Before becoming a mother, I was totally oblivious to the logistics of caring for little children. On planes, I wasn’t one of the passengers who sighed loudly when a baby started to fuss, but I also wasn’t one of the kind souls who rummaged through their bag for something for the baby to play with either.
I hope the many, many humbling moments I’ve had as a mom will stay in my mind. The day will come when I’ll be so far past the cheerio stage that tantrums and potty trips aren’t a regular occurrence… for me. But I hope I can still give a knowing smile to the mothers of little ones and use my empty arms to hold a baby or occupy a toddler for few minutes. I know from experience how helpful simple things done at the right moment can be!
Here are some of the things that happened today, a fairly normal Sunday:
– My husband woke up sick, so I fed and washed, and dressed and brushed and braided and buckled and buttoned and zipped up my three young children in preparation for church. I woke my baby up from his nap to bring him, so I just kept him in his pajamas. We walk and it’s cold, so the younger two were loaded in the stroller with blankets and hats (and lunch for the youngest, his church clothes, diapers, wipes, bags with scriptures for each of the older two kids, my baby carrier, an extra outfit for the youngest, my church shoes, and my supplies for the class I teach.) Somewhere in there, I got myself ready for church, took care of my sick husband, laced up my running shoes with socks, and even managed to eat a pancake!
– When we arrived at church, I parked the stroller and undid everything I had previously done (unzipped, unbuckled, unloaded, unlaced, etc.) I discovered I had failed to pack socks or shoes for my toddler and my six year old’s hair clip had already fallen out, undoing her carefully done hair and leaving it looking tousled.
– During the first hour of church, I held my 15 month old “baby” and tried to keep him quietly occupied so that I could hear the speaker and others around me could as well. More than once, his squirming managed to pull up my skirt or pull down my shirt and I had to stifle a yelp as I quickly tried to right the situation. one time he unexpectedly lunged off the pew and I caught him by the back of his sweater just before he hit the ground. I also settled minor squabbles from my older girls and in whispers, orchestrated a premature exit for our whole family and all our belongings near the end when my baby started hollering.
– During the second hour of church, I took my three year old to the bathroom and dropped her off at class with her bag, fixed my six year old’s hair and dropped her off at class with her bag, somehow managed to get my baby in an Ergo baby carrier on my back by myself (there was a dicey moment there when the strap was twisted and I thought we were both stuck!) and helped my class of four year olds sing songs and learn with the other children. About halfway through this hour, I felt my baby pee all down my back. It was unmistakable and probably due to a diaper shift during the struggle I had getting him in the carrier. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to disrupt everyone, and it had been so difficult to get him in the carrier in the first place… I decided to just “wait and see”. Yep.
– During the third hour of church, I walked my little four year olds down the hall and discovered we weren’t having any music time that day so I needed to make my lesson last 20 extra minutes. My baby got pretty fussy shortly after we started and I knew he was probably soaked so while I engaged the kids in talking about their weeks, I hauled my baby out of the carrier and changed his whole outfit, including his diaper. It was the only one in my bag but I had brought more in the stroller (now parked on the other side of the meetinghouse). Ten minutes later, after pulling my baby away from the only garbage can in the small classroom about 6 times, I declared it was snack time and started doling his lunch out very slowly to him as a distraction while I continued to teach the other children. Fifteen minutes before the end of class, my baby filled his diaper and I ran out of things to talk about for the lesson. I decided my only option was to ignore the diaper and hope nobody would complain about a stinky classroom when they picked up their kids. I improvised some activities to fill the rest of the time.
– After church, I waited until all the kids in my class had been picked up, then I picked up my daughters from their classrooms and changed my baby’s diaper. While I was doing it, my three year old decided she wanted to turn off the light and when I asked her not to, she launched a full scale tantrum and yelled for her daddy. I closed my other two kids in the classroom and hauled the screamer off to the stroller where I buckled her in and returned for the other two. I had a quick meeting to stop in at and then we picked up a birthday bag for my oldest child.
– We zipped, buckled and loaded and walked out the door. We got across the street when my oldest announced apologetically that she needed to go to the bathroom. Back we went to the church. And then we headed back home once again. And then we stopped to adjust blankets and take a pebble out of a shoe. 🙂
– When we got home, everyone needed to be fed and washed again, changed into non-church clothes and put down for quiet time. Then I checked in on my husband, unloaded the stroller and dealt with the soaked clothes and all the odds and ends that have a way of accumulating at the end of any outing.
Again, nothing out-of-the-ordinary happened today but regular life with little ones means: Someone may show up someplace without shoes, my skirt might get pulled most of the way off by a toddler, I might have pee on my shirt, my son may be sporting a decidedly non-churchy outfit by the end of church, I might have a screaming three year old under one arm as I hustle down a hallway, it may take me twice as long to get someplace and three times as long to get home.
I’m sure there are mothers who always have their act together, but for most of us, this IS having our act together. My theory is that as a mother you can be organized, loving, stylish, crafty, energetic, deliberate, resourceful, fun, wise, encouraging, and patient*… and still get peed on at a very inopportune moment. Motherhood is not for the proud. Or maybe it IS for the proud because it’s the perfect chance to learn humility. 🙂
*I am not all of these things. This is only a theory.