“Why are you so tired?” I hear my brain accusing. “You didn’t even DO what you planned to today.” Trying to think back to what I did do, I was filled with exhaustion. Never before in my life have I needed to be so flexible, about positively everything, than in these little years.
The hard work of Mommyhood: unmet expectations, adjusting and readjusting my goals, all day long.
You see, I like seeing plans through to completion. I like control. I like order. I like goals.
But life itself doesn’t see it that way.
It’s like the mommy police needed to set up a blockade against me and with a bullhorn leaning on a car hood, shouting out, “Ma’am, step away from the expectations, and no one will get hurt!”
You see, we had no eggs. Our lettuce was gone. We were out of mayo. The cereal was getting sparse. And we all desperately wanted cookies in our lives again.
It was time to go grocery shopping, like, yesterday.
So, after swimming lessons, we made a quick trip to the drug store to pickup a handful of necessities, then we were off to the coveted grocery store. I knew I was cheating the baby’s naptime, but I hoped he would sleep through the whole thing in a stroller or something. Now that the girls were big enough to help, one would push the baby in the stroller, while the other would help put food in the shopping cart. We look quite a spectacle out shopping: a rolling caravan of people and products down the aisle.
The girls flopped in their seats, I buckled in the baby, found my keys, and turned the ignition: but nothing started. The engine turned over a feeble few times, then wheezed and clicked. Those were bad clicks. Dead clicks. Not good. The telltale signs of a dead battery.
I stepped out of my car and rummaged in the back for the jumper cables. There they were. Unlatching the hood, I propped it open with the metal rod, and located my dusty battery in the engine. Okay, all I needed was a kindly stranger to give me a jump, and I would be golden. That’s all. Just a kindly stranger… to take pity on a mother of three…in the hot midday sun…that’s all…
That’s all I expected. But…
One lady was too late for an appointment to stop. One man drove a foreign car he swore had a different battery that wouldn’t fit my cables. One woman didn’t speak English. I called my husband, at work 45 minutes away, to refresh me on how to jump start a car. It had been a long time since I had done it. I called AAA for assistance, only to hear a lady’s pre-recorded voice informing me of their high call-volume, and subsequent extended wait time. She suggested that I call the police if I had an emergency.
Oh for heavens sake. There’s gotta be someone to help.
The baby was getting fussy. The girls unbuckled and began climbing over the seats. We prayed together that God would send us someone who was kind, and helpful, and knew what they were doing.
A curly-haired hippy dude in a tank top pulled up in a nearby parking spot. He had a tattoo on his shoulder of a Chinese symbol, and stylie white sunglasses. I walked over to his car window to ask for a jump. He said he was happy to help. But after a minute of sitting in his drivers seat, craning his neck sideways, he sighed with a smile on his face.
“Now, where is the latch to unlock my hood?” He wondered aloud, scanning the rows of controls to the left of his console. I walked around his opened door to look for myself. Nice, newer car. Clean and modern. But with no latch where it should be. He reached over to his center console. “That’s alright,” he said, “I’ll just look it up on my smartphone. That’s what we do these days. That’s what these things are good for, right? It will just take a moment.”
I was doubting he would find the info on his phone very quickly. I’ve never looked up my car’s owner manual on a mobile device. I just have the brick of its pages sitting smudged and dog-eared in my console, like my forefathers before me. I decided his search would take forever, and I would soon have to take my children out of the heat and into the store to cool off and call the police, as AAA suggested.
“Got it! Now, let’s see here.” He said, hefting up his hood.
This guy knew what he was doing after all. I grabbed the cables and he hooked up his end seamlessly. He started his car, and we let our engines connect for 5 minutes. Then while he revved his motor, I turned the key. My engine turned over a few slow times, but didn’t fire. I tried the key again and again. Maybe the fourth time, it finally caught and startednin that old familiar way.
I thanked him for his help, and he turned to go in to the store. The girls and I cheered with each other, while we buckled up.
But shopping would have to wait.
We drove straight home.
Once inside, my four-year-old literally bent down and kissed the hardwood floor.
I hefted a now-sleeping baby into the safety of our home, and shut the door to the car. I poured tall glasses of ice water and cut up sandwiches for myself and the girls. Walking outside again, I dunked my head in the cold water of the kid pool in our front yard. Mission accomplished. Sort of.
After lunch and letting the girls play, I geared us up again to go grocery shopping. “I’ll just do these dishes first,” I thought, “then we will go.”
Mid-scrub of a dinner plate, I heard a knock at the door.
A friend had come. And she needed to talk. I knew her life was in upheaval right now. I knew she needed a friend, and that this conversation would be important to have. I stepped outside and sat on the front porch with her.
Two hours later, we were approaching dinner. The baby had nursed and napped on me while we talked. The girls had run in and out, handing us “mail” that they had decorated. I was glad to have chatted with her. But we had run out of time for the shopping day.
Sighing, I rummaged around the freezer until I found a macaroni and cheese casserole I had frozen weeks ago.
This is just a snippet, one slice of life to exemplify the hard work of adjusting and readjusting that happens every day, every hour, of Mommyhood. Throughout these shifting plans, I still had to break up fights, explain things to my kids, feed, change diapers, nurse, clean, all while dealing with my own feelings of disappointment.
I like seeing plans through to completion. I like control. I like order. I like goals.
All this adjusting and readjusting takes work: emotional work. Which is one reason why I’m so tired at the end of the day. It’s necessary work. I can either fight it, or accept it. When I choose to do the latter, I’m still exhausted, but I at least have the chance to wear a tired smile while pulling jammies over little heads and brushing baby teeth at the end of the day. This is the goal, dear friends. This is the hard-won goal of making the tough choices with God’s grace: to be a mommy of grace in the midst of constant adjusting and readjusting.
It’s a good goal to have, right? Great. I like goals. Now, adjust…