t have known it prior to that moment, I wasn’t actively trying to change, but I undoubtedly had. In the same moment, I was taking care of my three babies, feeding my family, feeding two others’, while talking to my husband and cleaning up the kitchen. Three years ago, I couldn’t have done that.
Three years ago, mothering was all I was, was all I could do, took everything I had. My children were fewer, littler, and I was over my head, overwhelmed, exhausted and undone.
There is something about being a new mama, having babies and toddlers and clumsily making our way through those first few years. We want perfection, we compare ourselves to everyone we see, unsure about our parenting strategies, the reasons behind the toddlers’ very public meltdown, guilty for just keeping two tiny humans alive that day.
We keep a running tally of how we miss the mark: Don’t finish the laundry, don’t make dinner organic from scratch, didn’t bathe the babies or workout or call that friend back or throw my daughter a special birthday party. We notice our failures more than our victories, unable to see past the moment where it all seems to be unraveling.
I remember being in that season, hearing of girlfriends of mine that made meals for others, and my eyes would well up with tears, shame covering me as I thought “I can barely feed my own family, let alone make something for someone else.”
I remember being so aware of my smaller capacity, smaller bandwidth, nothing extra to give as my babies took everything I had. I felt guilty for not measuring up, shame that I couldn’t rally like my friends did, embarrassed that mothering was so difficult for me. But I was tapped out.
Maybe you’re there right now. Maybe you have a brand new baby and the newness is over and colic is setting in and you just didn’t think it would be this hard. Maybe you have a two year old and it’s turning out that this kid is the opposite of what you were wishing for before you became pregnant. Maybe you’re wishing that you could go back to your old professional life. Maybe you’re overwhelmed, undone, beyond capacity, uncertain what you’re feeding them for dinner tonight.
But mamas, as someone who is just a little bit ahead of you, maybe just a kid or two, listen to me. It gets better. I am close enough to your season to remember how difficult it is but I am far enough ahead of you to assure you it gets better.
You will begin to reclaim yourself.
But right now? They need you. There’s going to be a few years where they have all of you, every ounce of your strength and every shred of your energy. There’s going to be a time where they lay claim to your patience, your sanity, your everything. That’s just how it has to be for a bit. They need your strength until they can find their own.
But then you’re going to feel a shift. It’s going to be subtle and slow and it’s going to sneak in so quietly that you won’t realize it’s happening until after the fact.
There is going to be a day when your babies have grown up just a bit, and you see the change. There is going to be a day when you realize you aren’t as thrown off as easily as you once were, you have a little more energy than you once did, a little more confidence in yourself and your mothering and your children. There is going to be a day where you aren’t rattled and aren’t undone and have grace with yourself because you have settled into the process.
One day, you might just be cooking a meal for someone else, or you might be taking on extra part-time work, or volunteering somewhere, or beginning to work out again. One day, you will see that you were learning and growing and shifting and changing through that whole time and suddenly, you are new.
See, sometimes we don’t see the still, quiet work happening underneath the soil of our souls until it is ready to sprout up. But rest assured, dear mama, a new creation is forming even now, even in your own heart.
Trust the process. Have grace with yourself that this is exactly how it should go.
Because one day, you will look back and see that you are different, better, that the seasons have changed, that you are a multi-tasking, life-giving, rested and whole and new creation and it will be good.
Sarah Sandifer is a mama to three darling and rambunctious little girls. She is married to her college sweetheart who now serves as an Army Chaplain and is taking them on quite the grand adventure. Sarah’s great loves are the Colorado mountains, dark chocolate and coffee, though she would be a total mess without the grace of Jesus. You can find her thoughts on life, motherhood, and marriage at www.SarahSandifer.com.