Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Letter to Myself in the Thick of Young Motherhood

On my run this morning I saw a young, pregnant mother pushing a stroller to the pond so that her toddler could see the ducks. Instantly I thought back on when I was that mom. It was a time of diaper bags, strollers, car seats, no sleep, stress about potty training, worries about milestones and eating habits, no sleep, diaper rashes, park adventures, library visits and did I mention no sleep? Like, zero sleep.

I remember seeing women (like me today), on a run with no kids and thinking how amazing that would be (well minus, the run part... I wasn't all that into running at the time). What I wouldn't have given to have a few hours a few times a week all to myself. Or to have a child old enough to babysit so that I could run errands without having to buckle and unbuckle kids a hundred times.

Today as I noticed this young mom, I remembered how hard that stage of life was and wished I could talk to my former self. If I could this is what I would say:

Hi there.

You don't know me yet, but I do know you.

I know that you are functioning on very little sleep. I know that your evenings are spent trying to get your little ones to sleep and your nights are spent trying to get them to go back to sleep. You wake up every morning at 5:00 AM, not because you choose to, but because that's what time your toddler chooses to wake up. Your mornings consist of Eggo waffles, or oatmeal, and Disney Jr. tv shows. You lay on the couch hoping to catch a few more minutes of shut eye only to hear the baby cry from the other room a few minutes later.

Your day is full of play dough, walks to the mailbox, sidewalk chalk, toddler tantrums, buckling and unbuckling, goldfish crackers, uncoordinated nap times with toddler and baby, park trips, bum wipes (so many bum wipes) and visits to singing time at the library. You power through with the help of some frozen cookie dough (that you keep on hand at all times), a can of Diet Vanilla Pepsi and a constant prayer that you will get better sleep soon.

You worry about milestones not being met and you wonder if you are doing enough to teach and engage with your child. You have major mom guilt each night after your kids are finally asleep, feeling like you didn't do enough. Like you allowed too much screen time and not enough STEM time. Like YOU aren't enough.

You long for your pre-baby body and wish you could just get rid of that stubborn mom pooch. *spoiler alert... you don’t... it’s here to stay.*

You cringe whenever someone tells you to cherish these days. "You're going to miss this someday, " they say, and you wonder how on earth you could miss the exhaustion and the worry (and the bum wipes).

I know all of this because I was you. I remember all of this so vividly. But do you know what I see when I look back on these days? I see days full of little kisses and big snuggles. I see moments of laughter and moments of growth. I see nights where I had one on one time with my babies and was able to be there for each one of them. I see a special time of life where the beginnings of some beautiful and unbreakable bonds between mother and child were taking place.

I don't know that I agree with those who tell young mothers to "cherish these days". Maybe that's because I remember how hard they are. However, I think their intentions are simply to say that this is a special time of life. It is exhausting, yes. But the beautiful parts are what will illuminate your memory when you look back. 

Kids DO grow so fast when you're looking back. I know that’s hard to see now because when you are in the midst of the growing... it doesn’t seem fast enough. If there is one thing I have learned it is that as your kids get bigger, so do the issues you have to deal with. 

No phase of life is better or worse, easier or harder. It is all one big life-long lesson that continues on as we do. I may get more sleep now than you do, but my heart is heavy with other things that I didn't have to worry about when our kids were younger. I may get some time to myself a lot more often, but I'm starting to see how older kids tend to spend less time with their parents. And while I have kids that are older and more independent which means a bit less work for me in some areas, I find myself crying each time I see a picture of them when they were younger.

I can't help but think of the quote by Elder M. Russell Ballard that says, "The joy in motherhood comes in moments. There will be hard times and frustrating times. But amid the challenges, there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction." There are moments (or even entire days) where we might feel like we are failing as a mother (no matter the stage we are in), but there are always those "shining moments" when we realize we really are doing an okay job and this motherhood thing is our greatest blessing. It's easy to overlook the bad when the good is oh so wonderful.

I hope you will enjoy the good moments when they come. Look for the tender mercies in every day, I promise they are there. Keep praying for that sleep, it will come eventually. Most importantly, please know that you are doing better than you think you are. Your body, while it may not be as tight as it once was, has done and will continue to do amazing things. Your kids are pretty awesome right now, but just you wait until you see them in 10 years. They will blow you away with their capacity to love, their incredible resiliency, their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and their witty humor.

There are so many great and hard things ahead, so let me just leave you with what is still my favorite quote from Sister Hinckley (I know it is yours too):

“The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead.”



p.s. Maybe focus on stocking up on toilet paper and Clorox wipes in 2019. And while you’re at it, buy some stock in GameStop. I know it sounds ludicrous, but just trust me. 

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