This morning was just like any other morning: my youngest woke up entirely too early, my oldest slept longer than she should. I said, “Sit down and eat your breakfast!” a total of 642 times in 30 minutes. We negotiated what they’d wear, assessing which dresses were clean, which tutus didn’t fall off, and what clothing was appropriate for 18 degree weather. I skipped a shower and burned my eggs while rushing my makeup. I whisper-shouted profanities as I remembered I forgot to pack a lunch. My girls bickered, I gave them both a time-out to calm down. “Go get your shoes and socks,” I said, 11 times each. Somehow, I remembered to pack snacks, water bottles and homework but forgot snow boots and raced back to the house after drop off.
This morning was like every other morning – rushed, frantic, slightly traumatizing, and gone in an instant.
“You’re in the thick of it,” is something I hear a lot, and I don’t disagree. These days pile onto one another, a conglomerate of crazed mornings and exhausted nights, and most of the time it’s all I can do just to keep up. I have come to accept that working, running a home and mothering two kids under 6 means living in a universe where each step forward will mean 2 steps back: cooking and then cleaning only to cook again, picking up one room as they destroy two more, working to pay for daycare and and accruing just enough PTO to be wiped out with the next bout of the stomach flu. For the most part, I’ve gotten used to living in fast forward, and – as a survival technique – have changed my expectations of what is ACTUALLY, truly possible in any given moment.
But then, at the most random times, I am reminded that the time warp of motherhood is not at all consistent.
This morning, as I dropped my kindergartner off at school. I helped her take off her backpack and unzip her jacket. As I dropped that backpack into the bin with the others from her class, time came to a screeching halt. All of the precious moments that have flown by too fast, and those that have been buried in the monotony of routine or disguised by frustration, came flooding back to me in one fell swoop. That backpack landed in the bin as my daughter said, “I’ll miss you today, mommy,” and the tears welled in my eyes while my heart burst open with pride and the kind of love that still, after 5 years, shocks me with its potency. Suddenly I was standing, motionless, reliving the last 5 years in a matter of seconds as the parents around me rushed to give hugs, said their hurried goodbyes, and sent their kids running into the classroom. Time stopped in that moment, as if my heart finally caught up to the constant churning to-do lists in my head.
I have, like every mom I know, resolved to cherish more, to slow down and enjoy more. But the reality is that life doesn’t always allow for a slower pace. Sometimes motherhood is a survival game – sometimes it’s just about getting by and making it through. In accepting that, we give ourselves permission to drop a ball here and there while we continue the juggle.
Eventually, our heart catches up and breaks the dam of composure, reminding us why we care so deeply in the first place.
Operating in survival mode doesn’t mean we are failing to cherish the moments that matter most. Rest assured, our hearts collect them all along the way.
Saralyn Ward is an award-winning writer, wellness advocate, and mountain mama. She is the founder of The Mama Sagas, writes for several publications and hosts a regular parenting TV segment on Colorado's Everyday Show. When she's not huddled over edits, you're likely to find Saralyn climbing peaks or skiing down them, and reminding herself that the two little girls that call her mom are not the boss of her.