When I became a mother, I wish someone told me that families have seasons. I should have figured this out early on, but when my first child arrived it threw me headfirst into a sea of hormones and breast milk and sleep-deprivation–the likes of which no one understands unless they are also a mother or a prisoner of war. Once I found myself able to tread water and to think the occasional coherent thought, I decided to dive deep again. And just like that I jumped right back into baby-ing, this time with a pre-schooler, then two in tow.
After my third child started pre-school, and treading water became the norm, it occurred to me that the baby season was well and truly over. I could breathe again. Maybe you are here too. In this new season, we can trust our weight to stay the same (ish) and our nights to follow a predictable pattern and our boobs to never grow back. We can trust ourselves to feel fully human. Only this human, this new version of us, feels so entirely different from the person we were pre-parenthood, we must get to know ourselves all over again. We also have to get to know this new version of our family–the one where little people leave the house and sit under the influence of teachers and girls who gossip and boys who teach others how to fart with their armpit.
When I became a mother, I wish someone had told me that families have seasons, and I will have to change and grow with them. I will have to rediscover who my family is in each new season. No relationship is static, and the shape of our families will change and so will our role in it. This is good and healthy and terribly hard when we realize our children don’t need the mother they had yesterday. They need today’s mama, a new version of us who emerges as we adjust to a more grown-up version of them.
I’ve spent time in the choppy waters of transitional seasons too, where some members of our family grow in a new direction and others have a few years of the same-old, same-old to go. Here, the water treading sometimes stops for an impromptu walk on the beach (savor these moments) or more likely, for one long breathless dive. These are the trickiest to manage, and here we may find ourselves reaching for a life-preserver when seasons collide. The current pulls us in opposite directions when we try to manage the inevitable conflict of interest between one child’s needs vs the other’s vs our own.
When I became a mother, I wish someone told me that families have seasons, and that each season will build on the last. Those sleepless nights? Good practice for the high school years when parties and late nights and teen drivers keep you awake well past your geriatric bed time. Those hormones? Good practice for remembering how they make you feel slightly off-balanced and crazy–kind of like your kid when he hits puberty. Those hours of quiet during the school years? Good practice for you to embrace the quiet as sustenance for the after-hours, when all is loud and chaotic and busy.
When I became a mother, I wish someone sat me down and told me that families have seasons, and you reap every sleepless night, whispered prayer, disciplinary action, mac and cheese meal, hug, listening ear, chauffeur duty, sacrifice, and ounce of mama love that you sow.