I have gotten pretty good at throwing a pity party for myself since I became a mother. I feel sorry for myself because I never have a chance to be alone, time to write, to think. I see all of the things I think I’m lacking- hobbies, alone time, the ability to stay up past 9 p.m.- because of the demands of motherhood, because of this life that I chose for myself and wanted my entire life. I am grumpy and angry- despite my better judgment- because one of my children is sick and overtired; I have a hard time being the compassionate and caring mom I desire to be. I give the silent treatment to my husband when he comes home from a 12 ½ hour shift because he isn’t immediately in tune to my needs and he has to go work on homework instead of help with bedtime. I choose to forget that on top of his full-time job, he goes to school full time. I choose to see that he just doesn’t care that I’m tired too, that I need time to gather my thoughts, catch my breath. Instead of telling him that I’m struggling, I stay silent, anger brewing inside of me. This is helpful to neither of us, I realize it but don’t care to change it in this moment. I’m tired.
He can go downstairs, I’ll muster the energy I need to tackle bedtime. I get the kids ready for bed, read stories and hug and kiss them and say “I love you.” I nurse the baby for what feels like the 1000 time today, she hasn’t eaten food all week, though she has nursed every hour; she becomes a newborn again when she is under the weather and I know I will be up all night comforting her. I sulk in bed while my daughter nurses. I long for the night off, a moment to myself locked in my room, listening to the laughter that would echo throughout the house if my husband were in charge of bedtime.
I don’t want to do any of it, but I do it all anyway. I gently remind my stubborn and grumpy self that my daughter needs me, my son loves me despite the fact I was so annoyed with him today, and my husband works tirelessly and sacrificed so much to better himself and our family. It won’t always be this hard. I should be grateful for this life, for this baby girl I get to take care of and love, for this amazing preschooler I get to watch grow, and for a husband who will take on more than he should so that I can stay home. I have to make sacrifices too. Sacrifice is part of our job description: we sacrifice our bodies, our sleep, our personal space, our sanity. We sacrifice, willingly, anything we have to in order to love our children well, to give them all that they need. When we think we can’t wake up one more time during the night, we do. When we think we might implode if we are touched one more time, we give in to the hugs and kisses and squeeze them tight. We make that lunch no one eats, dry the water that is thrown from the tub, read that bedtime story, ignore the pains in our bodies and we love them fiercely.
It doesn’t matter what is going on in my head or within my heart, I have to remind myself that the deepest parts of me live and breathe for these tiny humans I helped create. It may be hard some days, I don’t always do it well some moments, but I will always sacrifice- big and small- to meet their needs. There was a point in my life when I didn’t know if any of this would exist, and now it’s all here in front of me and I am wishing it away, mourning my freedom. I know how quickly it can all change, how easily it can all be taken away from me. I tell myself not to go there, I tell myself how lucky I am, that I need to enjoy this.
I still make mistakes, I still mess up more times than I’d care to admit in a 24-hour span, but I don’t ever stop sacrificing myself for the well-being and the happiness of my children. I don’t ever stop trying to love them well. My kids still love me, regardless of how our days went, regardless of the attitude that was thrown around from all parties. There is so much I can learn from them about extending grace to each other and myself. There is so much I can learn from them about being present, about loving this crazy, messy life. There is so much I can learn from them about finding joy in the simple.
There are times I am certain the world is crashing down on me because I haven’t had a break in months. I know that I’ll have time to myself again someday; self-care isn’t something that I will have to work for and fight for. I won’t always envy my husband and all of the time alone he gets, I will feel sorry for him that he missed out on so many fun years of toddlerhood. I realize that when I pity myself for this life I am lucky enough to live, I come off ungrateful. The truth is, I wouldn’t choose anything other than this. The sleepless nights, the dirty diapers, even the insistent whining, I’d choose it all every time. We make sacrifices as mothers. But in the end, there isn’t anything we would choose to keep or to love over these precious beings. We sacrifice because we love even more.