It struck me a year or two back that I was getting into a habit of making big deals out of the things that my life was entirely comprised of.
There was lots of sighing and moaning and groaning, to the point where I was beginning to get on my own nerves.
Which is saying a lot, because when it comes to myself…I’m kind of a fan.
And once the annoyance set in, I began to notice a stark difference between myself and those ladies I look up to the most…
ladies who had worked hard their entire lives and didn’t make a big fuss about it….
ladies who weren’t forever groaning about all the stuff they either had done or needed to get done…
ladies who didn’t constantly talk about “me time”…
ladies who didn’t see homemaking and/or motherhood as a giant sacrifice, but a natural progression of life…
I’ll never forget the day in our church kitchen when I was bemoaning the fact that we had made it through “another week of Vacation Bible School”.
By the way, our VBS lasts for 3 hours a day.
Oh, and a delicious daily meal is provided for us by our good-cookin’ kitchen committee.
The older ladies around me shared knowing glances before one spoke up. “Girl, this is nothing!” she said. “We used to do VBS for two weeks, and then go home with our kids to do the canning”.
My mouth dropped to the floor.
“You did?!” I gasped, horrified at the very idea.
And here I thought it was hard getting the kids in the car and down the hill to where our hot supper was waiting for us every night…
It was an eye-opener, for sure.
And I knew it was time for a change.
From that day forward, I adopted a homemade mantra of sorts, and I repeat it to myself all the time…
I SIGNED UP FOR THIS.
Everything that I was whining about was something I had plunged into with my eyes wide…okay, mostly-wide…open.
I chose to pursue motherhood. I chose to forego a career and become a stay-at-home wife and mom. I chose to homeschool….
So why in the world was I acting surprised everytime my kids ate and the kitchen table was covered with food and sticky fingerprints? Why did I sigh every time we decided to go somewhere and I had to pack diaper bags and load carseats? When was I going to stop talking about how many (or how few) hours of sleep I had received the night before? How long was I planning on exclaiming over how many times a day I had to sweep the kitchen floor?
It is no secret that I was painfully naïve when I said my “I do’s” to Mr. Gore. My picture of marriage and motherhood was anything but realistic, and I somehow really and truly believed that we would be wealthy and have househelp and a guest cottage out back; whether that was going to take place before or after I took on the nannying job for $10/hour, I don’t know, but I was reaching for that rainbow.
But 7 years of marriage and a bunch of kids later, it was time to grow up and move on. Accept my duties and find joy in them. Train myself to love hard work. Say buh-bye to the guest cottage.
And guess what? I’m getting there!
But if I’m being honest, I still struggle, and old habits die hard; for this reason, and in hopes of helping anyone who shares a boat with me, I thought it would be helpful to make a list of the things I signed up for and should therefore no longer complain about.
Even though I didn’t really know I was signing up for them when I did.
But that’s neither here nor there.
Let us begin.
1. Children are messy.
Dirty shoes. Stained clothes. Sticky fingers. Matted hair. Crumbs everywhere. Toybox explosions. Bathtub debris. Poop. Spills. Unidentifiable grossness. Paper scraps. The upstairs stuff is downstairs and the downstairs stuff is upstairs.
I signed up for this and I will deal with it. No more sighing. No more being surprised by it.
(And no more sitting down).
2. Children are expensive.
When our first child was born, we couldn’t believe that a two-night stay at the hospital cost more than both of our cars combined. And that was just the beginning.
Diapers. Clothing. Food. Education. Recreation. Birthday parties. Holidays. Dentists. Doctors. Etc, etc, etc. Most of us simply aren’t going to live like kings and queens during these years, so I’ve decided to buckle down and stop whining about all the things I “can’t afford” (which is another post, entirely).
Why? Because I signed up for this.
3. Children must be taught…everything.
Manners. Hygiene. Theology. Rules. How many quarters are in a dollar. What’s a president? What’s America?
I’ve decided to stop being shocked that they are impolite when I’m the one who forgot to equip them beforehand. And I’m not going to sigh when they ask me again what “tomorrow” means.
Because teaching them and answering them is my job, and it is one I willingly signed up for.
4. Children don’t sleep.
Okay. So really, I didn’t sign up for this because I had NO IDEA that this was a thing. When I was a kid, I slept like a log, one you could carry from the living room to the bed without ever waking up. But apparently, other less obliging children exist out there (say, like, on the second floor of my house), and no matter how late they go to bed at night, they still wake up at dawn’s early light. And sometimes before then to come and tap you on the shoulder and ask where their green-dinosaur-is-but-not-the-green-and-brown-one-just-the-green-one.
But even though I didn’t necessarily know about this when I asked for children, I know now, and I sign up for it. I guess.
It’s the law. And I’m a law-abiding citizen. And if I sign up for America, I’ve got to sign up for carseats, as well. No more moaning and groaning when I have to move those ridiculously heavy pieces of furniture from one car to the other.
6. Children are slow.
It is a well-known fact that if you’re going to go somewhere with kids in tow, you have to start getting ready 2 hours ahead of time. That game where I wake up an hour before go-time and then act all surprised and flustered when it is time to leave and no one can find their shoes and the dry shampoo in my hair is showing?…
no more. I signed up for this gig and I run it like a boss.
(Except for when I don’t. But I’m going to try).
7. Children have to have grown-ups for parents.
For years I tried to figure out how we could have people over like we used to and talk and laugh uninterrupted until 2 a.m. every weekend. I wanted to go to every antique show in the state, every movie that looked entertaining, every conference, every church activity…
but guess what? I have little kids. And little kids have bedtimes. And even before bedtime, they need you to wipe them and stuff. These aren’t the party-like-it’s-Y2K years. These are the you’ve-got-babies-and-you-need-to-raise-them-years.
I signed up for those.
8. Children get sick a lot.
When I used to hear a sniffle or a cough in the church nursery, I would go into panic mode and do everything I could to get my kid out of the door before they caught something; likewise, when one of my children would come down with a fever on a Sunday night, I would berate myself for not seeing the signs, putting everyone in the church nursery at risk.
But then I started noticing something: there was no pattern to this stuff. Sometimes my kids do get sick when their friends are sick…but sometimes they don’t. You never know. I will do my best to be wise, but I will also be brave and kind, knowing that kid vomit, diarrhea, full-body rashes and sore throats are just another’s day work.
Work that I chose to do when I signed up for this job.
9. Children have their own personalities.
There is a fine line between shepherding and controlling, and I’ve been very guilty of attempting to do the latter. But it doesn’t matter how much I love that yellow-and-white checked button-up shirt that hangs in my son’s closet. He doesn’t. And just because the rest of the family loves “Andy Griffith” doesn’t mean our youngest daughter ever will (she used to plant her face on the ground and start bawling every time she heard the theme song).
I will learn to listen. I will let them be people. I will give them room to breathe. I will nurture their weirdness, even if it doesn’t match up to mine.
10. Children are unpredictable.
I can make all manner of plans, whether it is to go on a day-long shopping excursion, deep-clean the house, make a big meal, plant some flowers, or simply watch a TV show after they are tucked in at night; but neither the needs nor the foibles of children are scheduled, and while I must teach them that the world does not revolve around them, I can’t do so while acting like it revolves around me.
Someone has to be the grown-up in these situations. Challenge accepted.
11. “Me-time” is not a right.
Yes. It would be wonderful to take a bath without a toddler coming in and dropping toys into the water. It would be dreamy to leisurely sip my way through two entire cups of coffee without having to reheat it in the microwave. It would be nice to have Friday’s off. Or a guaranteed lunch break. Or a daily siesta.
But guess what? The only job description to being a stay-at-home mom is this: crapshoot. There is rarely a “daily” anything. But I’ve learned one thing…
there will be grace for each moment, even when I feel like I want to beat my head against the wall. And sometimes that grace will include a surprise (or even scheduled!) gift of me-time. I will take it when I can get it, but I won’t act like an entitled brat if I don’t get it.
Oh, my. I suspect that this list could go on for days, but the heart of it is this: I don’t want to spend my life frowning over the inevitable.
Motherhood is HARD, yes, but it doesn’t have to be dreary and droopy. Chin up, buttercup. Shoulders back. Turn that frown upside down. Swallow those sorrowful sighs. Choose joy, because even on the hardest days, it is still exactly that: a choice. Laugh at today and all the days to come!
And on those occasions when we are at our gloomiest and least grateful, we can always remember this: we’re not going home to do the canning after TWO WEEKS of Vacation Bible School…
Find this list a little too realistic? Read a fun (and more optimistic) follow-up to this post here: I Signed Up For This, Too