The Illogical Mathematics of Motherhood

I  just had the “Band-Aid pulled off” here in my little Army apartment in Germany. We have a newborn baby and my mother left (after nearly two months of helping out) on Monday, my Dad on Wednesday and then my husband on Thursday for a two-week stint in Afghanistan. And I have four children.. alone.. and meal delivery has ceased. Horror of horrors. Defrost meat, what is that?  Furthermore, I am not a natural at this household management deal. I don’t have systems. I don’t have checklists. I need both, but I think I have failed to create them for fear of disappointing myself.

The approach that is saving me thus far is to take things one day at a time. Not revolutionary, but it is working.

Today, I savored a “moment” with each of my four children. I define a “moment” as a really intense, poignant feeling of elation at the little human’s mere existence brought on by an experience we share. For example, I painted a seven-year-old-girl’s nails four different colors, I laid between shirtless brothers in a trundle bed who asked me to read book after book before the two-year-old would nap. And of course, the pink-velour-clad-4-week-old-daughter was easy. Her moment was laying on my chest, belly downward, careening her strong neck upward to see me and making earnest cooing sounds with a wrinkled old man forehead. These moments are the stuff of soul-infusion for me.

How blessed I am that motherhood is not a mathematical ratio. Seriously, if I had to record a pain-pleasure ratio of minutes of apparent frustration or drudgery to the “moment” minutes, it would be dismal. The fraction of “moment minutes” out of the 1440 in a day would be staggeringly low. But that ain’t it man! The moments are not mathematically sound. They are gorillas on the time clock, they stomp all the diapers and fights and dishes to the back of my mind and I am able to appreciate my moment in life.

My husband is in this phase right now where he is devouring non-fiction books and documentaries about mountain climbers. You know, Mt. Everest, K2, whatever. I have been rather underwhelmed by it all, chiding him that these are just over-privileged dudes (and ladies) creating intense experiences at great cost for their own sake. Yet, today, as I savored my moments, I realized that I share a great deal with these climbers. Really, the climb is arduous and takes weeks, yet we do it all for the summit. And they only get to summit once, I get multiple glimpses of magnificence in a day.

PS – someone please resend this to me in a week when I am totally spent!

  • http://happilyeverjohnson.blogspot.com Queen B

    You’re doing a great job, AWOL. I love this.

  • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com Katrina

    We hosted a “Wise Woman Panel” at our Catholic moms’ group last week, and one of the wise women gave the advice that we should stop making lists for ourselves. Being a list-maker myself, and someone who forgets anything that is not on that list, I balked at her suggestion. However, her point was that as mothers of young children, we set ourselves up when we make lists because there is no earthly way for us to get everything on our list done in a day. She reiterated the point that in our day, we may only do 3 things – breakfast, lunch, dinner – and change millions of diapers in-between, of course, and that this is okay.
    I guess the take-away is that if you get depressed by not checking things off of your list at the end of the day, then maybe making lists is a bad idea at this stage in life! For me, I just keep a running list of what needs to happen over the next week or so, so I’m not putting a ton of pressure on myself.
    I think that your strategy of taking a day at a time is very wise, AWOL, and is in the best interest of your children as well. Some days will be crazier than others, but a day is never all good or all bad, and being intentional about savoring the good is so important.

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    I think you have a very appropriate, inspiring focus right now for where you’re at. I’m always stressing to myself (and my dear hub) that there are seasons in life and each season needs to have appropriate expectations. Lists are not your goal right now. Some might cling to them in times of craziness; others will feel overwhelmed by them. Same goes for routines–my organizational-minded hub loves them during insanity, whereas my tendency is to chuck them until I can actually keep up with them. That’s an easier path for me because I am more often having to deal with young children and less predictability. The challenging part for our marriage is merging these two views on the weekend when we’re all together! ;) We are currently working out how we’re going to do this better in the future when we welcome our newest little love…

    Savoring moments is glorious and will bring you the greatest amount of happiness when life around you is nuts. And it is nuts, my friend. I totally agree with you. It is crazy nuts, especially with a newborn. You’re so smart to take life a day… an hour… a moment at a time.

  • maryalice

    Good for you in seeing the importance of those beautiful, ordinary moments. It really helps me to photograph these, so that I can look back and remember those sweet details.

    While you are on your own (and God Bless your courage in that, and your sacrifice to all of our security!), I think one day at a time is a good philosophy — I even have to break my days into small moments. When I wake up, I know what has to be done between now and lunch/quiet time, then between quiet time and dinner time, then the bedtime routine, and lastly whatever I need to do before I can get into bed myself. When the whole day stretches ahead and seems overwhelming, I know that I can take it a few hours at a time.

    Also, lay in a supply of dark chocolate!

    • Juris Mater

      This dark chocolate supply is very, very important. When an afternoon nap is impossible, only dark chocolate can save the day.

  • Juris Mater

    AWOL, beautifully said. Beautiful. Do you think motherhood will always be this way with this number of children–just a few staggeringly-beautiful mountaintop moments but otherwise mostly arduous? Or is that just survival mode? Sometimes these days, I feel like I could use a little more of the in between–maybe a solid afternoon of good, regular, I-love-being-a-mom satisfaction.

    • Bethany “B-mama”

      A friend of mine who once had 3 under 3, but now has 3 under 9 assures me it DOES get easier! Granted, she’s a ducks-in-a-row, no-nonsense type of gal, but I trust her word. I know we’ll get there someday! And when we reach that day, what will we have to blog about?? lol

      • maryalice

        Car pool schedules! While many things have gotten easier, the matrix involved in getting all of my kids to their sports and music commitments is insane!

    • maryalice

      My youngest is over 3, and I have more good days than those crazy up and down ones, so I think that it changes, for sure. But then, the bigger ones don’t throw themselves at you for hugs, so you really appreciate your littles more actually, as the older crew grow.

  • http://sixseeds Emily

    Thank you for this great reminder. My baby of 5 is 13. So often I look back on the mistakes, the bad moments. For the last few months I have been making albums of childhood for my 21 year old. The pictures and momentos I’ve saved have been beautiful reminders of the wonderful moments as well.
    What you wrote, captures the essence of parenting!

  • Candy Caldwell

    God bless you for your sacrifice! We think of our military being away from home and the things they sacrifice, but its the entire family who pull together for these deployments! So let me start by saying thank you, thank you, thank you!
    I cannot imagine being so far from family, with all these little ones. So many would not be able to do what you are doing! Give yourself a big pat on the back!!! Secondly, I am so proud of you for seeing these everyday moments for what they really are, they are amazing, beautiful memories! Mountain top moments that so often are fleeting and easily missed. Those 4 little miracles that you are holding are precious, so many miss these everyday mountain top moments. Know that the time that you give reading that extra book, or humming that quiet lullaby is time WELL spent, the dishes can wait, these little ones grow so very fast!


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