Mama Says There’ll Be Days Like This

Great-great-grandma Ruth on far left of first row

Dear Little Friend and Little One,

I imagine your great-great-grandmother Ruth slumped on the farmhouse steps, eyes unfocused on the Illinois dirt of the yard before her, a bowl of half-shelled peas on her lap.  I imagine your great-grandmother Beth and great-grandaunt Dorothy lurking in porch corners, heat-surly and bored.  I imagine Ruth raising her head to appeal again to the horizon, willing it to produce the silhouette of her husband commuting homeward from his day in the fields.

I imagine Ruth and wonder if she felt the weariness in a kink of her neck, the day’s grimy emotions collecting in sweaty armpits, the snap bottled in her throat just waiting for release on her tongue.

I wish I knew if I were imagining correctly.  I wish I could crack open a musty diary and find some solidarity with this woman who gave me an eighth of my genes and who is 1/16 of who you are.

But since I don’t have Ruth’s testimony on the matter, you’ll just have to take my word for it:  someday, when your future mother selves wonder and imagine, let me assure you that yes, there will be days like this.

Days when you wake up with a headache bear-hugging the base of your brain.  Days when you dread the sound of your firstborn’s footsteps trailing from the bedroom.  Days when almost fall asleep on the couch when you’re supposed to be changing the channel to find a requested cartoon.

There will be days when you spill an entire carton of cherry tomatoes in the check out line and the woman who helps you pick up the squashed mess offers pity with her eyes and hands but also quickly exits for a different line.    Days when you stand in a bathroom stall to nurse a baby while helplessly watching your preschooler lick a day’s worth of germs from her hands and arms in an effort to be shiny like Princess Cinderella.  Days when you put on a hat because, even though you woke up at 6:30 am, nursing a baby took up the only time you had to take a shower.  Days when you avoid making eye contact with a church acquaintance across the store.

There will be days like this.

Days when you imagine what life was like before kids.  When dates didn’t involve summoning NATO forces in a command center to arrange babysitting.  When car rides were serenaded by high brow political commentary on NPR and not discussions about Lulu the bear.  When your clothes fit.

There will be days when your husband can never do enough to refill your emotional gas tank.  There will be days when you just need to talk to your own mom.  There will be days when you know that the bare naked ugly truth is that you’ve fallen short of your best.  There will be days when you fear you’ve broken your children, and while they might be mended with some sorries, kisses, and glue, you’ll be able to see the hairline cracks of your damage for the rest of their lives.

There will be days like this.

Days that leave your preschooler asking, “Why are you talking in that voice, Mommy?” because short of a scream, the only verbal communication you can offer is a pinched whisper.

Days when your baby needs to nurse 11 times and cries in between each nursing.  Days when your preschooler tucks herself in a ball on the floor with a lower lip hanging down to her heels.  Days when the fetal position seems like your best bet for surviving another minute.

Days when you finish cleaning up the kitchen at 9:38 pm and stand exhausted with washcloth in hand, wondering what it would be like to put both kids in daycare and escape to work.

On days like this, it’s hard to find the joy.  It’s hard to win the mental battle over your heart.  Your heart wants to weep as your head admonishes, “Come now, it’s not that bad.  It’ll get better.”  Your heart wants to pummel your brain into a bone-encased pile of mush for such thoughts.  Some days, it really is that bad.

I’m just writing to let you know, when you have a day like this, I’ve had them too.

Here’s what I wish great-great-grandmother Ruth could tell me:  I survived.  I plowed my way through days like this with an ugly-faced will because even in the midst of a day like this, you both are worth it.  Worth every squashed tomato, pitied glance, strangled whisper, lingering headache, and toddler pout.

Days like this may not be pretty.  I may fall far short of an “A” for my mothering.  But days like this happen, and at the end of the day comes forgiveness (of self and children), sleep, and a fresh resolve to get up and battle it out bare-knuckled again tomorrow.

And on days like this, it’s best to remember, I made it through, my mom made it through, and her mom before her, and her mom before her.  That’s all I wanted to let you know.

Love,

(a tired, exhausted, deflated, but love you till she drops and then some) Mama

 

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14 Comments

  1. Nancy Taylor said:

    Oh Beth, you are so brave to admit such difficult and painful feelings and to find hope in them. Your children are blessed to have you for a mother with all of your hard days and endless love.

    July 12, 2012
    Reply
  2. Anna said:

    You deserve an award – not only for going through days like this, but also for taking time to wrote about it! Hang in there…you are making the most valuable investment you’ll ever make and one day I know you’ll have the same deep friendship with your daughters that you have with your mom. I am so inspired by your blog, my dear! Keep up the excellent work :) xo

    July 12, 2012
    Reply
  3. Big Friend said:

    I don’t think that grandma Ruth would have been brave enough to write this. The fact that you are introspective and self-aware to write this, makes you the most wonderful mom. All hairline cracks in our children will be healed a thousand times over by your honesty and love.

    I couldn’t be more proud that you are our children’s mother. I love every brave, honest, real, authentic, part of you.

    You haven’t fallen short of your best; you’ve far exceeded your best.

    I love you,
    Big Friend

    July 12, 2012
    Reply
  4. jen Tan said:

    love you, friend. Every post you write leaves me thinking “that was the best one yet”, but that truly was the best one yet.

    July 12, 2012
    Reply
  5. Carolyn said:

    Thank you for summing things up so nicely and for reminding us that as mothers we are in this together, and we share the same feelings of self-doubt, frustration and exhaustion…

    July 12, 2012
    Reply
  6. Sarah Leed said:

    I thought I could compose something in response to this but nothing came out adequately so I’ll go back to my first response which was to say “Yes” with tears in my eyes.

    July 12, 2012
    Reply
  7. Rachel said:

    Wow..amazing..had one of those days just today.. thank you for writing… i love reading your stories!

    July 12, 2012
    Reply
  8. Heather P. said:

    I had a day like this over the weekend. And then I read an email response from an old friend who just learned I had 3 young children. She was happy for me and said that it was a natural role for me because I am so nurturing. I felt even worse because I was anything but nurturing on Sunday. Thanks for reminding us that we all have these days. Thanks for being so honest and open.

    July 13, 2012
    Reply
  9. Beth,

    An articulate description of the exhaustion of early motherhood! This post sort of reminded me of one of David’s Psalms where he begins with complains to God about his circumstance and and ends praising Him for Who He is. Love allows us to endure so much, doesn’t it? Your daughters will appreciate this when they’re older and mamas themselves.

    Bless you for writing in spite of your exhaustion. You’ve been blogging since 2010. I started my blog in March and am already taking a “summer break” to rest. Good grief, you ARE a super hero!

    Love,
    Laura

    July 13, 2012
    Reply
  10. Jo said:

    AMEN! From one able to look back, I want to yell from the mountaintop–IT IS SO WORTH IT–ALL OF IT!
    Love you, treasure you, forever.

    July 18, 2012
    Reply
  11. Amber said:

    Lovely. Not only because of the way you wrote this, but largely because of how you’re putting into words how young mamas feel: the guilt, the exasperation, the joy, the inner-crazy, the unbelievable, never-ending love. Thank you for bringing us all together and letting us know we aren’t alone! And I love reading Big Friend’s comments!

    July 20, 2012
    Reply

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