Last summer, in the thick of 2020 and all of our quarantine time, I made a heartbreaking discovery. I realized that whenever my daughter wanted to have a book read aloud, she would to go to my husband first. I mentioned this to him, and he reassured me, “Oh, it’s just because I’ve been around more with working from home. It’s just a novelty right now.”
But the more I paid attention to this, the more I realized this wasn’t the case. She just straight up didn’t ask me anymore. I was left feeling sad and a little confused until one day, while strategically orienting my pregnant belly around the sink to wash the dishes, it hit me like a ton of bricks and immediately gutted me.
She didn’t ask me because she knows I’ll say some variation of “no.”
It was never harsh, and not because I didn’t want to, but she was constantly hearing, “Not right now baby,” “Let Mama finish this first,” or “In a little bit…”
And “a little bit” hardly came.
This was a heartbreaking, yet necessary, revelation for me to make.
How Did We Get Here?
I was left wondering how we got here. I’m a former preschool teacher; reading to young children is my “thing.” I went through infertility and dreamed of these days that when I’d get to read to my OWN kids. Where was the disconnect? I desired quality time with my daughter and looked forward to my son joining the family so I could have special moments and read alouds with them both. Why was I failing so miserably and how did I not even notice?
I felt guilty that I only noticed this once it started tangibly affecting me. I shamed myself for not even seeing the problem and for not catching it earlier. But, in order to move forward, I needed to shake off the mom guilt.
We didn’t get to that place by making a declarative choice. It naturally unfolded after a period of time of little choices piling up to create a cumulative reality. It was sheer survival mode. I was trying to survive an out-of-the-blue situation—parenting and navigating high risk pregnancy through an unprecedented global pandemic. I do give myself some grace for that, as no one really knew what they were doing last year (or now, even.) However, once I made this discovery, I was no longer comfortable or content in survival mode.
Figuring It Out
I knew that in order to break this cycle, it wouldn’t take a grand sweeping gesture or a quick flip of the switch; it would take a compilation of little choices, day by day, creating a new reality.
Day after day of deliberately choosing to engage more in the little moments, of letting the laundry pile up a bit, of delaying nap a little to read and snuggle a lot.
The fact of the matter is, the laundry and dishes and “stuff” will always be there, but my kids will not. Every day they grow up a little bit more, and I can’t bear the thought of wasting these tender, special years by doing menial tasks. Yes, of course the chores need to be done. Someone’s got to do the laundry, the scheduling, the cooking, the shopping, the cleaning, and all of the things. I’m not saying we must neglect our responsibilities to snuggle all day (although, that does sound pretty great and we definitely do have days like that sometimes.)
It’s all about balance. I’ve also found it helpful to involve the kids in whatever tasks I must do. They love having their own little jobs, we get quality time together, and the chore gets done.
Grace Plus Intention
It’s been an adjustment year for us, adding a new family member. It has been an adjustment period for us all right now in the midst of this ongoing pandemic. Us mamas could use a healthy dose of grace, complete with a side of intention.
I find myself worrying frequently about choices or routines or realities being irreversible. However, the truth is that we are the gatekeepers of our homes and we call the shots. There’s always room for growth and change, and it’s up to us to initiate the shift and create the environment.
Each day, our family’s reality is becoming more and more the reality I envisioned for us. It’s all because I made the conscious, intentional choice to just say YES more in the little things, and that has made a profound impact on the big things, too.