Living life to the fullest in motherhood.
I write this sitting in bed while nursing my 2 month old. I have wrangled the almost 3 (going on 16) year old into bed after singing Jesus Loves Me 5 times. Prior to that we had a 1 hour dance party rocking out to Toby Mac Diverse City, Jump5, and Skillet. Rainy days require inside solutions.
For me, living life to the fullest in motherhood is 2 parts. It is trying to take advantage of the time and the moments well. Sometimes those moments are created- a sensory bin specially planned and crafted that is just a knock out of the park fun! Other times, like tonight, those experiences are organically spur of the moment. Dancing around with my weight-lifter husband who was holding the baby, while the toddler jumped around to Rend Collective's Joy of the Lord was one of those TV moments where you think, "this is one to cherish."
I recently listened to a podcast with Pricilla Shirer. She once had an older woman tell her to make the memories with her children she wants her adult children to have. As parents it's a concept we rarely think about, but it is important. We worry about brain development, school grades, behavior, the toys being picked up, the flower beds being weeded. All of those things have their time and place. One day my daughters may look back and say, "Mom always did awesome sensory bins for us; but ya know the sink aaaaaaalways had dishes." They'd be right, but there's a small chance they're even noticing the dishes.
Living life to the fullest in motherhood also means taking care of myself. I was never into "self care." Self care was for high maintenance girls. Then I had a baby that was allergic to sleep and nursed constantly. Suddenly a 20 minute shower alone felt like the most imperative thing in my life. Just a few minutes without someone attached to me, or needing me. Being able to enjoy the moments is much easier when you don’t smell like you ran a marathon.
It looked like going to work part-time subbing so that I could exercise that part of my brain, and my person. It looks like finding purpose outside of motherhood. I started volunteering with not one, but two, anti-human trafficking organizations. You have to remember the person you are outside of motherhood. I will always be a mother, but one day my girls will grow and leave the nest and I don't want to need to "find myself again." Conversely, it allows you to appreciate the "momming" even more.
My daughters are precious and beautiful. That doesn't make them perfect, or me perfect. I have quickly discovered that one of the truest ways to live life to the fullest in motherhood- is grace. We have hard days. We have fun days. There are nights I lay awake and worry whether or not I gave the toddler enough attention. Is the baby getting as much of me as the toddler did? Why did I snap when she spilled her drink? I beat myself up for not having a cool activity every day. The only way to continue forward is to give myself and my children grace.
In order to take advantage of the moments well, grace must be present. Otherwise I could nit-pick the imperfections until the cows come home. I could wallow in the failed expectations. Tonight, instead of worrying about the carpet needing vacuumed I chose to be present and dance.
You see, I don't believe there's really any one key to living motherhood to the fullest. It's a constant cycle of choices. Deciphering what is the most important thing to do today, in an hour, right now. It’s choosing to freak out when the toddler “helps” empty the dishwasher, or let it go and thank her for being so helpful! It’s snuggling before bed, saying, “I’m sorry we had a tough day. Mommy was frustrated and tired. Let’s do better tomorrow.” It’s always remembering to say, “I love you,” and understanding that it’s ok to have a, “but mommy needs to go potty by herself.” at the end. And most importantly, reading that extra bedtime story, singing that extra night-night song, will always trump doing the dishes before bed any day.
Written by: Anna Knaub