In the Middle of Motherhood

The other day, driving down the road in my minivan on the way to the carpool line for my kids elementary school, I scoffed at the lyrics to a pop song on the radio. I pulled to a red light, and quickly grabbed my car tweezers (the ones hidden in that little coin compartment that nobody actually uses for coins)(do they?) and attempted to pluck the hair on my chin that my youngest affectionately calls my "little friend" before abruptly changing the station to something more tolerable. I mean, the beat was catchy, I'll give her that, but there is no way I could ever listen to that trash with my children in the car. Wait, does she really get away with saying that on the radio? I better turn it back on just to check. I mean, my kids aren't in the car yet so who cares? I'm an adult. I can listen to whatever I want to. And...yep, she really does get away with saying that on the radio.

I'm exhausted - going straight from my part-time office job to assume my position in the carpool line. Which, I might add, I have timed perfectly so that I am not all the way at the back. Ain't nobody got time for that. I dig through the pile of paperwork on the passenger seat from my kids backpack that I emptied yesterday (with the intent to address during my time sitting in the carpool line) to search for the 100 calorie bag of almonds and banana I keep on hand for healthy snacking. I didn't find that, but I did find an open bag of half-eaten Cool Ranch Doritos leftover from my son's lunchbox yesterday (was it yesterday? hmmm, oh well, it'll do).

I glance in the back and realize I clearly haven't laid eyes back there in quite some time unless it was to give my arguing kids "the look" through the rear view mirror.

With 4 minutes until dismissal I silently curse myself for being so efficient to have a front-row spot. I have got to find an empty TJMaxx bag up in here to fill with all of last week's car-snacks and junk mail that have accumulated. I mean, I cannot have the principal open the van door to see my vehicle in this state. Not one but two empty DQ cups with various forms of congealed dairy, the coloring page Nolan made me save so he could "finish at home", the stinky soccer cleats, the dirty socks, is that a Tootsie Roll smashed in the floor mat? Dear God, please say it is.

Hopping out of my van I feel slightly exposed being that I'm in plain site of everyone in front of and behind me in carpool. I smile a "look at me, I'm utilizing my time wisely, I'm cleaning my van" look - then quickly realize that everyone is buried in their phone. (Duh). I mean let's be honest I would so much rather be pinning fall decor ideas on Pinterest as well but my fear of the school calling CPS when the car door opens wins out.

Voila - a tidy(ish) car. I Purell my hands and throw it in drive just as the shiny new Infiniti in front me pulls forward. I bet her car is clean, I mutter to myself. The boys jump in the car and I attempt to figure out a way to keep them occupied during the next carpool line for middle school. Shoot I forgot snacks. "It's okay mommy, I'll just have the rest of my Doritos from lunch that I saved", my youngest says. Oops.

35 minutes drags on - we've gone through 3 different movies trying to find one that doesn't glitch from all the scratches - and finally, the bell rings and the pre-pubescent children filter out. They're holding sports bags and instrument cases and cell phones. A few even have books. Gasp! I can't help but notice the length of most of the girls shorts? I mean geez, is that even comfortable? Kids these days.

As we drive home I awkwardly attempt to ask about their day. Careful to be interested but not prying, hoping I'll get more than "fine" or "good" in response. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. You never know what it's going to be at any given moment with the older ones.

I leave the radio off in case they actually want to chat (and to avoid hearing that song again) but instead drift off into thought. What I need to do when we get home. What I didn't get done. What's on the agenda for tomorrow. Oh shoot we're out of milk. I guess that means we can't have cereal for dinner (again) tonight. Unless I stop at the store. And who wants to stop at the store with 4 kids in tow? Pizza it is.

Ugh, how did I get here? When I envisioned motherhood I thought it would be magical. Snuggling freshly bathed kids in feety pajamas, home-cooked meals each night to ensure they were eating healthy day in and day out. Designated homework time and family game nights afterwards before I tuck them all in bed with a gentle kiss. Instead I often feel like I can barely get my own shit together let alone be the kind of mom, wife and friend I always wanted to be. This season is so so hard.

In an attempt to understand exactly why I feel so rattled nearly every day, I came to a very important realization. I am straddling two majorly different stages of life. I became a mom 12.5 years ago and seeing as my youngest is 5.5, I have 12.5 years until they are all officially adults.

I am literally in the middle of motherhood.

Maybe this explains the swirl of anxiety that churns in my stomach and my mind on the daily. I am wiping boogers with one hand while simultaneously discussing coming-of-age issues with my pre-teen. I am folding tiny underwear in one stack and having to re-wash t-shirts from another stack when I get a whiff of the underarms (that stank is strong, y'all). The constant shift in how I must parent - a toddler and a teen (almost) can be downright maddening. The tug of war on my heartstrings only adds to the complexity of it all. I watch with awe as my oldest becomes more and more mature, navigating some really heavy topics with composure and heart, and yet as proud as I am to watch him grow, I take one look at my youngest in his character pajamas and pray to God to let him stay little. With my younger 2 I can say I'm most definitely over the snot, but not the snuggles. I'm loving the witty banter I can carry-on with my older ones but not the rapid fire talking back and eye rolls.

I struggle. I think it's fair to say that most moms do. I struggle with feeling adequate. I'm overwhelmed. Anxious. Exhausted. I try to remember to give myself grace. To talk to God. To pray. In the heavier moments I have leaned on a therapist, tried medication, allowed myself to rest.

The truth is, every stage of motherhood is challenging. But finding the joy in each part along the way has always been easy. There is no feeling that will match the minute I locked eyes with my first born and became a mom. At the simple mention of that moment I can still feel it so deep in my core that it is sometimes hard to imagine what it will feel like when my kids are grown and I no longer need to mother in the way I do now.

For now, I'll try to soak up the good that comes with being smack dab in the middle of motherhood - and rather than being anxious about it, I will allow the sentiment of what no longer is to coexist with the excitement of what is to come.

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