My husband often travels for his job, and his work is such that when he travels, he is mostly unavailable to me. He tries–God bless him he tries! He knows how tough it can be and how much I just need to hear his voice sometimes. But the demands of his job are high, his schedules are brutal, and the pressure is intense. Mess up, slack off, crumble under pressure and you are done in his line of work. So, when he goes off on a trip, it’s crunch time. Often he comes home to tight deadlines and high expectations, which means the pressures of a job generally follow him home, into his office, and it can be several days before he comes up for air.
And so lately I find myself at home, more or less solo-parenting my children for various stretches of time. Funny how I never really ever thought about this part.
When you have a baby, you only think about the day baby comes. Nine months of pregnancy drag on until your belly is so full and your back is sore so, you think you might literally break in half. Then the baby arrives, and you realize how easy you had it. How nursing a newborn is literally a full time job. How sleep deprivation is very, very real. How these innocent, angelic babies actually do grow into toddlers who scream and bite and kick–all day long and on purpose! When they arrive in your life, you realize how much work, effort, time, and mental capacity they take, and you look back on your pregnancy with dreamy eyes.
Because when you have a baby, you only think about the baby coming. Not actually staying.
Few of us ever consider in that moment what life will be like whenÂ baby is five, and there are two or three others behind it. But then, out of the blue, it hits you. At 5pm when you are at home in a half packed house getting ready to move 1500 miles, with a kindergartener negotiating dinner plans, and a two year old screaming over the wrong color cup you just handed her, and a baby kicking in your belly all while your husband is in another hemisphere and won’t be home for another week. The reality of parenthood comes crashing down on you like an avalanche of emotion.
Are you angry because they are never, ever quiet and you just need 20 minutes to close your eyes? Frustrated from the fifteen things that are all half done, or the other fifteen that still need doing? Sad because you know youÂ should be able to keep it together and yet you are so inadequate, cowering in a corner hoping its all a bad dream? Uncertain if any of this was the right choice? Overwhelmed at the sheer amount of character training and basic child raising that still needs to occur, and you are the only one home to do it? Depressed because this was life yesterday, and last week, and last month, and will be your reality again tomorrow?
Our baby shower registries, our first steps videos, they are all well and good. They make lovely pictures that we cry over years later. But they are the poetry. The alliteration may be pretty, but parenting is not poetic.
Parenting is a process of perseverance. It is sacrifice. It is love beyond what we ever dreamed bringing out the absolute worst in us, facing that, and changing that. It is digging in when the going is tough. It is asking for and accepting the help we so desperately need. It is choosing not to allow exhaustion to steal your joy. Not allowing the boredom of routine to blind you to the blessings. It is stepping in to correct and teach, over and over again.
This season of life I face is pushing me to limits I am still not certain I can withstand. I have many days of doubt. Am I making the right choices? Is this sustainable? Is this day a reflection of the life I want or a life I’m just surviving?
The questions clutter my mind. They fill every corner and speak out, blurring my beliefs and challenging my parenting creeds. Times may be demanding. My days may leave me utterly wrung out as my head hits the pillow and my night shift begins.
But I have too much at stake to dwell in the hardships. These children won’t raise themselves. These three precious souls, they are my work. And while I may need a rest from time to time, they are the moments that make up my days. They are my laying down my life and taking up His love. Living this way doesn’t make the job any easier. It just makes it matter.
And so I go to bed tonight. I lay down hopeful for a few hours, lucky if I only see the clock a few times. I prepare myself to face the coming weeks of travel, enjoying the few days I have him home for and choose to persevere. I choose to keep going. I choose to face the fatigue and trust the process. Because they matter. I matter. The work waiting for me tomorrow–it matters.