You might want to grab some coffee if you’re reading here today. Because my mama heart had to let it all out.
My daughter turns ten today.
I said the same thing when she turned one. And then two. And then five. And then eight. And then today.
And I’ll say the same thing when she turns 40, Lord willing.
“Where did the time go?”
And even though every seasoned mama will tell you that time goes ever so quickly, you can’t realize it until you experience it for yourself. And suddenly you wish the hands of time would just stop. Or slow down and add a few hours to the day so you could cling for just a bit longer. But even if that was possible, it would never be enough.
You know there’s a part of me that used to wish I could go back. Wished I could take everything I now know about motherhood and get a do-over, starting with my first-born. Be more relaxed. Stay home from the get-go. Not follow all the “rules” I thought I should, or worry about what people said or thought. Because when you become a parent for the first time, there’s no lack of advice. From other moms. Doctors. The Internet and social media. Random people you meet who feel like they need to dole out parenting advice. Or ask you if you’re done having children.
Maybe if I could go back, I’d live differently. Maybe it wouldn’t go so fast, since I would recognize how fast it goes?
Then again, probably not. Time is time is time.
And in truth, I can’t live my life looking back and wondering what it would be like had I done things differently. It doesn’t do a soul any good to think about it. Because you can’t go back. All you can do is look ahead. Otherwise you end up beating yourself up for what you didn’t know or didn’t do, rather than focus on what you did do. That goes for motherhood and anything in life, really.
You know when you are pregnant for the first time, everyone wants to talk about your pregnancy. And birth. And what it was like for them. We sit around and swap birth stories and pregnancy woes. We focus on making our nursery look perfect and line up our onesies and diapers and fold our sheets neatly.
But somehow for me, the thing that got missed? Was how being a mama changes you. Turns you into this person you didn’t know existed. And while you carry your child for nine months, something happens in the second they are born. With one final push and breath of air, this miraculous moment of motherhood is suddenly created. In a blink of time, you go from someone carrying a child to being an actual mother. New life that you helped to create is laid on your chest and in the first breath of their life outside of you, you are breathing your first breath as a mama. Whatever you went through in labor is suddenly over and seeing your child for the first time instantly takes your mind from that to your baby.
The first time it happens, you don’t even realize it. And then ten years later you look back at that moment and wonder how ten years has felt like just a single breath. And how it seems that just a second ago you were breathing air for the first time as a mama. And you breathed out and ten years suddenly passed that quickly.
And even if your child wasn’t born from your flesh, there was still a first breath of mama life for you too.
I could write out all that I’ve learned in ten years as a mom. Give it a cute title and a cute photo and list in detail what I’ve taken away from this time.
Or I could just feel it. Sit here in this moment, realizing I’ve been a mama for a decade, and just feel it.
The weight of motherhood.
The joy of motherhood.
The love of motherhood.
The miracle of motherhood.
Because how do you even put words to what being a mama really is? Whether you’ve been a mom for just a breath of air or for a decade or for half a century, how do you even put words to paper?
How can you describe the passage of time? The way they grow without seeing them grow until they are ten and you hardly have to bend your head to rest it on top of theirs?
How can you describe the beating of your heart to the rhythm of your children? That your heart is no longer in your chest but on your sleeve because you can’t hide the love you carry for them inside any longer? That you would do anything for them and you hurt when they hurt and laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry.
How can you describe the need to put your ear on their chest while they sleep, and hear their little heart beating, a heart that you pray for and dream for and cry for? How can you describe the desire to just sit and watch them sleep? And breathe. And how you can pray for them and cry and let your tears spill all over their resting bodies because you’re so full of hopes and dreams for their lives.
And the fatigue? How can you describe the tired ache in your bones each and every day? From picking up Legos and puzzle pieces and hairbands and sweeping the floor 164 times a week and feeling like you live with a laundry basket attached to your hip. From not sleeping more than a few hours at a time without someone waking you up for something, even if they just needed a hug or needed to sleep next to you because they missed you. And yet how do you explain that the fatigue is worth every darn second?
How can you look at the world in the same way? When you look at your children, life is more full, more alive. Because children don’t carry the weight we do and they see possibility and hope and what can be. They aren’t burdened by the woe of the world and are still in awe of its beauty.
How can you describe the awe at watching your children grow and change and become these little people who talk and laugh and sing and dance and create and look so different from year to year? How you look at them in marvel at the creativity of a master Creator and yet also realize that you partnered with Him to create life. New life. Little beings not just for earth, but for heaven and eternity.
Because in all honesty, as much as I want to hold tight to them like they’re all mine, I realize that they’re not. They belong first and last to God. He’s the One who has given me the gift of being their mom for my time here on earth. And it’s my job to raise them to hear and follow His voice. What He wants for their life, whether it matches my desire or not.
So I accept the gift and recognize that there’s not much else like being a mama. I consider it the greatest gift of life, the greatest calling. I’m convinced there’s not much else that teaches you about sacrifice as much as being a mom. It gives me a tiny glimpse of Christ’s love for us.
You sacrifice day in and day out. Lack of sleep. Cold coffee, or warmed up. Twice.
A bathroom door that’s never closed. Three minute showers.
Messy cars. Furniture that’s jumped on. Something always breaking.
Soggy cereal. Dirty floors. Never. Ending. Laundry.
And while self-care is very important, you often give up time with friends or time with your spouse. Sometimes you put dreams on hold. You lay with them a few minutes longer or read one more book before bed, even when you want a few minutes to do something else.
You might remember at 2:00 that you actually didn’t really eat much today. Or you eat the leftovers off their plates as you’re loading the dishwasher and wiping off the table for the 10th time.
Your clothing has stains on the sleeves where their sticky fingers or mouths can’t help from touching you. You might own one or two nice shirts that only come out when you get a night out.
Just like everything you go through and sacrifice during pregnancy and labor is worth it in the end when you see your baby, all those sacrifices you make as a mom? They’re all worth it. Every. Single. One.
And none of this is something anyone can tell you. You can read lists of what to expect as a mother. You can take notes and tell yourself the kind of mom you’re going to be or what you will and won’t do with your own children.
But then suddenly you take your first breath as a mom and everything changes.
Being a mom has humbled me. Made me pray for forgiveness and grace and mercy more than anything else. Praying to be home with my kids was the longest prayer of my life, a prayer than spanned 8 years.
Yes, there are days that sometimes go so smoothly. Days where I think I’ve got this mothering thing down. Days where everyone gets along and I marvel at how they are becoming friends and playing well and learning together and it feels like we’re all in the perfect sync.
And then there are those days. Oh those hard days. Where everyone is pulling at me in all directions and I throw up my hands and breathe deeply and ask yell for just five minutes to myself. Those days where all I can do is put my kids to bed and weep for everything I did wrong that day and think surely when they wake up, they’ll remember what a terrible mom I was.
I see parts of me in all my children. The best parts of me and yet parts that are better than me. Because I want them to be better than me. To have a stronger faith, stronger hope, stronger love, stronger creative spirits.
Knowing what I know now as a mama, I’m clinging to these days. I’m not adding up the numbers for the next ten years, or wondering whether we’ll still be homeschooling in five years or worried that I hurt someone’s feelings when I didn’t heed their parenting advice.
I’m holding onto today. The first day my oldest daughter is 10. The first day of celebrating a decade of motherhood. I’m holding onto each moment, determined to live small and be okay with that. To live the truth in C.S. Lewis’s words…”children are the most important work.”
Because in truth, what I do with my children is the most important work I will do with my life. They are the most important work. And they grow fast. And time will never be on my side. And I can cling and fight and want them to stay little forever, or I can enjoy the ride. I want to look back after the next decade and say, “it was the best decade of my life.”
When I’m 50, I’ll probably be the mama who approaches young moms and tells them to hold onto the days when they’re little. That they should live in the moment, even when it’s so hard they’re in tears, it’s all worth it.
But I don’t want to be the mama who says it and didn’t live it. I’m going to live small, in the moment with them. I’m going to remember that I choose motherhood daily. I choose what it will look like. What kind of day it will be for me and for them.
Rather than just watch them grow, I’ll grow with them.
Rather than watch them create, I’ll create alongside them.
Rather than just teach them, I’ll let them teach me too.
Rather than worry about the speed of time, I’ll live small.
And be their biggest fan.
I’m learning to recognize that what I do doesn’t have to look like everyone else. But that the decisions I make, are made in the best interest of my children. That I’m not a perfect mama, but I’m their perfect mama. I’m who they need.
And for your littles, you are too.
What do you celebrate about motherhood?