I find myself here often, in a place between disarray and confusion, anxiousness and contentment, satisfaction and wanting more.
Is this motherhood? This constant give and take, a feeling of being on the brink of something?
Constantly on the brink of raising my voice. On the brink of crying. On the brink of breaking down in laughter. Always on the verge of something powered by emotions stirred up by little children’s wants and needs.
Growing up I had big plans for adult me: a husband, three or four kids, a two-story house with a big backyard and two dogs. In my mind I was going to raise my kids in another state where leaves change colors, snow falls during the winter months and the cost of living would allow me to be a stay-at-home mom.
In this fantasy house, I would raise my well-behaved children who would appreciate baking cookies and making crafts together. I was a mom unconcerned with maintaining a clean house or worrying about too much screen time.
In this vision there were rarely bad times or hard afternoons where crying, threatening to take away toys or enforcing time outs took up the majority of the day. I did not foresee that staying home would not be an option; that in order to give my children the lifestyle I wanted for them or that making homemade anything would cause stress inside of bring enjoyment.
In my vision of parenthood I only saw two spectrums: happy and sad. Good times or bad times. There was no middle ground or fusing of ranges. I only saw two emotions: frustration and bliss.
I was shaken awake from my dream of what motherhood would look like and the image of myself as a mom when my daughter turned two.
My first year as a mom was all what if’s and am I doing this right? Googling milestones, worrying about what I was and wasn’t doing right and shuttling my daughter to play dates to help her socialize. My downtime was spent critiquing my parenting and thinking about next steps, all the while riding the spectrum of blissful moments and days where frustration ruled.
Once I let go of the reins and stopped relying on that vision of how things should be, I came to discover that there is so much more than living in the two extremes of parenting. Between feelings of bliss – when parenting is easy, the infant is settled, the toddler is smiling, the chores are done, the to do list is all checked off – and frustration – when all I want to do is run to the farthest corner of my house to escape the tantrums, the talking back, the constant pushing of boundaries – is the middle area.
This middle area, an unexpected realm within these two emotional extremes, can only be described as cautious contentment. A feeling of calm mixed with vigilance. A time to think, reflect, breath, all the while understanding the moment will be broken.
I was there the other day, in that middle area, watching the girls play in their own separate corners of the room, the dishwasher and washing machine were running and my husband had just cooked meals for the week. There was nothing to do. No one to correct, no one needed mom and the chores were getting done.
It was almost surreal.
“Can I really relax?” I wondered, lowering myself into the glider as quietly as possible in fear that any sudden movement would break the moment.
When I find myself in between bliss and frustration, I give in to those times of quiet reflection and take those few seconds to really look at my girls, my surroundings, this life my husband and I have created for our family.
I take the time to realize how even though at times we raise our voices a little too high, lose our patience a little too soon, say no a little too quickly, we are parenting to the best of our abilities, giving what we can even during those times we feel as though we can’t give anymore.
During my time in between bliss and frustration I reflect on my girls and how quickly they are growing up. I watch as the toddler hands a toy to the 10-month-old, something we told her to do when her sister wants one of her toys; look on as the infant smiles at her sister, already in awe of everything she does. These two whirlwinds of joy have their moments of toeing the line a little too much and pushing the boundaries a little too far, but they are shining in their own little orbits as they continue to feel out their surroundings and find their place in the world.
These moments between frustration and bliss, when I allow myself the time to really take it all in, are fleeting and pass as quick as they come. When the moment is broken I am ready to jump into action: reminding the toddler not to jump on the couch, stopping the infant from pulling up on a chair, waving a towel over the smoke alarm because the turkey burgers have been simmering a little too long.
But until then, I wait. Taking it all in. This life that has undergone revisions, edits and rewrites to become what it is today: all mine.