Wednesday, August 30, 2017

This Is Not Another Letter to Moms in the Trenches

It was the first nice day after a long winter and a wet spring, and all 6 kids and I were stir-crazy.

We went to a local park that had something for everyone: a playground for the little kids, rock-climbing walls and good hide-and-seek spots for the older kids, and a basketball court for the 13-year-old.

As I pushed the baby's stroller, I looked at the parents of the laughing preschoolers around us and thought: none of these people were here when we started out.

When Phillip and I first became parents 13 years ago, most of these people were still earning degrees and starting careers, and having babies was the furthest thing from their minds.

I've been coming to playgrounds like this one for the last decade. The parents who used to sit beside me and chat are long gone. Their kids are teenagers now and they've got no use for twisty slides or monkey bars.

But I'm still here.

I'm still changing diapers and picking up oversized puzzle pieces and rinsing out training potties and sweeping what seems like pounds of food off the floor after every meal.

What if the thought of leaving the baby years behind doesn't make you want to jump for joy?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

I see references online to moms who are "in the trenches," and open letters to "the exhausted mom of a newborn." Don't worry! they say. It gets better! They grow up! You move out of this phase eventually!

But what if you don't want it to be "just a phase?"

Our bathroom sink has had a step stool beneath it for as long as I can remember. Some houses only need one for a few fleeting years and suddenly everyone is tall enough to reach the sink, and it's gone.

Just like that.

Our bathroom step stool has been in continuous operation for the last decade, and quite frankly, the idea of someday removing it breaks my heart.

I know it's just a stool. But I can't help it.

It's almost taken as a given that I want to have more time to myself, that I can't wait to stop wiping butts and noses, that I long to reclaim my house from baby gear.

And I suppose I do, sometimes. When a 15-minute workout takes an hour because I'm getting snacks and refereeing fights, or when I can't get a single thing done because the baby is on a nap strike, I have to admit not having little kids at home starts to sound pretty good.

But only for a moment.

When I think, really think, about the fact that someday I'll be able to go to a restaurant and eat my meal uninterrupted by a tiny person who needs to be taken to the bathroom, it makes me want to cry instead of jump for joy.

I'm not exempt from the exhaustion and exasperation that plagues all moms in the trenches, but the trenches have been my life for the last 13 years, and the thought of crawling out of them does not make me feel relieved.

I never saw the baby years as an intense but brief phase that lasts about as long as it takes to use up a tube of mascara and then I could get on with things. It's a life I'll miss profoundly.

It's been a privilege and a joy to laugh at my unborn babies' feet rolling across my pregnant belly.

To see them look up from nursing with a milk-drunk smile and know that I personally nourished those round little bellies.

If you press me enough, I'll even admit I kind of like the grubby handprint trail going up the stairwell.

Of course I knew logically that these things would one day come to an end, but I've been so busy feeding and burping and rocking for all these years that I guess I forgot.

I'm still carrying a baby around on my hip and who knows that there aren't more waiting in the wings, but looking at the turnover rate in this park has made me realize that everybody's got to leave the trenches sometime.

And the thought makes me feel homesick already.
Everyone is quick to assure new moms that this demanding stage won't last forever, but what if you don't want it to end? What if you love motherhood in the trenches? What if the thought of someday not having babies to cuddle or toddler noses to wipe makes you really, really sad? #motherhood #baby #parenting

Everyone is quick to assure new moms that this demanding stage won't last forever, but what if you don't want it to end? What if you love motherhood in the trenches? What if the thought of someday not having babies to cuddle or toddler noses to wipe makes you really, really sad? #motherhood #baby #parenting

Everyone is quick to assure new moms that this demanding stage won't last forever, but what if you don't want it to end? What if you love motherhood in the trenches? What if the thought of someday not having babies to cuddle or toddler noses to wipe makes you really, really sad? #motherhood #baby #parenting

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files


Alicia @ Sweeping Up Joy said...

Had to share! <3

AnneMarie said...

This is so beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynne Nicholson from the UK here. Even when you don't have your own baby there are chances to help others especially in the church (I'm LDS too) and way too soon your babies will have their babies and the house will be full again so the step can stay until it's needed again.
And random things happen like needing the loo after an hospital appointment and helping a mum with three little ones that brings back memories of your little one and of course you readily watch them so the young mum can use the loo.

Jenny Evans said...

I fully plan to!

Crafts on the Side said...

With 7 kids, the oldest being almost 13 (in Nov) and the youngest a year and a half, I fully understand this article. I talk to friends from high school (almost 25 years ago) and they discuss their kids going off to college or their grandkids and I realize I have more in common with the KIDS of people I grew up with than the people I grew up with. People alternate between asking if I'm ready for the next one or if I'm done already. There's days I'd say I'm more than done, but more times than not, I wouldn't trade ie for the world and would consider more. Neither one of us wants surgery, I don't believe in implant/permanent placement, and they won't prescribe me regular bc because I'm over 35 (41) and smoke (my one vice) and, according to 5 different doctors I've gone to, "you'll be in menopause soon and won't be able to get pregnant". Um, I think my off switch is broken. But then thought of throwing out the playpen, the bassinet, the things I got rid of 3 kids back when I thought I wasn't having any more and had to re-buy a couple months later, makes me extremely sad...even the thought of not being pregnant ever again gives me this empty feeling, even though I love seeing them become independent.

Jenny Albertson said...

I love this. I only have 3 kids, and that seems a lot to me (I don't know how you do it :) ) But my husband and I have been talking about planning our family (do we want more???) and part of me really is done with this part of mommy hood--part of me wants to be done having babies and focus on the raising part. Part of me wants to never change my kid's diaper again and not have to share my body with a growing baby or a nursing one...but then part of me knows that I will 100% miss this little part. The dirty fingers, and messy house. I love seeing those little tiny smiles!

Anonymous said...

This made me cry in a good way. I have friends who are ready to be done, who say things like "I hear five is a good age" and I think...this seems like a pretty great age to me. Even though I'm never going to love a diaper change, the joy of snuggles, of being their whole world, is so amazing to me. It's nice to know that others enjoy their babies and little ones too, even when they are hard (or more than hard).

Peggy said...

Here's the thing, every stage of children's lives is wonderful. Each had its joys and miracles. One day you will save that step stool for your grandkids and tell them how their parent was once little like they are. We travel though the stages with them, often multiple stages at once. The marvelous thing is that you are enjoying each one. Hooray for you, Jenny !

Maryam said...

Wow, this totally resonated with me. I have 4 kids and am definitely not out of the trenches. My baby is 6 months old. You are right - no one talks about the step stool. We've had a step stool around for 9 years now haha. It' all the little things that add up when you have more than a couple kids. This was beautiful. Thank you for the reminder :)

KatieS said...

A woman after my own heart. ..I realized this summer how many of my friends have graduated from the baby pool, I've been there ten years and counting. Little ones can be tough but nothing melts my heart like little outstretched arms and the word "up". I will miss these days when number 6 and I finally graduate to the big pool.

Marilyn said...

This was lovely. I share in your mixed feelings and am so grateful for my "wide" family. I know at some point we will be done, and there will be good things about it, but it is hard to accept it in my baby-loving heart. :)

Megan said...

Love this so much. There are hard days. But man, I love our little ones. I'm always thinking I hope I have a very clear answer to when our family is complete because I just LOVE babies!!

Jenny Evans said...

Yes! It's not that I don't love seeing my kids growing up and learning things and becoming their own people. I don't ever wish to freeze them in time. I just loved when I was much younger and I could always take for granted that there would be another first smile, another first steps, another first day of school with another sibling around the corner. The idea of all the firsts becoming my lasts is still sad to me.

Jenny Evans said...

I really do wish I was like other women I know, who hit a point where they are 100% percent "I'm done." I ask how they know and they say they hated being pregnant, or something like that... maybe I just don't hate it ENOUGH!

Jenny Evans said...

It's weird to think that someday I won't go to the playground anymore. At least for a few years, and then hopefully I'll be able to take some grandkids.

Jenny Evans said...

I'm hoping for a clear answer, too, because so far...

Kristin said...

THIS, EXACTLY. I don't understand parents who want their kids to hurry and grow up. At 10 and 14, mine are already much too grown. I thought I was the only one grieving for the way things used to be.

Jane said...

Part of the "wonderfulness" of being a can relive some of those memories with the next generation! Not exactly the same but the love is deep and abiding and these little ones add a totally new dimension to your life. I felt a little lost when my youngest left the nest but now I get to see the fruits of my labors...loving, kind and totally involved grown-up children raising their children!

Jenny Evans said...

It's good to hear you say that. It's exactly what I'm hoping for.