I’m not sure how I got here, wide awake at four am on Mother’s Day morning. Both of my kids have always been great sleepers. While my husband wishes he didn’t have to sleep at all, sleeping is one of my favorite hobbies, and when we had kids I was intensely focused on protecting my shut-eye. With a handful of exceptions, the kids slept in their own rooms and we enjoyed several years of peaceful nighttime hours.
For this reason I’m surprised to be rocking in a La-z-Boy recliner, sipping coffee in the dark. This isn’t the first time I’ve sought refuge in the living room in the middle of the night, and at the rate things are going, it won’t be the last.
A couple of years ago my daughter began climbing into our bed in the morning. I liked it. I love a morning snuggle, the promise of the day whispered in scratchy voices and the weight of my kids’ bodies warm against my side. I’m weary at the end of the day when all of my resources have been used up, but in the morning my reset button has been pressed, and I’m ready to parent.
Lately, though, my girl has been sneaking into our bed earlier and earlier, and now she’s crowding my side of the bed as early as one am. If I catch her slipping under the covers, I give her a hug and send her back to her room, but more often than not, I wake up with her sleeping next to me. She’s snuggled close on one side and my husband has his leg draped over me on the other, essentially creating a cuddle cocoon that sounds lovely and is for a short period of time. Quickly though, my husband’s snoring teams up with my own claustrophobia wakes me up completely and has me staring into the darkness.
I untangle my arm from under my sleeping six-year-old, and gently kick my husband’s leg off of my own. He stops snoring, so I wonder if maybe I can go back to sleep, but the claustrophobia chuckles and says, Girl, you’re up for good. I weigh my options. I could wake up my girl and send her back to her room, I could lie here and play on my phone, or I can move to the couch like a banished spouse.
I’ve done all of these things in the past few months, and today I choose to fight my way out of the blanket prison and head for the couch. The couch, however is occupied by an 11-year-old black lab who isn’t allowed on the furniture. His old hips don’t allow him to maneuver stairs well, but he can leap on the couch just fine. He used to look sheepish when I’d catch him breaking the long-standing rule, but he’s officially a senior-citizen, and has no more shits to give. Instead of kicking him off, I make coffee and settle into the recliner.
This is motherhood. Quietly weighing options, often doing the responsible thing, but sometimes taking the easier route which ultimately leads to lost sleep and claw marks on leather couches.
Motherhood is silently forgoing your own comfort for that of your family – being the last to sit at the dinner table, spending far too much time thinking about and managing other humans’ bathroom needs, and sharing blankets and bites and gloves when your kid forgets theirs again.
Motherhood is saving paper towel rolls for school projects and making sure baseball pants are washed and cutting up apples while listening to 47 straight minutes of Minecraft commentary.
Motherhood is wondering if you’re reading to the kids enough or if they should be playing outside more. It’s following your gut but also Googling all of the things.
Motherhood is managing all of these tasks knowing your children may never understand the sacrifices you make, but trusting they will feel it, and really that’s all that matters.
Motherhood is realizing halfway through that first cup of coffee at four am that this early morning wakeup is actually a gift; that quiet time to write, or read, or finish the second half of the Law and Order SVU episode you fell asleep watching last night is a great way to start the day.
Motherhood is appreciating the gift of time on this earth we are given with these children who are entrusted in our care. It’s savoring the journey that is parenting, and being proud and grateful to be on the ride at all.
Motherhood is bolting out of bed in the morning because you can’t take one more minute of closeness, and ninety minutes later wondering when everyone is going to wake up because you already miss them.