Once 5 a.m. hits, I know I’m finally in the endzone. For whatever reason only known to my 9-month-old, between then and 9 a.m. is his current longest stretch of sleep. My three little big kids come quietly up the stairs and turn on the cartoons. The volume is turned down real low. They just know. Mommy is sleeping in. Once the baby starts fussing again, we’re all up and breakfast starts.
My husband is long gone to work. My day is not quite as physically demanding as his day, but his isn’t as emotionally taxing. Despite our complaints here and there, we wouldn’t trade places.
My brain is split into four different directions. I triage who needs the most love right now. The mess gets to me. I yell to them from the kitchen, “Everyone either cleans or goes outside!” I’m not sure which I’d rather they choose.
A quiet house may be nicer than a clean one.
I see kindness, imagination, bravery, humor, and perseverance every day in those precious kids. Each is so unique, and I feel insanely privileged to get to nurture their growth. Some days though, I spend lots of time in my bedroom watching random videos and eating any form of chips or chocolate I can find in the house. This is the only way I can get alone time without calling up a sitter and having to look put together for the drop-off and pick-up.
While baby naps, I get pulled into social media. I’m not tagged in any of the pictures. It looks like it was such a blast. A breath of sadness comes and goes. I was invited, but I’m not even sure I let them know I couldn’t make it. The scrolling makes me cranky to my kids. I know this, but I continue doing it anyway.
It’s nearing supper. The witching hours are among us. We set the table. Daddy comes home and we eat. It’s a blessed chaos of togetherness. Soon it will be bedtime and each one will have their snuggle.
My energy starts picking back up once the mental load eases of my babies in bed all safe, loved, and healthy. I almost want to wake them up and start over. I’m a better mom now, the solitude has given me strength. But I can’t do that. Tomorrow will be another day.
I love this exhausting, perfect mess of loving my sweet babies. Though sometimes, I get glimpses not only of what I’m missing out on in my friends’ lives and the fun times but just how absent of a friend I’ve been for them. It could be months or years since I last saw them in person. Time is so long and short all in the same breath after becoming parents. Other than a heart click here and there, I’m not much of a friend.
In fact, I’m a crappy friend right now.
Having children has made me fully aware that I am an introvert. All my life I’ve been one, but I usually had enough pockets of solitude to fully recharge. With babies, this hasn’t been much of an option. I now have to seek not solitude, but shelter from outside social exchanges. On the days I have to put on my weighty social hat, my kids get grumpy mom. So my best energy, I try to reserve for my family. They deserve the best of me, not what’s left of me.
When I see friends in passing at a public event or grocery store, we’ll pause and throw on our happy smiles. Seeing them reminds us of who we once were and what we once meant to each other. We’ll genuinely ask all about the personal happenings. Then, soon have to be rushed away because our kids can’t be in one place that long. We go our separate ways and our minds are already back in the triage state of childcare and the daily parenting grind.
As my hair grows gray I miss out on even more of their moments. Yet, they are still there inviting me, waiting in the rafters for my potential return. They are also just as busy living their mom life, work life, and social life too. But in their big moments, they know, or at least I hope they know, I’m going to be there for them. Just as they’ve been for me.
We have been through so much together between childhood, puberty, and our single adult years. Dating boys, roommate drama, writing essays, taking jobs, and surviving traumas.
But a lot of us are now mothers and wives, and our focus has shifted.
It’s the end of an era, but not really. We’re still here. We get it. Because that’s what real friends do—they accept us in whatever phase of life we’re in. They give space for families to flourish and independence to soar.
I’m a crappy friend right now, but I love that they get it.