It’s been a long time coming — nearly eighteen years, in fact. The kids are finally all in school, the house is quiet and I have a full day to work, uninterrupted.
And while it’s achingly bittersweet — the letting go of my babies, the acceptance that that phase is really over – it’s also easy to forget just how intense those first years were (or what I did with my days).
In honor of all of you still in the trenches (who are trying not to covet my newly-won freedom as you chase your running-with-scissors toddler past the was-sleeping baby), I have three things to offer:
- A simple reassurance: It really will change before you know it, you really will miss your babies (at least some aspects of them) and you’ll never regret the time you’re investing, no matter how intense the phase you’re currently living.
- A glimpse into what many of you may be experiencing in just a few short years: Something Incredible Happened To Me Last Week
- The following reflection that I wrote when my kids were all still little. It’s a good thing I wrote it when I did because only a few years later, the details are hazy and the memories somehow all seem sweet.
THE QUESTION: What Have You Been Doing All Day?
(Intended as empathy and comic relief, NOT fuel for your marital battles.)
Well, Dear, I…
Changed 3 poopy and 6 wet diapers, rinsing them in the toilet.
Broke up fights over the larger grilled cheese sandwich and pink sippy cup, eventually implementing timeouts.
Cleaned up the resulting spilled juice and repeatedly put the protesting toddler back in her room, resuming my count to 60.
Washed 4 loads of laundry (yes, I see, they are not yet folded).
Nursed the baby to sleep for two naps, both times having to start over when the squeaky mattress coils gave away my attempted escape.
Nursed the baby again upon waking from her nap in an irrational, inexplicable state of discontent.
Wrangled the kids into their car seats upon leaving the house, and again when leaving the grocery store.
Narrowly saved the toddler from a backing car when she wiggled from my grip, only mildly upsetting the jostled baby.
Mostly kept my composure while pushing the cart containing the protesting toddler, ignoring the banana being smeared into my hair by the baby on my back and refusing request after request for gum, candy and donut holes by the kid well aware of the times I’ve given in.
Withstood screaming the entire way home after the checker gave each child a balloon with a lollipop anchor and — despite my warnings — the toddler detached the lollipop, releasing her prize into the open skies, then played victim, blaming her sister.
Cleaned the “sticky” off hands and car seats.
Read books to the kids while the baby crawled all over us, determined to tear the pages and eat the corners.
Checked email, only to learn that tomorrow was to be our turn to bring a snack to school, requiring an additional trip to the store.
Balanced the bank account and transferred funds to avoid overdraft.
Sent the kids outside while I swept up breakfast from the floor. Five minutes later, they ran inside to show me their discovery — when you smash sidewalk chalk into powder and mix it with water it makes great makeup.
Swept the floor again, following the chalk dust trail.
Considered dinner choices. Decided to use up the leftover roast in a potpie rather than open the just-bought ingredients. Elbow deep in piecrust prep, I realized the baby was too quiet. Looked around the corner to find her eating a stick of butter. Washed my hands, scooped her up and got smeared by butter and her leaking diaper.
Bathed the baby, remembering the state of the other kids. Baths, all around.
Washed their hair to the tune of tortured screams.
Chased the wet runaway, returning to find the baby playing happily in the contents of an overturned bottle of lotion.
Cleaned lotion, strapped the baby in her highchair with a snack, turned on a nature show for the kids and went back to dinner prep.
Glanced at the clock. Time to pick up the 4th from school. Amidst screams of “Not fair! We just started our show!” I strapped them all back into the car.
Waited in the pick up line, got the girl, heard about her horrible day and all the unfair teachers and headed back to the store.
Repeated grocery shopping experience, this time with rude remarks by the eldest, horrified by her sisters and angry that I would suggest something as ridiculous as homemade apple muffins for her school snack. Apparently everyone else brings chocolate cake and coca-cola.
Headed home, finished cooking dinner, only burning the very outer edges of crust. Cut them off so no one will notice.
Made peanut butter balls for 30 with a sulking, compromised pre-teen.
Helped with math homework, ending half-way through with slammed doors and screams of “I’ll never use this anyway! Who cares about compound fractions!”
Waited, expecting you home at 6:30 and eventually fed the kids a snack to hold them off (Yes, I believe you’re swamped at work).
Reheated the cold dinner in the microwave and served it at 7:30.
Held my tongue as each person offered their opinion, “Eeew, there’s peas in it!” and, “You know I hate cooked carrots!” and, “Someone took a bite of my crust!” and, “Will you shut up and move your chair over, you’re so disgusting when you chew.”
Breathed deeply, and wore the most neutral expression I could muster up when you inquired, “Wow, babe, I thought you were going to get groceries. What have you been doing all day?”
Beth Berry is a writer, mother of four daughters and born idealist living the real life. When she’s not orchestrating the household, she can be found in one of several precarious yoga poses, wandering indigenous Mayan food markets, or holed up in a sunny southern Mexican cafe with her laptop, a shade grown dark roast and a contemplative look on her face. Having lived against the grain as a baby-slinging, toddler-nursing, secondhand-shopping, wanna-be farmer for 17 years, she and her family decided to ditch the rat race for a taste of life abroad. Now, in addition to challenging conventional wisdom, she writes about her life-changing experiences working among women in extreme poverty and oppression. Keep up with her musings and adventures in imperfection at www.revolutionfromhome.com.