I pour the juice and pour out the blocks and pour out the multi-toned painting water. I pour out the snacks and I pour some coffee and then I pour the coffee again because the first cup got cold. I pour out my words, sometimes frazzled and sharp, sometimes patient and light, over their hearts and actions. I pour out yesterday's rock collection into the front yard to be discovered again tomorrow.
That is what parenting is all about, isn't it? The day by day of pouring yourself out for another who needs you, whether you have more to give or not, whether you slept or not, whether you are happy or not. Pouring out grace, pouring your love over them, pouring confidence and bravery over unsure hearts. Pouring redirection and discipline and time-outs, pouring the coffee once again.
And we pour ourselves out and we pour our love over because that is just what we do. It is an act of love, an act of sacrifice, an act of pure and authentic adoration.
Still, it surprised me- the ferocity of emptying myself out for the sake of another. It can leave me completely spent along the waters edge.
Did I realize that parenting would be this hard?
Did I know how swiftly my priorities would shift, how quickly I would learn to worry and doubt about outcomes well beyond my control, how uncertain I would be of the very methods I use to raise these little hearts?
Did I realize the inherent paradox of being a mother? That it is bigger and deeper and more all encompassing that I could have ever known but the magic is in living tiny everyday moments together? At the very same time it is the smallness of the first smile and the bigness of the first day of kindergarten. It is the little moments that build a life extraordinary: holding hands, answering questions, kissing owies, encouraging bravery, painting and climbing and running.
It is the constant questioning if you could have been better. Holding guilt over snapping too easily, not engaging the way you think you should, having unwashed dishes in the sink and unfolded laundry in the dryer. Not losing the pregnancy pounds, not throwing the Pinterest-worthy fifth birthday party, not having a month's worth of crockpot-ready frozen meals at a moment's notice. Not looking the part of the stylish mamas I see in my Instagram feed when I gaze at my own reflection and see yoga pants and a ball cap. Again.
It is comparing and measuring, worrying about not being good enough and not doing enough and not being present enough. It is that moment that makes you wonder if you can keep going and wondering if anyone else ever reaches that point too?
Of course this is hard.
Yes, yes, motherhood is harder than I thought. But also, also, every ounce of mothering is better than I ever knew.
It is both.
Here is what I know to be true: Just because something is hard doesn't make it devoid of good. These are not two opposing forces, unable to be reconciled; motherhood is a both/and situation.
It seems that good and hard don't belong together.
But they do.
It seems that love shouldn't require such strength.
But it does.
And here's the thing: It's okay to admit that this is hard. Just because you have a hard moment doesn't make you less of a mom and it certainly doesn't lessen the ferocity of your love.
All it means is that we need to take a deep breath and make it to the next moment. We need to learn how to allow space for the grey within raising these kids and allow ourselves as well as each other the abundant grace to go with it because really, we're all doing the best we can.
And here is what grace looks like to me: It looks like freedom.
It looks like setting ourselves free from expectation, from worry, from doubt, from not measuring up. It looks like running your own race the very best way you can. It looks like taking that deep breath, and moving on.
It looks a lot like second chances.
We have these second chances each and every day. When we pour ourselves out for the sake of another and feel completely spent because of it, the way to find our footing again is within the everyday, seemingly insignificant moments. Our second chances come in the form of noticing the raindrops on the flowers after a rainstorm, the thrill of discovering a roly poly, seeing her hand rest on my knee on the couch, the afternoon hail mary donut stop.
In the little everyday moments that we find these second chances, we remind ourselves that we can do this, one step at a time, one moment at a time. It is in the daily pouring of all things that we tangibly show them how to live and how to love in this world and at the same time remind ourselves how very worthwhile it all is. Really, those are the moments that give us the freedom to get outside of the hard and become filled once again as we pour ourselves out.
Parenting is good and it is hard, it always will be.
Just because something requires a sacrifice doesn't mean it isn't worth doing.
So next time you feel completely empty or lose your temper or feel alone in this journey of motherhood, take heart. You're not alone. Keep pouring yourself out for them, even when it's hard, and let your eyes open to a moment that can become your anchor.
Because within the hardness of being a mother, we also carry and build and soothe and speak peace and hold dreams and restore hope and inspire creativity and manifest love.
Which sounds like it actually might be pretty good.
Sarah Sandifer writes about her thoughts on life, motherhood, and marriage at www.thejellyjars.com.