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Talking About the Hard in Motherhood

I handed him the baby monitor that was silent, but only because I had the thing turned all the way down. The little light bar was a constant shade of toddler-is-screaming-red.
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It's been 55 minutes since I handed over the children and the trajectory of the 3,485th snow day this season to my husband. I handed him the baby monitor that was silent, but only because I had the thing turned all the way down. The little light bar was a constant shade of toddler-is-screaming-red. He didn't want to nap and after going in there to settle him down about a dozen times in an hour, I had given up. Though "given up" is almost too active a description for what I did, which was fold my legs under me in my big red armchair and stare at the screen I'd opened on my lap, trying to conjure images that have little to do with the snow and the cabin fever and the screaming child and this feeling I've got right now that there is nothing steady around me and so instead of taking action, I'm falling fast into the abyss.

Now it's been 62 minutes. Sixty-two minutes into these couple of hours that I get today to sit in a room by myself but, more importantly, to work. That is what I am supposed to be doing with this time. Work. I have things I need to write. I have time sheets to fill in and emails to return and deadlines to meet. And, if I'm really efficient and focused, I have these couple of hours today to get to it all. Or, if I'm honest with myself, maybe I can get to most of it.

But in the first 55 minutes, I got nothing done. I lingered over inspirational messages in my Facebook feed and tried to breathe them in, willing them to shift my perspective. There are, we all know, many worse things in life than back-to-back snow days, stir-crazy children and a toddler who won't nap. There are worse things than two straight months of not working because the house is always full and the streets are always white or someone else is sick or the car needs to be fixed (again). And I know I'm not a horrible mother. I can do this. I will absolutely look back years from now, maybe even next year, and wish I could get back just one of these days when we're all here, cooped up but together. I'll ache for this day when they want to hang out with me and have me paint their faces and bake cookies and serve me lumps of Play-Doh in teacups. I'm longing for that feeling even now when I'm still in it.

And I'm a bit tired of the same old tune I've been singing, that this is hard. We know it's hard. You know it's hard. And there is more to motherhood than hard. There is love and sweetness, memories and closeness. And small wins that move us forward and remind us that, through the stumbles, we might actually be on the right path. There were those things today. Little people in capes running around the house fighting invisible bad guys. Empty bowls of invisible food and matching cups with invisible tea left for me outside the bathroom door. Popcorn at lunch and a freshly baked cookie afterwards because why not?

Yes, there is more than hard. But has it occurred to you that so much of the not-hard stuff is invisible?

And man, if the hard isn't so damn heavy. I don't know how to shrug it off when it builds up this high. So, I shrink down under it and begin wonder if I was built for this life. I begin to modify "yes, I am a good mom," with "only sunny spring days, actually just on sunny spring Fridays, when everything flows just as routine demands and the kids are in a good mood and nobody has been sick in days and the nanny is here to handle nap time." And then I realize that I just described a day that doesn't exist. So now what do I do?

It's been 103 minutes now. My family has ventured into the white world and the house is quiet for a breath, maybe two. But then they'll be back to pick me up to go to dinner. I've been looking forward to dinner, because oh, do we need to eat some pizza and color on menu drawings of Venice. I think I'll sit with my back to the door so that I can look into their eyes instead of at the snow, reminding myself of the times we've eaten here in Spring and then wandered down the street for ice cream. I do feel lighter in Spring. Especially Fridays in Spring when it's sunny.

110 minutes now, and this is where I leave you. I have work to do before they get home.

A version of this post originally appeared on Raising Humans.