Motherhood in our Dreams
When you first became a mom, what were the specific ideals you envisioned for your life? You peed on the stick, and eventually the reality of what was to come began to sink in. What was the life you were dreaming of in those first blissful days?
Were you out camping? Were you and your littles at the baseball field? Were you baking Grandma’s recipes together? Was it weekends up at the mountains or gathered round the table doing puzzles or playing games?What were the things that you envisioned doing with your kids that made you so excited to experience, and live out, motherhood?
For me, I had all the hopes and dreams for sure. We dreamed of family traditions we’d incorporate (both new and old), we dreamed of values we’d instill, the ways in which our kids would behave in public because we’d of course be STELLAR discipliners with HIGHLY obedient children. We’d have leisurely Saturday mornings filled with cartoons and hot breakfast and cuddling in bed. Sundays we’d go to church as a family and we’d pass along our faith in a meaningful and fun way. Maybe we’d even fit in casual strolls or bike rides around the neighborhood before bed. Our home would be one of peace and fun and hospitality.
The only problem, as we all know, is that there tends to be a gap between fantasy and reality.
Motherhood in Reality
And then we started parenting.
Oddly enough, it hasn’t looked much at all like what we had in our head. I wasn’t dreaming of morning chaos, CONSTANT disobedience, strong wills, free wills, and little terdlers who lived with the notion that our entire world should, and does, revolve around them.
I wasn’t dreaming of Saturdays filled with MOUNTAINS of laundry, constant messes in our less-than-perfect home, and sibling fights that look more like a Game of Thrones episode than
The reality of motherhood doesn’t really seem to resemble much of the idyllic picture we dreamed up prior to actually populating our home.
So what do we do with that?
Leaving a Legacy: Survival
Motherhood has been insanely hard for me. Like next level, what the hell am I doing with my life and these little people and when will it all get better, HARD.
In the early days, survival was my best friend. What is self-care in those early days? You have a newborn, and a toddler, and you can barely get two sips of your morning coffee while it’s hot, let alone make time to work out, pursue a passion project, invest in your marriage, and proactively begin to implement the values you dreamed of for your family.
This is OKAY. Good Lord, I wish someone would have told me to simply lean in to the chaos more in those early days instead of fighting against it, wishing for a different reality. The camping trips, the family bike rides, the blissful Saturday mornings – it’s not for right now. Your baby is colic, and the toddler has another ear infection, and the dog hasn’t been walked in a week? It’s okay. Survival is a perfectly acceptable standard for this season of life.
Sneak things in when you can. I remember waking up for that early morning feeding when my youngest was teeny tiny, and just staying up. This would’ve NEVER happened with my first because you have that blissful “sleep when the baby sleeps” mantra everyone sings to you. But any mom of more than one child knows that’s a fleeting strategy and survival tactic – there’s no such thing as sleep when the baby sleeps when you’ve got a job to keep up, a house to maintain, and other tiny humans relying on you for 24/7 care. As much as I craved the sleep, I craved silence in my home even more and that meant starting my day at sometimes 4am. That’s absurd, I know. But it was the only way that I knew how to sneak in a few minutes of time for me. I was already sleep deprived, so what if I gave up another hour? Delirium was my mental state of choice in each one of the newborn seasons, and that was perfectly okay. I knew that the minute the rest of the house woke up, that I would be at their beckon call until bedtime. That was my survival. It took me three kids to learn to lean in to the madness of littles.
Leaving a Legacy: Prioritize the Fun
It was a surprise to me how TIRED I am in motherhood. I’m basically a walking zombie it feels like, who lives off a caffeine IV. The little people go like an Energizer Bunny and frankly, mid-thirties and tiredness seem to be two peas in a pod for me. My kids don’t lack for desire for fun, but I definitely lack for ENERGY for fun. It seems as though at every turn, it’s Mommy can we play? Mommy, can we go to the park? Mommy, can we play Legos?
When are the years where they will say, “Mommy can we sleep?” Is that a fantasy I should let go of?
And typing that out and realizing how frequently my answer is no makes me sort of sound like a total jerk. The questions in singular form sound delightful and as if the answer should always be, “Of course darling, let’s play.” But instead of delightful one-off questions, the reality is more like being berated with questions and asks and needs by three tiny people ALL AT ONCE. Inevitably, I’m always letting someone down. And most of the time, if I’m being honest, it’s me.
Regardless of how we choose to live our days out, we are leaving a legacy simply by raising kids. Whether you are intentional about how you spend your time, we are ultimately passing things down to our kids just by going through life.
Leave a Legacy: Write it Out
I’m a writer, and because of that, I have found that I express myself best in writing (*mind. blown*). In the daily crazy, the chaos often gets the best of me, and the minute my kids are asleep, Rational Cool Mom Ashley returns, and I’m filled with regret of my actions for the day.
To combat that these regretful feelings of failure, I got each of my kids a journal. I personalized them with a candid snapshot of them and dated it. In this journal, both my husband and I write letters to them sporadically. It is the place where we can share our REAL heart and feelings for them, when the daily-ness of life often doesn’t allow for us to express that (at least as well as we’d like).
We started them for each child on their second birthdays. The kids don’t even know yet that they exist (they are currently 4.5, 7, & 9), but we have three journals filled with hopes, dreams, prayers, funny stories, milestones, and lessons that we want them to remember and know. The thought initially was that we could present these to them when they leave our home after high school (because YES, goodbye, you will be leaving), but as they get older, my thoughts on that are changing and I see value in letting them in on some of the behind the scenes of how we’ve been loving them through the years, despite their thoughts that we exist only to make their life miserable (see currently: my 9 year old).
I’ve heard of sweet kid-to-parent journals as well, where you can write back and forth to one another – which I love that idea as well. Especially if you have a child that maybe isn’t as good at expressing themselves verbally.
You are after their hearts. The goal of parenting is relationship. Teach them how to love, how to accept love, and eventually how to give love so that they may thrive in the world within their relationships. You are their first teacher for this.
These are the days.
Whether you feel it or not, we are living the dream right now. If you are in the midst of motherhood, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, THIS is the life that you dreamed of.
Sure, it probably looks a helluva lot different than those blissful road trips and baking Sunday supper moments you envisioned. Life isn’t a Full House episode, where DJ ultimately apologizes to Stephanie and they hug it out. If only it really worked like that where sibling squabbles could be worked out in a 30 minute timespan and everyone would go back to fun as a family.
Regardless of what it looks like, this is your life. We’ve only got one. Whether its leaning into the chaos and surviving, or prioritizing the fun, or opting to write out your true feelings and heart for your kids, I encourage you to be intentional about your legacy. We won’t get it perfect, so don’t even strive for that or think that’s a standard to aim for. We’re going to mess up, we’re not going to get it right, but we’re going to go down trying.