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Letter to a harried mom—it gets better

tired mom with baby- letter to a harried mom
KieferPix/Shutterstock

Dear harried mom,

The other day I came upon you herding your three wandering, little boys down the hotel hall with the expertise of a champion sheepdog. The boys were dressed in just their swimsuits and all looked less than three years old. You apologized for their pokey pace and ushered them out of the way. I assured you I didn’t mind and shared I had boys of my own, now teenagers.

When I suggested you would miss this time of your life someday, you didn’t seem convinced. What I should have told you was that you will survive this mother-of-toddler madness and maybe, just maybe you’ll look back on it fondly. I can say that with confidence because I also was once a harried mom.

The announcement of our first pregnancy was met with elation. First grandchild. First great grandchild. It was a reason to celebrate. Shortly after Max’s first birthday, we announced our second pregnancy. We were greeted with uncomfortable silence instead of applause. Stunned faces instead of smiles. They knew something we didn’t: two babies in diapers is not for the faint of heart.

Max was just twenty-two months old when Liam joined the family. For about two years it was a haze of diapers and milk and tears, both mine and theirs. (Not the diapers, just the milk and tears.)

My husband, Andy, would come home from work to find me amid the wreckage of our once tidy home with two small life-sucking leeches attached to my body. One on a leg and one strapped in a Baby Bjorn. He’d tentatively ask, “What did you do today?” And while he was probably just trying to have a normal conversation with what used to be his lovely bride, but had turned into a haggard ticking-time bomb of tears, I took it as a personal attack on my domestic skills.

Sleep was a long forgotten memory for those couple of years.

Now, much like George Constanza and his delayed comebacks, I imagine myself saying something quick-witted like, “Well honey, I kept your children alive all day. What miracle did you perform?” But more than likely, I just cried.

Keeping those kids alive was no small task, especially operating on zero sleep and half my brain power. It doesn’t matter how many outlets you plug or how many cabinets you lock, your children will find ways to harm themselves. Head on a swivel at all times. Not only will they attempt their own death-defying acts, they also will end up hurting each other.

One winter morning as I struggled to get my two babies out the door, I put my newborn, Liam, in his carseat on the kitchen floor. Furious about his carseat and winter attire, he emitted a sound perhaps only outdone by a wailing siren trying to drive my sanity into the rocky shores of hell. Suddenly the crying stopped. For a moment—sweet relief. Then I turned to see Max, not quite two years old, standing over his little brother with goldfish crackers clutched in his hands and a smug look on his face. I rushed to the carseat, dropped to my knees and assessed the situation. The tip of an orange fin peaked out of Liam’s puckered lips. With a quick finger sweep I removed the slightly soggy goldfish from his mouth. Cue the wailing. From then on, I watched them like a hawk. That is, when I could stay awake.

Sleep was a long forgotten memory for those couple of years. People say, sleep when you can. But who are they kidding? Some mini human will always be awake or crying or in your bed or not sleeping through the night. You inevitably live like a zombie for months or even years. But you know that, harried mom.

I was the creature from the black lagoon, trudging through what I can now see as postpartum depression. I knew I should take care of myself. People told me to take time for myself, but how is that possible when you can’t even use the bathroom alone? Someone was always pawing at me or climbing on me like their own personal jungle gym (including my partner, you know what I’m saying) when I felt like I never wanted to be touched again.

But, you do survive. One day your children miraculously sleep through the night and you start to feel human again. You begin to appreciate the sticky hand in yours and the slobbery kisses on your face. (This being the kids and not your partner of course. But you’ll appreciate your partner again someday, too.) Before you know it, your boys are fourteen and sixteen, hugging you goodbye as you leave for a trip. They’ll insist on SnapChat check-ins every day. They’ll amaze you, not only with their survival of your sub-par but well-intentioned parenting, but as the incredible human beings they’ve become regardless.

Then when you see other people’s little boys in hotel hallways with tiny swimsuits and bare feet, your heart will want to explode. The moments that used to almost break you will suddenly become sweet memories you long to recreate. Squeeze those little babies while you can because time really does go fast and you will miss this.

Those little boys quickly become young men. And if you’re lucky, really lucky, you’ll still get hugs even when they’re grown and you’re no longer needed as the safety police, the milk machine or the jungle gym. You’re just needed and loved as Mom.

Sincerely,

The lady who gave you unsolicited parenting advice in the hotel hallway

P.S. Just plan on your house being littered with dirty socks for eternity—because that never changes.