As I was folding laundry this morning, I found a tiny little baby sock somehow mixed in with all my kids’ relatively large socks. Then as I folded jeans, I put a pair in my pile before realizing they were actually my son’s jeans. My babies are seven years old now. My oldest baby is 12 – a full-on pre-teen with the surliness and unpredictable maturity that comes with the territory.
How did we get from this:
When I had five preschoolers, I had lots of seasoned moms tell me that “the days can seem really long but the years really fly by.” They were right. I knew I was supposed to be enjoying motherhood – and I certainly did – sometimes – but everything just kept coming at me so quickly and those days of diapers and messes and being constantly needed by several little people with mutually exclusive needs often seemed very very long. But now, quite suddenly, years full of those days are over.
I now have five kids in elementary school. I have six hours of kid-less time each day to accomplish things without interruptions (I still have to pinch myself daily…). I have five kids who can get themselves dressed and put on their own socks and shoes. I have five kids who can read. I have five fun people around to talk to about all sorts of interesting things and to accompany me to the library and to museums and to instigate bike rides and art projects and family read-a-thons. I’ve got five people who know how to do the dishes and clean up their rooms (but of course knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two different things).
I’m loving motherhood these days. While I loved my kids’ babyhood and toddlerhood and often wish I could go back in time to cuddle their squishy little bodies, hear their babbling and first words, and see their adorable first smiles, first steps and first laughs again, I think I’ve really hit my stride as a mother with all my kids in this middle childhood stage. I think most moms have a stage of motherhood that really clicks for them. Some can’t get enough of newborns. Others adore toddlers. Some thoroughly enjoy the teenage years (and I hope that’ll be me). So far, the stage I’m in right now is absolutely delightful (most of the time) for me. And I wish I could keep these fun kids right where they are for a while — quite a while.
I heard a quote a while back by a mom who’d had a big successful career outside her home while mothering her young children. In an interview one time, she was asked whether she thought she was able to give her children the attention they needed while giving her career what was required. Her answer was something like this: “My kids turned out great. They’re fabulous people. I think they got everything they needed from me. But looking back, I feel like I’m the one who missed out. I don’t think I got everything I needed out of the experience of motherhood — and there’s no way to go back.”
I don’t want to look back and feel that way. I want to cherish this precious time when my children are at such delightful stages and when they still want to show me things and tell me things and do things with me. I need this time with my kids just as much as they need this time with me.
Last week the twins brought home a book about ancient Greece and we all read it together. Everyone was fascinated, including me. Last week I was feeling like Isaac needed a little special attention, so I picked him up from school at lunchtime and took him out for a surprise date for lunch. It turned out to be the best-spent and most-fun hour I’ve had in ages. On Saturday we all worked on the back yard and I had great one-on-one chats with each child as we worked alongside each other. Two weeks ago we drove to California and actually had a wonderful time reading books and playing games in the car together for 12 hours each way. I kid you not: Car trips are actually FUN now! Today we all sat around the table for a long time after we were all done eating dinner, just laughing and talking and sharing stories. I love this stuff. And I want to really enjoy it while it’s happening without allowing my brain to be preoccupied and my schedule to be cluttered with stuff that’s good — but that isn’t great and isn’t a “now-or-never.”
You know the saying, “Never put off ’til tomorrow that which you can do today”? My parents coined a new version: “Always put off a put-off-able in favor of a now-or-never.” Enjoying the spontaneous tackle while trying to get kids to laugh for a photo is a now-or-never. Getting a good shot of everyone can happen after the tickle party.
So while there are 1000′s of hours of Power of Moms work that needs to be done and countless other timely projects that are important to me and to others, I’m protecting my precious time with my precious kids and training my brain to focus on the here and now. I’ll get done what I can get done while they’re at school, but some things will just have to remain undone. I’ve cut back on extra-curricular activities for both me and the kids, and we’re protecting family movie nights on Friday nights, time to relax together on Sunday afternoons. I’m striving to be with my kids 100 percent — physically and mentally — at bedtimes and homework time each day. I need group and individual time with these precious people who call me mom. And there is no “later” when it comes to what they need and what I need from motherhood.
NOW is the time to be with my kids. It’s also the time to embrace and support the great things that are happening with The Power of Moms (we’ve got over a million moms who are now enjoying the website and new opportunities pop up daily). I’m realizing I CAN do both. But only with carefully drawn boundaries, tons of patience, plenty of help from other great moms plus a large dose of “letting go and letting God.”
I’ll end with this poem I memorized when I was a teenager; it was cross stitched in a frame in the home of a family I used to babysit for all the time. As I played with their cute kids, I remember thinking of the day when I would have children of my own and deciding then that I would always prioritize time with my children.
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow
For children grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow
So quiet down cobwebs
Dust, go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby
And babies don’t keep
Here’s a new version of the poem that rings even more true to me today:
Websites and emails can wait ’til tomorrow
For children grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow
So quiet down projects,
Phone, go to sleep,
I’m enjoying my children
And children don’t keep.
QUESTION: Are you getting what YOU need out of motherhood? What do you enjoy doing the most with your children? Are you doing what you enjoy as much as you can and should?
CHALLENGE: Decide on one thing you will do (or NOT do) to create more space for really enjoying motherhood this week.