Especially when there’s one kid strapped to her belly or her back, pulling at her hair, and the other one (or two, or more) are jumping around at her side, yanking on her, whining on the edge of meltdown.
When she just looks so weary, as though she’s on a bumpy road trip without ample rest or pee-breaks, and she just can’t quite see the end to it.
And when she’s clearly working so hard to embody patience and summon grace; really doing her best to show up as love for these small humans.
I’m telling you, when I see her out in the world, my own beloved younger-mother-self, my heart throbs in my chest with poignant love and compassion.
And honestly in those moments I’m tempted to violate every cultural rule of how we’re meant to behave with strangers. I just want to hug her close and kiss her cheek and tuck her escaped curl behind her ear, and say: “Sister, you are doing SO well! What a wonder you are! Look at you and all you are managing. Excellent work!”
And then I want to look her deep in the eyes, and warmly reassure her: “It does get easier!” But then, because I don’t want to lie to her, I’d say: “Well, maybe not easier, exactly…
…But certainly less sticky and chaotic! Less incessant and tedious. Less nerve-wracking. Definitely less exhausting and more spacious! I promise, my love—you’ll make it through this grueling part of the journey.”
This younger picture was taken of us by a stranger in a farmers market 10 years ago. It was exactly one month after my kids papa and I had separated. My heart was broken; all my dreams for a certain form of family disillusioned. And yet my devotion to the truth and to my kids was immeasurable. I cherished my role as their mother. Even on the hard days—their fat, delicious cheeks and hilarious insights and bright-eyed magic were pure medicine for my aching heart. Still, it was no small feat.
I knew I was designed to be their mother and that we all had chosen well. But let’s be honest—mothering little kids is a steep spiritual path of sacrifice, selfless service, and surrender. Add in a divorce and/or single parenting, or any other kind of substantial loss or financial challenge, and it’s nothing less than a holy, annihilating fire. I barely made it through that time with my nervous system in tact.
What a profound task it is indeed, to raise babies into little children and then little children into bigger children. And now, in my present life moment, what a fairly intimidating task it is to raise bigger children into adolescence and adulthood. I am humbled daily. I get down on my knees and sincerely pray for help all the time.
And I give thanks to all those who have walked this path before me; to all the luminous breadcrumbs and reassurance and wisdom-teachings you’ve left for me to find along the way. I’m so grateful I have you to look to for guidance and confirmation.
And so to all the women of young children, and to the beautiful mother of little ones I once was—I bow to you, and I send you a strong sisterly embrace of empathy and reassurance. I reach my hand back to you, my knowing gaze back to you, to that particularly exhausting, undoubtedly adorable, and yet relentlessly screechy and sticky moment on the parenting path, and I say:
“You’ve got this, Mama. Just one breath, one moment at a time. Bless your exquisite patience and your remarkable grace and your moments of totally losing it, too. YOU are the perfect one for the job, just as you are. Thank you. I love you.”