I got up around 5:30 this morning. I do that five days a week so I can get my son to daycare and my daughter to school before I report to work at 7:30. Don’t worry, I start drinking coffee before I even leave the house.
When I arrive at work I pour another cup of coffee, then make my way through eight hours of work that’s unrelated to raising my family. I clock out the moment my shift ends, rush to pick up the kids, and start dinner as soon as we arrive home.
Dinner is often rejected, because it’s not chicken nuggets or grilled cheese, and I spend most of the time I should be eating negotiating with my children over a couple of bites of green beans. Eventually, the kids and I reach a stalemate and we’re forced to argue about bathing instead of cold green beans.
Pots and pans clutter the sink and spill onto the counter. At any given time, there are at least two loads of laundry piled on the sofa—or the laundry bench, as the kids call it. Cap-less markers litter the space beneath the dining room table, and discarded toys congest the hallway. After several years of careful practice, I’ve learned to navigate this hazardous terrain, although the soles of my feet still find a jagged toy from time to time.
I’m not a slob, quite the opposite in fact. The chaotic state of my home is the result of a busy family and a mother who can’t quite keep up with the madness. I’ve learned the hard way that continuously cleaning is a fruitless battle that only serves to make me cranky. Messes multiply like rabbits when you have children in the house.
Though I’m constantly moving, I accomplish very little between bath time and bedtime. I help a sobbing child search for a missing library book, clean up dinner plates, and chase a naked toddler into the tub.
Twenty questions and even more drinks of water later, the kids are finally asleep. At this point, I’m dead on my feet. A living zombie, I move from room to room, collecting discarded undergarments and adding them to the already overflowing hamper.
I know I should go to bed. My body craves rest, but I find myself awake much later than everyone else in my house.
Because I’m a mother, and this is my only time of solitude.
It’s a trade-off, really, you either choose to sleep, or you choose alone time. I choose alone time, hands down, nearly every night.
During these late hours, our home is perfectly still. I can hear the dog breathing at my feet, the creaks and groans of the house, and the hum of the refrigerator. This is my time, and I cherish every moment of it. There are no children pulling at the hem of my shirt, asking for yet another snack. No noise, no chaos, just me and my thoughts.
I’d love to tell you that mothers spend this time doing all the things they enjoy, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Sure, we scroll Facebook or indulge in our favorite Netflix series now and then, but more often than not, we spend this time catching up.
They say there aren’t enough hours in a day, but mothers are capable of squeezing every last drop out of a day. It’s currently 10:30 p.m. and I should be sleeping, but I’m working. When I’m finished here, I’ll lay out clothes for tomorrow, careful to avoid the “bumpy socks” that will cause my 3-year-old a stage-five meltdown. I’ll write out a grocery list so I can stop at the store on the way home, then pick up the markers from beneath the dining room table. I’ll fill a basket with the toys in the hallway, and load the dishwasher as quietly as I can. Then, I’ll slip into my pajamas and read a few chapters of my favorite book. When sleep threatens to carry me away, I’ll hold my eyes open as long as possible, because I know the moment they open tomorrow my alone time is over and the hustle begins again.
Of course I’ll be tired. Mothers are always tired.
But, I firmly believe this is why God created coffee. Why else would someone grind up brown beans, run water through the dust, and drink it? Clearly coffee is part of His plan. It was created for mothers like me.
I’m not complaining—I know this is part of the parenthood package. There will come a day when the kids are grown and the evenings are calm. I won’t be the green bean bite enforcer, and my floors will remain relatively clean. I’m not going to muddy this with a tired cliché, imploring you to enjoy every moment, because I know it’s possible to be extraordinarily grateful while admitting you’re exhausted.
I’m tired, but I’m grateful, and one day there’ll be plenty of time to sleep.