By Danielle Gambino
I see you. Pulling into the parking lot. Your car door swings open. You are 2 minutes behind schedule. Not a big deal. Still on time. But 2 minutes behind the time you wanted to get there. Feeling like you can’t ever just get it right anymore. You open the back door to survey the damage. The damage done so quickly on a 5-minute car ride. Granola bar wrappers tossed onto the floor. Milk from a shaken sippy cup splattered on the back of the passenger seat. The doll that you searched for while your toddler had a meltdown at the front door has now been abandoned. Pushed under the seat surrounded by stale cheerios.
I catch your eye and wave. You quickly pull the sunglasses over your eyes. You didn’t want anyone to see the circles under your eyes. From yet another sleepless night full of teething babies and toddler night terrors. I hear you apologize for not having any makeup on. Struggling with the baby carrier while the others argue from inside the back seat. You scoop up the baby. Run your fingers through her hair in a hasty effort to comb it. I know the look on your face. As you mentally punish yourself for not grabbing that bow off of the counter as you raced out the door. You are joined by the others and I watch as you corral them through the parking lot. I see you taking deep breaths as one reaches to pick a flower while the other looks to step fearlessly off of the curb without speaking.
It is not even 9 a.m. and you have let them win. Your eyes are emotionless. You are just going through the movements. Survival mode. I know what you are thinking. Just get me through this day. Just get me through this morning. Just get me through this preschool dropoff. You promise yourself a naptime treat. A trip through the Starbucks drive-thru. A slice of leftover birthday cake. It’s well deserved, right? How is it possible that every other mom has gotten out of yoga pants. Wearing mascara? Talking happily on their cell phones while their freshly scrubbed children hold hands crossing the street.
I know you feel like you are always one step behind. That if there was just an extra hour. Or even an extra minute. The amount of things that could be done in that time would be tremendous. Every second of your day has a purpose. Each one is carefully planned out. Your entire day has been accounted for before your feet even hit the floor in the morning. And you are simply exhausted. How is it possible to get ahead when you always feel behind? So you struggle. Day in and day out. You turn on autopilot. Scramble eggs. Brush teeth. Tie shoes. Just keep moving. Surviving. Hoping along the way to avoid any possible meltdown and tantrums.
I’ve been there. Honestly, I’m there a lot. I know the feeling of defeat all too well. I have felt its black cloud surround me before I even had a chance to drink my coffee. Leaving the promise of a day that I will be wishing away before it barely started.
You are not alone.
Being the mom of young kids can feel like the loneliest job in the world. But you are not alone. And you are an amazing mom. I wish you could see the “you” that others see. Watching you expertly unloading 3 kids from the car in under a minute. Speaking sternly to one child about not staying with the group while instinctively your hand grazes the shoulder of another making sure they don’t take that step off of the curb.
You can do this. I know that because I watch you do it. Everyone watches you do it. And you do it well. So well. And you are winning. Every single night when those little arms wrap around your neck with their slobbery good night kisses. You are winning. When your sassy 4-year-old says she doesn’t need a bedtime story but then finds herself in your arms in the middle of the night whispering that you are her best friend. You are winning. When the baby wakes up with teething pains for the 5th night in the row and you sit quietly in the rocking chair humming her back to sleep. You are winning.
You often get kicked down. You have felt exhaustion that you didn’t think was possible. Nothing ever seems to pan out the way it did in your grand plans. But you are winning. Take a good look around. You are doing everything right. You may feel defeated, as we all have. But you are not. Snuggle those babies and gear up for tomorrow. I can’t promise it will get any easier. But I can assure you that you are not alone. And when you look into the eyes of your beautiful children just remember, you are winning.
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**This post appeared originally on Mini’s Mama blog.