"The Days Are Long, and the Years Are Short"

My transition to motherhood remains among the most momentous changes of my life. Getting married was cakewalk. Finishing school and starting my first full-time job aren’t even in the same ballpark. No, those first few weeks, then months, then years of motherhood shook to the core everything about my life and everything I thought I knew about myself, my abilities, and my expectations. 

One of the assumptions I’d made early in my adult life is that the hours of my day exist for me to make the most out of each one. I mean in a how-many-things-big-and-small-can-I-check-off-my-to-do-list kind of way. I used to be a very efficient person, if I may say so myself. I could do things in a day that would now take me, well, a lot longer. I’ll get to that.

“The days are long, and the years are short.” I heard this adage only recently, and it has become my mantra. Any parent will tell you that your lives when your kids are young are full of monotony, routine, and stress. Each day takes such physical and emotional effort that you are spent by the end of it. The days are indeed long. Perhaps because of the monotony and routine, though, the years seem to fly; and the children grow out of each phase before you have a chance to fully savor it. Yet at the same time that I look forward to the day when interrupted sleep and changing diapers will no longer be a part of every single day, I know the funny things they say, the looks of unconditional love and trust they give us, and their unique and sometimes heart-breaking view of the world at this age is priceless, and that I will one day look back with a deep nostalgia for this season.  I know from talking to parents of older children that what is to come will cause us to remember only the sweetness and simplicity of the kids at this age.

One of the reasons that motherhood was so hard for me is that one has no control of one’s day as a mother of young children: the “plan” for the day regularly flies out the window. Think you can leave them to sweetly play in view while you pay some bills then get dinner ready? Think again. The plan will be thwarted by inexplicable fits of crying, accidents, the sudden ability to get into a cupboard she’s not supposed to, and/or whining that she needs a snack–no, she doesn’t want that snack! Planning a nice family trip to the zoo? Or even a routine, productive, day at work?  Sudden illnesses will arrive that only a mother’s constant arms can soothe. Need to make a “quick” run to the grocery store? An insistence that she can zip up her own coat and put on her own shoes–a process that began 15 minutes ago, mind youensuing tantrums, and then a diaper blow-out by #2 leave you in the exact same spot half an hour later. 

Ok, so I change my expectations of what I can get done in a day. Just maintain. Make sure we are all fed, clothed, clean, occupied. Make sure they know they are loved unconditionally. And later, one, maybe two quick tasks after I’ve put them to bed. Among the lessons this era has taught me is to be patient with myself, and that I am not superhuman. Sorry, world, you can no longer rely on me to be the WonderWoman of Efficiency. 

I shall strive to achieve other attributes during this season, though that is a topic for another day. It is amazing to me how much can happen in every season of our lives. It is amazing how much ground, emotional, intellectual, or even physical, one can cover in a single lifetime. For now, this season of young children is marked by sweetness and simplicity, and I am determined to appreciate it for the richness (and sleeplessness and clean-up and inefficiency) it contains.

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