My wake up call comes early, in the form of a hungry baby. Once he is fed and back to sleep, I wonder if I have time to shut my eyes for a few minutes before my three year olds internal alarm clock goes off at 6:15. Maybe, just for a minute... no, it's early today, 6:05 am, and we're up and running. I take him downstairs to try and keep him from waking up the rest of the house.
I grind the coffee, wait ten minutes in front of the refrigerator while he tries to decide what he wants for breakfast. Once that is settled I go to throw in a load of laundry, and see if I can sneak in a shower before anyone else wakes up. Soon, everyone will be awake and the rush of the day will begin.
We need groceries, so I start the grocery order (bless you, whoever first thought of drive through grocery shopping). I get up to check the refrigerator and realize a diaper needs changing. Halfway through changing the diaper, I remember an email I should have sent last night. I walk downstairs to send the email, but if I don’t find my three year old his new, blue Paw Patrol cup right this second, a meltdown will ensue. I find the cup, and realize I forgot to feed the dog this morning. I go to feed the dog and my five year old wanders downstairs. I start to fix his breakfast and happen to glance at the time. We are going to be late for swim practice again, and are the diaper covers still in the dryer? Maybe I can run this load of laundry upstairs while I look for the sailboat bathing suit, NOT the surfboards, or the anchors or any of the 5 clean bathing suits sitting nicely in the drawer. We really have to get in the car, right now, and now I’ve missed my window for ordering groceries, but there has to be something in this house we can eat for dinner, right? We drive towards the pool and I realize I forgot the library books that were due back today, and it’s not even 10 am, but getting everyone out of the house makes me feel like I’ve run a marathon most days. (Not that I know what running an actual marathon feels like).
Some days, I’m able to make it through the whirlwind of questions and missing shoes and toddler tantrums, and the groceries get ordered, the house stays relatively clean, I actually plan what’s for dinner, and I take the boys on some kind of outing or adventure. I lay down at night tired but satisfied, feeling good about the fact that the kitchen is clean, the clothes are washed, and we did something fun.
Other days, there are no clean clothes, we scavenge our meals from the ragtag remnants of last week's groceries, our house looks like a hurricane just hit, and we are late everywhere we go. I am impatient, I rush my kids through the day, and I lay down at night exhausted and dissatisfied. I know I didn't do my best today.
It's hard to measure motherhood. I've only recently entered the world of stay at home moms, where there is no job to track my productivity or accomplishments. I'm grateful to have this opportunity, but I do like to check things off a list, and that's harder to do these days. My days seem like one endless, ever growing list, where I've started thirty five different tasks, but haven't completed any of them.
Diapers changed, meals cooked, dishes washed, shoes tied, teeth brushed, loads of laundry completed, errands run, cute instagram photos posted. Hours of sleep I got last night, episodes of Paw Patrol watched (do episodes watched before 7 am count? I'm not counting them). Things I forgot on my grocery order (at least one, always). Times I got frustrated, times my kids didn't listen. These are the ways I could measure my days.
I could measure my days by the things I haven't gotten done. Last time I worked out? Couldn't tell you. Last time I was caught up on laundry? Is that even a thing? Last time I looked as put together as the mom in the park with her cute workout outfit and perfectly styled hair? Probably never. Pinterest projects I've wanted to do with my kids and haven't gotten around to, books that have been sitting on my nightstand for months, unread. Blank walls in the house we've lived in for three years. Family photos I meant to print and hang months ago, still in their digital life form. I could look at the list of things I haven't gotten done, and when I see all the Pinterest worthy Instagram photos from moms who have gotten those things done, I could decide I don't measure up.
The days when I don’t measure up against my own best days - those are the hard days. The days I lose my temper, have no patience, try to hurry my kids through, let the mess pile up instead of staying on top of it throughout the day, want to rush through bedtime stories instead of enjoying a favorite part of our day - those are the days I feel like I don’t measure up to that elusive idea of a "good" mom.
But then - there are beautiful days. They aren't always fancy or exciting. They are often rather mundane. They are the days I intentionally choose to stay up a few minutes late or wake up a few minutes earlier so that I can start the day with a clean house, which sets us off on the right foot. They are the days I drink coffee in the backyard while I watch my kids blow bubbles in their pajamas. The days we make time for a simple little adventure - a picnic in the park or a new playground. The days I patiently answer all (or more accurately, most) of their questions as they seek to make sense of the big world around them. The days I choose to delight in the bedtime routine instead of rushing through to find just a few extra minutes for myself. Those are are the days I measure motherhood in giggles and smiles, hugs from my kids; sweet memories made, simple moments enjoyed. Those are the best days.
This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series "Measuring Up."