I wake early before the babies most mornings- a habit I’ve only recently begun in the last few months because in the last few months all of my babies have started sleeping through the night. 5:15am: the alarm goes off and I roll out of bed and head straight for the coffee pot. I sit and I think and I read and I journal and not too long before 6:00am, I hear the littlest baby, the one who is actually a baby, begin to stir.
“Oh, too early, little one,” I think. “You needed to sleep longer.”
See, we’re on Day 12 of sick children at this point, one getting better, then the next catching the cough, not sleeping, needing me.
But she wakes and she needs me so I go to get her. She’s clingy this morning, not feeling great, needing me to make it better. So I hold all twenty-four pounds of her as I try to scramble eggs and pack the Kindergartner’s lunch and still drink my coffee, which is cold by this time.
She is having none of it- she needs to be the sole focus of my affection and makes that loud and clear- so eventually I decide to just turn the burner off and sit right in the middle of the kitchen floor to hold my baby. I glance longingly at my mug of coffee perched within an arm’s reach on the counter and I try to scoot closer to get it- can’t I at least drink my coffee and hold her at the same time?
I take one arm off of her back and she screams and shakes her head “NO!” with such determination that I immediately place my hand on the small of her back again, rubbing, singing, kissing the top of her head.
Now the clock is ticking to get us all out the door for school and if I can’t move, I need to enlist the help of a sometimes-capable-sometimes-not five-year old.
“Brennan,” I say, “I need you to go to the pantry, grab some snacks and put them in your lunchbox. You get to choose today, so make them yummy and healthy. Then go upstairs and pick out an outfit. Try to not have too many patterns. Mae won’t let me get up.”
She does as I ask and comes through with flying colors and eventually I console the baby enough to convince her to get in the stroller for the walk to school.
And this is how the morning goes; this is where we are at this day- a freeing realization for me one day, actually. This is where we are at today, I repeat to myself in these trying moments. This is where we are at today. A gentle reminder to be here, in my actual moment, now- I don’t need to stress about what I’m not doing, what I’m not getting done, what I should be doing better. Because for today, this is where we are at. Sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor at 7:32. And that’s fine.
There was a time when this kind of morning would have done me in. There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have broken or I would have yelled or cried or let it overflow into the rest of my day.
As I think through what has changed, this is what I have come up with:
Grace– Something amazing happens as you have more babies, grow a little older, get a little more comfortable in your own skin: You no longer demand perfection from yourself. I let go of what I need to let go of and remind myself to be kind to myself, just as I would a friend. You should try it; it’s revolutionary.
Time– I have learned that I am a better wife and mother when I am willing to put in the work to take care of myself. I go to sleep at 10:00pm so that I can wake up at 5:15am and have some quiet time in the house before kids wake up and the chaos of the day begins. I work out every day and eat well so that my body feels strong and healthy. It requires making choices in how I spend my time, but the better I feel, the more abundantly I can live.
Boundaries– I have become a ruthless advocate for myself. I have learned how to say no to things in order to open up space in my heart and calendar. I have developed a strong sense of discernment of whether something will be life-giving or life-draining for me and if it doesn’t add life to my life, I say no. People pleasing just isn’t worth it and my soul is relieved.
As mamas, we pour the cereal and pour the coffee and pour the legos all over the floor. We courageously pour ourselves out for them again and again and again as they borrow our strength until they’re strong enough to find their own. May we also be courageous enough to discover the parts of our life that need to be poured into, and as we develop our own life-giving rhythms, may we discover that out of our abundance, we take better care of them, too.