It was an act of sibling rivalry that set the early morning hour into motion.

My voice, still waking from a night of intermittent rest, turned into an ogre of epic proportions.

I had already cleaned up two spills, fed breakfast to a very hungry child, and tried to coerce a very picky child to eat just a bite of something.

In between the food wars, I carried both children at some point on my hip and wiped away tearful expressions of feelings from both kids as I entered into the next phase of playing referee.

The progress of teaching the word kindness to both kids the day before seemed like a failed attempt and very distant memory.

Knowing the remainder of the morning would also hold tantrums, requests for screen time, and a dose of medicine for a lingering cough made my morning miserable.

A few days ago, a friend reminded me I was living the dream.

“You are a mother! You are doing what you wanted to do.”

Wow. 

What a sobering realization and a quick reality check of did I really want this?

For the majority of my life, I had the picture in my head that adulthood would also coincide with parenthood.

I was always the person who said, “I want to grow up and be a mom.”

I had a professional career straight out of college that had exciting day-to-day moments. Life was fun and carefree, sleep was easy to come by, I was not ever asked to dig cracker crumbs out of tightly-woven carpet at 6:30 a.m.

I did not know about making up songs to get another human being to eat one green bean or consequently, getting that same human being to poop to the same tune, just different lyrics.

I would wake up to a fairly routine day . . . see the same people, do the same things, day in and day out all the while having an inner goal to myself that one day . . . one day, I would have kids. I would likely stay at home with them, and it would be glorious.

Fast forward . . . I am here.

I am at my goal. My dream.

This is the life I imagined.

I am not sure I ever pictured the many sleepless nights of a baby crying out at 2:30, 3:30, and sometimes 4:30 a.m., or the fact that one of my children despises all food unless it is covered in ketchup or is a nugget of any form.

Or how one of my kids does not like the local storytime at the library . . . the one fun and safe-for-kids outing we can take each week.

There is also the reality that regardless of what time we put our children to sleep, they ALWAYS wake up EVERY morning at 6:30 a.m.

I didn’t picture the bickering, the “don’t fight with your sister” phrase I say easily 500 times a second, the constant laundry pile of stained clothes from the spaghetti dinner that got EVERYWHERE, or that six centimeter LEGO cube that is always stuck in my foot.

But I could never have imagined the silly songs we sing in the car on the way to church because we do most of our lives singing, the praises made because someone pooped in the potty, the “Mom, look!” at just about anything, or the sleepy requests at nap time for our favorite story that has to be read 10 times in a row until everyone decides to close their eyes.

There are a million, sometimes billion, emotions that pass through the day of a mother. Sometimes they are filled with frustration, anger, doubt, and fear. Sometimes, it feels like the tiny humans filling our homes have it out for us, and we will most assuredly die by 11 a.m. because no, a Popsicle is not a food group.

But motherhood is also beautiful.

It is also a million tiny moments of finding balance, soothing wounds, drying tears, clapping hands, reading books, playing doctor, dancing in the living room, or sliding down the slide at the playground “one last time.”

We have ogre moments and we have redeeming moments.

We have moments we need grace, and moments we feel strengthened to keep going, and all of these moments make us Mom.

When the hour hits when sanity seems like a distant friend and a request for “Jesus Loves Me” is made, the creaking of the rocking chair goes up and down, and the peaceful moment hovers overhead like sunshine on a cloudy day. It is at this moment, I can’t help but look down at the four, tiny feet cradled around my lap, and it hits me. . . this is the goal.

This is what I imagined.

This is not perfection, but this is a beautiful life.

This is the ebb and flow of motherhood.

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To the 30-something Moms

Emily Reed

Emily Reed is a stay-at-home mom to two small children. After previously working in the newspaper industry, she now freelances for several publications.