It is 5:00am and I have been awake for an hour thinking of you. Thinking of how you have been up feeding babies in the night, only to have your toddler who is potty training wet the bed again, or puke in the night, or they couldn’t find their soother. Then you spend moments agonizing if and why they still have a soother. Today my middle son will turn 10. It has been 8 years since I have been where you are. I must have blinked or just come out of a deep sleep deprived state, most of those beginning years are a blur. We had three kids in 4 years.
I just wanted to write you a note to say that you are doing a good job. What we do changes history and it matters. It matters, somewhere in between the sleep deprivation and the monstrous pile of laundry that never seems to go away (I threw some onesies straight in the trash, and some potty training underwear too!) When we haven’t slept in day, our husbands have been at work for days, we can sometimes lose sight of who we are. These moments can be filled with dark thoughts. “No one told me it would be like this. I’m so glad I have a degree, it comes in handy sweeping up the cheerios!” Those weak moments where we would give anything to live in the same town as family so someone else could cook for you, or volunteer to take your small army so that you could nap or run errands without feeling like you are on the brink of losing your sanity. One time when I was running errands with the kids the middle one had to go #2. No bathroom anywhere in sight. I rolled down a chip bag, thank God he had good aim! That is just how we roll.
We are strong, smart and very loving women who need each other. Don’t be afraid to say you are having a tough day, night, week, month or even a year (I hear the friends theme song…).
Here are a few things our family implemented to make it through. Everywhere my husband and I have moved we seek out a family. Here is the criteria-we are very intentional about this process. We have never lived in the same town as extended family-you cannot thrive on your own. Back to the criteria: 1. Their kids if they have any, need to be older than ours. 2. There are huge parts of their family life that we admire and have characteristics that we want our family to have-role models. 3. They have to have space for us in their schedules and lives, which usually means they don't have family close by either. 4. We tell them that we are hoping for them to be our “extended family”, that we want to incorporate them into our family life, build relationship, invite them to birthday parties, the park, when there is an emergency these are your people, they have your back. I really wish I hadn’t spent so much time convincing myself that it was okay to ask for help.
The other brilliant thing we did is find a university student (one who was living close by, also without family). We offered a hot meal with dessert and free laundry once a week in exchange for free babysitting. Which lead to date nights, feeling human and also babies #2 and 3, so be careful!!
In addition to being the mom of little ones, there is also the fact that you are still someone’s wife, hmmmm… where to begin. You are generally leaking from an orifice of your body at any given moment when you give birth to 3 kids in 4 years. I turned into a hot emotional mess, who got to shower on a good day and only hope to only smell as bad as sour milk on a bad day. Doing my hair and makeup?? Ha! Makeup that we fished out of the toilet bowl while I thought they were playing, ‘nicely’. Where was I going with this? Oh right, husbands, they call just before dinner, there dinner that you toiled over, made sure was nutritious, to say he has OT or that he forgot it was so and so’s mug out-Pause for a hairy conniption fit, anger of epic proportions, throw in the tears and the slamming of dishes after you hang up the phone because there was NO point in getting dressed five minutes so he didn’t know that you spent all day in PJ’s and never got to leave the house(maybe this had only happened to me).
Then there is the 4:00 am post night shift reach around. Baaaahhh! Seriously, Seriously??? You interrupted my sleep, MY SLEEP! Don’t you know the baby just stopped crying 2 hours ago? Oh right, I chose not to text because you were at work. Now I am awake, somewhere between mildly annoyed and royally pissed and you are still reaching… you have got to be kidding me, this is the moment where the powers of Elsa are harnessed and things freeze over quickly. Or maybe we were game this time, just about to really enjoy things and like clockwork the baby cries.
Day in and day out, 24/7, 365 days a year. Being a mom and wife to an officer can have its extremely exhausting seasons. You will get through the season you are walking through, I promise.
Here is what my almost 40 year old self would go back and whisper to my 20 something self and say to all of you.
“You are doing a good job! They will be too little to remember even if you aren’t (just kidding!) Give yourself the grace that you extend to your girlfriends. Pinterest isn’t real life. It is okay to feed the kids cereal for dinner on the days you just can’t even.
PERFECTION does not exist-ANYWHERE, choosing to be content does.
Have a nap if the rare opportunity presents itself. Call someone you know or someone you want to get to know (she ended up being one of my best friends) for a playdate-let them see your house messy-it is freeing. Swap-kids, be vulnerable, have fun, let go of how you think things should look, or what you think others are expecting. Have I mentioned having a nap? Take the time to do something that gives you life, your husband and children will thank you. On the rough days, force yourself to go for a walk around the block. It is okay to let go of the chore list to play & cuddle-more fun too! Being a mom of little monkeys is exhausting, some days seem like they will never end and people quip, “Oh enjoy it, it goes by so fast, I wish I could go back.” Insert punch to the face here. They must have amnesia!
Stop judging yourself-you are good enough. You are loving your family like no one else can. And maybe Elsa has it right, everything else falls into the category of, “Let it go, let it go…’’
Please post your tips and tricks to making it through these infant and toddler years in the comments below.