Every so often, I get asked about motherhood. Right around the time the lines turn positive on a test for a woman I know, I start to get questions. What kind of diapers are the best, which baby carrier is the most comfortable, who sells the best maternity clothes, what car seat do I have for the girls, the list goes on and on. But I get asked what motherhood is like the most often. I have tried, really, really tried, to answer the eternal question “What is it like?” as honestly as I can. And really, only one word describes motherhood.
It is relentless. The work is relentless, the lack of sleep is relentless, the mental exhaustion is relentless. The physical exhaustion is relentless. From the morning my feet hit the floor, life, the girl’s life, my life, the house-life, comes at me. Gone are the day where I could ease into the morning with a cup of coffee and the news on the tv. Now I’m lucky to get to pee in peace before answering questions, feeding a baby, turning a tablet on, helping a little body into clothes, changing a dirty diaper for a fresh one.
The onslaught of motherhood slams into me before I’m fully awake.
There is an ongoing mountain of laundry, a long list of housework I never seem able to get through. A list of chores that grows rather than shrinks. A list of things I need to do, errands I need to run, all of it, that demands attention, generally while my attention is being demanded from two small little girls.
Every decision I make during the day, down to something as simple as getting dressed, is dominated by the girls. How hard will it be to get this shirt off when it’s covered in spit-up and baby drool? Can I wear these shoes and keep up during a walk? Are these leggings even clean? I can no longer go the grocery store to pick up a couple of things, I have to get both girls loaded, check to see if my ergo is in the truck or on the couch, herd Sprout through the store, hope Pudge doesn’t pee through a diaper because it just dawned on me that the diaper bag is sitting on the kitchen counter, and get home. I can’t let the tv just mindlessly drone on, there is too much on tv that is way too big for Sprout; so certain channels are on the no-no list. Some channels are on the no-no list at certain times of day, some all the time. (I’d like to take a moment to thank Science Channel for running How It’s Made during the day, it’s always a safe bet.)
Sleep is non-existent. The nights the girls sleep in their beds all night long I can’t sleep. The nights they end up with me, I end up used for a pillow, a security blanket, and a drink holder all night long. I spend most of my days hovering between shades of exhaustion, and Quiet Time in the afternoon is probably my favorite time of day. Yes, we all snuggle on the couch and it’s very sweet. But more importantly, I get a much needed nap. Sleep deprivation is relentless.
Even on days where I’m not teaching, I have activities planned out. Leaving Sprout to her own devices means fixing something she has broken, cleaning something she has spilled, and playing get the glitter off the cat/out of the carpet. Keeping her occupied with tea parties and dress-up and projects to do on the patio means we’re saner. I spend 20 hours a day, some days, in Mom-mode, and the mental toll is relentless.
There’s laundry to sort, diapers to wash, dinners to cook, lessons to plan (looking forward to taking the summer off), there’s work to be done. The sheer amount of work is relentless. For every job done, there are more lining up. It is utterly relentless.
So is the love.
The hugs and kisses from Sprout are relentless. She’s independent, and cops an attitude, but she is almost always up for a snuggle. A day never passes when she tells me I’m the best Mom ever, or that I’m better at breakfast than Daddy is, or that I’m her favorite Mom in the whole wide world. The love I have poured into that child comes back now, in great big relentless moments.
The love that I’ve poured into Pudge is coming back. I am rewarded with a toothless, gummy grin every time I stumble into her room at 4 in the morning, to change her diaper and feed her. Like her sister, she is always up for a snuggle, and wants nothing more than for someone to hold her. Those moments where she lays her head on my shoulder and is content to sit there, watching the world go by, are filled with relentless amounts of joy and love.
So is the happiness.
These are, hands down, the best times of my life. I have two healthy, imperfectly perfect, little girls. The sun shines, the hummingbirds visit the feeder, the smell of crayons and play-do dominates my house. Little feet run across the carpet, toes are painted, songs are sung, movies are watched. We laugh all the time, at silly knock-knock jokes, during tickle fights, we giggle over a science experiment gone wrong, we laugh at a bubble fight in the tub.
When I was pregnant with Sprout, I bought a crystal sun catcher. It’s 3 big crystals, held in a spiral wire, attached to a small motor. In the window, at just the right time, it scatters the light into the girls room in spinning rainbows. Sprout bounces on the bed and shrieks and giggles every time, Pudge coos and gurgles at the light. That room becomes the focal point of life for me. The happiness is relentless.
So is the peace.
For years, I lived like a gypsy. (Pardon the un-PC term). I moved on a moments notice, changed jobs, dropped in and out of college. It was a carefree, un-moored existence. I swore, at the tender age of knows it all 20-something, that I could never be happy tied to one place. I needed to explore and travel and roam.
And I can’t now. Moving is a huge undertaking. Just going an hour down the highway is a huge undertaking. I am moored here, digging in and growing new roots on my family tree. I thought I would die of boredom, all those years ago.
But this is a peaceful time. Having a place, one singular place, to call home. Having somewhere to fill with laughter and music and good food and movies, and all the books we can fit in here, is the most peaceful I’ve ever been. The peace comes to me in a relentless sort of way, like sitting on the beach, up far enough that the waves don’t crash, but flow up around you. They still come, they don’t stop, in their own relentless, calm sort of way.
Some day, relentless will be gone. The girls will gone, the swing will be empty, there won’t be toys to be picked up, I won’t be tying shoes and wiping noses and changing diapers and clothes. I will have a big bed with room to stretch out in. I will have time to go shopping and get my nails done. The relentlessness of motherhood will be gone, my girls will be on their own, the nest will be empty. I try to remember that, when the relentless tide of motherhood isn’t all good.
Motherhood is completely and utterly unabating, in so many ways, the good, the bad, the in between. It comes at you all at once, the giggles and the tears, the dirty clothes and the perfectly clean living room. It never stops, never pauses, never lets up. It is an unending ride through childhood.
It is completely and utterly relentless.