I had so many plans today.

My three-year-old had preschool this morning, which meant the promise of quiet in the house while the baby napped. I work from home, and there’s an inbox overflowing with unread messages I planned to conquer in those precious hours of solitude. 

But motherhood came calling instead. 

I had just clicked the baby’s bedroom door shut—quietly, of course—and settled in with my laptop and a snack in the sunshine streaming through the kitchen window when the phone rang. 

It was the elementary school. Darn it. I sighed and swiped the phone alive. 

I was greeted by the tiny, trembling voice of my six-year-old. “Wanna—come—home,” he sputtered before bursting into tears. 

“What’s going on, buddy?” I asked. “Are you sick? Are you hurt?” 

More sobbing. A teacher took the receiver and explained something had happened on the playground that had upset him terribly. What, she couldn’t say—no one had seen or heard—but he was beside himself. 

Another email chimed cheerfully as it materialized atop my inbox. I closed the screen, then my eyes. It was going to be a different sort of work day than I had planned. 

And isn’t that how it goes? We make plans from the moment we know those little hearts are beating underneath our own, when we’re still dreaming of who that tiny poppy seed will become, about the kind of mother we’ll undoubtedly be. 

I’ll breastfeed on demand.

He’ll never cry it out. 

I’ll read to her every night, two books—maybe three! 

I’ll never raise my voice or lose my patience. 

He won’t ever eat fast food or high fructose corn syrup.

I’ll give each child plenty of undivided attention every single day. 

They’ll follow all the rules, pitch in around the house, brush their teeth twice a day.

But despite all our good intentions and all of our best-laid plans, motherhood has a way of perpetually backhanding us into reality.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here about motherhood, my friends: it isn’t about me—it’s about them. 

It’s letting your inbox hemorrhage just a little bit more while you tuck a Hershey’s bar into your purse and surprise the first-grader who had a tough morning with a lunch date and dessert. 

It’s rocking the baby at 3 a.m. when she’s cutting her third tooth in two weeks and the only antidote is her exhausted mama. 

It’s getting in the car—for the fourth time today—to drive the budding musician to a lesson, then swinging through the drive-thru for chicken nuggets and French fries. 

We hear so much about taking time for “self-care” these days, about carving time out for ourselves, our interests, our wellbeing. And it’s absolutely necessary, absolutely good. 

But when the phone rings at 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, hurtful words hurled by an unkind classmate threatening to swallow your tenderhearted boy alive, self care is their care. 

When they’re happy, I’m happy.

When they hurt, I hurt.

When they fly, I soar. 

That doesn’t always leave time for me, to accomplish the tasks I had planned or to have the day I wanted, maybe even needed. 

Motherhood sucks me dry on the regular—of my time, of my energy, of my independence.

But when I fall into bed at the end of an upended day, when the tired I feel is already bleeding over into tomorrow, I’m not bitter.

I’m grateful.

Because motherhood—busy, exhausting, unpredictable motherhood—is so much more than I had planned. 

Carolyn Moore

Carolyn traded a career in local TV news for a gig as a stay-at-home mom, where the days are just as busy and the pay is only slightly worse. She lives in flyover country with her husband and four young kids, and occasionally writes about raising them at Assignment Mom