I see you struggling, Young Moms, a giant carseat over one aching arm, and a whining 2-year-old by the hand. The 4-year-old dreamily lags behind, oblivious that he’s the one everyone is serving here. To get him to preschool, I know you just fed and reasonably dressed everyone (we all know sleepers are daywear for the under-1 set, right?). Then came the chaos of bundling for February in Ohio, the squeezing everyone into can’t-buckle-themselves carseats, the trek around the building from the abominably faraway parking at preschool, and the hike up to the second floor.
No, you’re not done yet.
Now the 4-year-old needs to take off all that gear, and switch from snowy boots to dry shoes, and hang everything up, and wash hands…all in 4-year-old slow motion. Meanwhile, most of the paint at the classroom easel is on the 2-year-old’s face, hair, and clothing, and the baby has pooped.
Am I you, Young Mom? Well, yes. And no. Not anymore. I did that already. Now I’m that mythical creature, the one who skips down the stairs child-free after drop off, passing you and your slow-moving brood with a knowing/sympathetic smile. I’m an Old Mom, the one whose first and second-born children are impossibly and anciently elementary-school-aged, who brings one lone preschooler up the long stairs each morning.
You look tired. No, that’s not strong enough. You look like you haven’t felt anything but tired in years, and you are just barely making it through each day and the relentless demands of your three little ones. The lines on your face are tension gripping smooth young skin; my lines are a 40th birthday closing in on me.
It does get easier. You’re too much in the thick of it right now to see, but you’ll make it. You will sleep again, all night, regularly. You will go days without getting near anyone’s poop. Your children will dress and buckle and feed themselves. You will have interesting, intelligent conversations with your children. You will laugh at your children – because they’re funny, and they’re actually funny on purpose.
I’m not going to tell you to enjoy your time as a mother when the kids are so little. I know you do–sometimes. I know there are magical moments, too many to count, of snuggling and adorableness and tiny baby outfits and first words. No, I have a different message: It will end, and pretty soon, and then it’s going to be as good as you imagine in your exhaustion-addled daydreams.
Hey, I’m not saying your kids will be perfect. Mine certainly aren’t–they’re perfectly normal, capricious, imperfect, impulsive, whiny, and messy 9, 7, and 4-year-olds. The laundry doesn’t go away–there’s actually more. And you will be as busy as ever, now overseeing homework and extracurriculars on top of the ever present cleaning of house and providing of meals.
But you will feel better. You’ll have moments to think without bodies hanging all over you and voices yelling in your ears. Your body will stop growing and birthing and healing and feeding and leaking and dragging, and you’ll walk a little more brightly, because your body will serve you again.
If, when the kids were little, you cut back on or quit work, you’ll now be able to seize more time to work. Oh, I know you’ve been working, sister. I mean time to do a job, with adults, where people actually tell you you’re doing well and pay you for it.
Here’s another secret: Now, as an Old Mom, I actually enjoy preschool drop off. One 4-year-old is a delight to escort, when you have time to let her move at her speed, when she’s not expected to always be the Big Kid, and when your hands and mind are free to focus on her. Soon enough, that will be you, and the little one in the infant seat, now walking herself up the stairs, hand in hand with you.
And you will have made it, Old Mom.