When things are hard

img_4456-copy-copyWhen I sit at the top of the stairs, listening to two children talking or crying (respectively) in their beds with this sinking feeling in my stomach that there will not be any sleep this afternoon.

When the baby needs a new diaper and the toddler who has a penchant for standing in her high chair is in the middle of a meal and I have to decide whether to interrupt her scrambled eggs or to risk stains all over the baby swing.

When our sweet little girl is cutting something like eight teeth at a time and wants nothing more than to be held.

When the littlest member of the family, too, wants nothing more than to be held.

This is so hard, I think.

When I can see the layer of dust on my piano.

When I walk in bare feet across the house and feel all of the dirt and crumbs and pieces of dry pasta that are accumulating because I haven’t gotten the vacuum out in days.

When the third dirty diaper of the day means yet another load of laundry and I have to carry the three loads I did yesterday up the stairs to remain, possibly folded (but not likely!), in the hall until I remember to put them away.

This is so hard, I think.

I am learning to allow myself to accept that this stage of life is hard because hard does not mean bad. “Love is always sacrifice,” a dear friend wrote in a letter to me this week. And sacrifice is never easy. It is the best thing we can do. It is what makes us happiest in this life. It makes us more fully ourselves. But it is always hard.

My daily litany of diapers, meals, naps, playtime, kisses, dishes, laundry, diapers, meals, baths, bedtimes is hard in the way that running a marathon is hard. It is hard in the way that learning a new subject is hard. It is exhausting: mentally, emotionally, physically. It is a constant balancing act of many needs, all of them feeling immediate and many of them feeling impossible to fully meet. (Not to mention that all the mothering I have done in my life has been either in the post-partum stage or while pregnant—not the most emotionally and hormonally stable periods of one’s life!) It is all so hard, and that is okay.

But I also want to remember that all of this is so hard precisely because it is so good. Because this hard that I am feeling is the call I am given to lay down my life for another. This hard is the joyful duty of loving another person in incredibly physical, tangible ways. This hard is the burning away of those things in me that are ugly and tainted so that my true humanity may more firmly take root, so that the Lord Himself might make me one with Him.

This hard is the best thing that I have ever done.

And when someone asks me what it’s like to be a mom, or when I think of my days and my weeks, I want to think of more words than just hard.

When Edith watches Finding Dory and out of the blue says “Octopus holding cup.”

This is amazing.

When Edith gets the biggest grin on her face over a scoop of ice cream.

This is magical.

When John Henry clearly gets excited over our bedtime routine and can’t stop grinning at me and kicking his little legs.

This is the best.

When Edith suddenly takes an interest in her little brother and tries to give him a toy to hold.

This is good.

When I hear giggles coming from down the hall because Edith and her dad have a blast during bath time.

This is beautiful.

When Edith says “Mommy,” when John Henry watches me so that he can flash me a huge smile, when Edith says “Thank you,” when I look at these babes and my dirty floors and my piles of laundry and my sleepy eyes, yet all I can think is just how amazing these two little people are.

This is love.

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