"Don't you ever have a bad day?"
Someone asked me that yesterday and I wasn't sure how to respond. I looked down at my paint stained jeans that haven't seen a washing machine even longer it's been since my hair has last seen a bottle of shampoo (take my word for it, that's pretty long). I was wearing a shirt that was ten years old and that's a fact as opposed to a guess, since I can still recall the day my mother bought it for me before I left for college. The person went on to elaborate that my blog posts always reek of being drunk on the joys of becoming a mother and I'm constantly doing new activities and projects with Ethan throughout the day without ever coming up blank and without ever seeming tired. This needed instant clarification: I'm tired. I'm always tired. I'm tired to the point where I don't even try to hide my under-eye bags or dark circles. I'm tired to the point where a triple shot of espresso only takes me to ten a.m. and I can easily guzzle a cup of coffee and then pass out, stone cold, for the rest of the evening. Coming up with new art projects and activities and taking one more "nature walk" around the perimeter of our house despite the fact it's drizzling refreshes me and makes me feel good, and happy, and sort of gives my spirit the boost it needs to finish off the day in peak performance mode. I don't do well when I'm just sitting. When my body is at rest, my mind never is and it ticks out a to-do list too long to ever reasonably accomplish. Cue panic, anxiety and notice of the tumbleweeds of cat hair on the floor and dishes piling up in the sink and oh, wait, Ethan, don't stick that in the electrical socket! I like to stay busy. I like to breathe in the flecks of creativity and imagination in Ethan's eyes as he churns out another piece of artwork; pink and blue and white and green fingerprints on the door handles, walls, bathroom faucet. We like to be on the go and constantly discovering and uncovering and just being and these moments of activity are worth more to my mental well-being than three hours of downtime. It has nothing to do with trying to trump other mothers or with thinking I'm Greatest Mom In The Universe, party of one over here and, instead, has everything to do with the fact that this is what works for me, for us, for my family.
I have bad days. I have days where my husband's work schedule is in overdrive and I can't recall the last time I've seen him, let alone the last time Ethan has seen him, despite the fact he comes home every evening. I have days where it's all I can do to get dinner on the table and clothing in the washing machine and everything else has to wait, even the dirty dishes, because if I don't get the chance to stick myself in the shower and regroup I might just implode. I have days where my husband buys the wrong kind of soup and puts the tomato sauce container on top of the refrigerator where I can't reach it without the assistance of Ethan's stepstool that shakes underneath my ankles -- and while I'm defying death to collect the dinner ingredients, Ethan has climbed his way on top of the kitchen table to pour a water bottle on top of all of the mail I haven't yet had a chance to sort through. I have days where "getting dressed" means plucking clothing from the pile on the couch where they've been sitting since I removed them from the dryer, simply because I've run out of hours (or motivation) to put them away properly. I have days where I don't wash my hair (okay, I have many of those days) or wash the make-up off my face because I physically don't feel like I can muster the strength. I have days where I'm waiting by the door with my car keys for my husband to walk in from work just so I can declare I have to go to Target and rush out the door in a puddle of tears. But I don't let these moments define me, or make or break our day. Chances are, even on these days, there have been big hugs and new discoveries; learned words and recited stories; singalongs and dance parties. On these days, there have been beautiful, fleeting moments that I will never get the chance to relive and that is where I choose to focus my energy.
I do wake up every morning eagerly and with anticipation of the adventures that Ethan and I can get into that day. I miss naptime, but I do find it a little bit relieving that now we mostly are free to do whatever we please, whenever we please, without rushing home to cater to the ridiculous standards Ethan is accustomed to at sleep time because my first-time parent neurosis created a true sleep monster. I do find myself caught up in the sheer fun of putting together tot school and arts and crafts activities in the wee hours of the morning despite the fact Ethan will soon be awake, because these moments? I cherish them. I love them. I love the look on his face when he makes a break for our tot school learning space and begs to learn. Where other things once were, these are now my greatest hobbies. I am, in a sense, drunk off the joy of being a mother to this sweet, stubborn, beautiful little boy who truly takes my breath away whenever he looks into my eyes. I find myself wallowing that in just a couple of years, he will be in school and away from me, and that makes me cling to these moments a little harder, a little longer, a little stronger. It makes me appreciate having company in the bathroom or bathing with a small human prone to slipping and splashing buckets of water onto the bathroom floor. One day he won't object to wearing pants and getting dressed won't entail screaming, kicking, crying with the rage of a teenager who has just had the car keys taken away. I want to breathe him in and experience the magic that this world has to offer; magic that I, as an adult, had all but forgotten about before I became a mother. I don't mind the exhaustion. I don't mind the fact that some days, I don't get a moment to myself until my eyes are closing at half past midnight simply because I can't take it anymore. I don't mind any of it because this motherhood gig? It's greater than I ever imagined it could be.
Before I was a mother, I wanted to be a mother to the point where my body physically ached from the pain of not being a mother. I anticipated it being the greatest, most challenging job in the world, but seeing as how I'd never been a mother before, I could only guess how much. And while I anticipated all of these things, the sleepless nights and the wet, slobbery kisses, I had no idea how much I would truly love it. Every second of it. Every minute of it, even the times I'm sitting in the bathroom and Ethan is wailing from his bed, "Ethan has boo boo on heart!" because I had the audacity to try and pee without his company. But that doesn't mean it isn't hard, or challenging, or that I'm under some impression that I'm a superior parent because I stuck some fresh fruit in a blender and gave my kid a smoothie for breakfast. I am simply Ethan's mother, doing this motherhood thing the way we've all been accustomed to, getting through these long, tiring the days the best ways that I know how.
So I try to not have bad days, or define days where things go awry as bad. I try to focus on the way Ethan sing-song repeats back the stories he's memorized when we read them and not the way the hummus from his lunch plate somehow ended up rubbed into the grout. I try, even when it's hard and there are tears in my eyes, to focus on the funny way that Ethan spits out new words he's learned and not the fact that he spent twenty-five minutes screaming bloody murder when I so much as mentioned "naptime" and refused to let anything or anyone calm him down. I try to remind myself that the way I react will become the voice inside his own head and with all that pressure comes a reminder to breathe and move on. This motherhood gig is a busy one, a selfless one, a tiring one, and the bulk of my coffee-infused energy goes into navigating through it the best way I know how, which is all I can do. Which is all anyone can do, even the mothers with the perfectly coiffed hair and neatly applied lipstick, even the mothers who have fed their children from the fast-food drive-through for the second day in a row, even the mothers who have left their little ones with a babysitter for no reason other than to treat themselves to a spa day or some retail therapy, even the ones who have the superhuman ability to trudge through the day without coffee and have houses cleaner than mine will ever be.