Life Is Not Over
Reflections From a Struggling Young Mother No. 3
Some days I just want to give up. I want to say "Screw it, I don't care anymore." I'll wake up to my morning alarm, press the snooze button, roll over and pretend nothing matters, that I have no responsibilities, that there are no children who rely on me, no job I need to go to, no apartment that requires cleaning. I'll put every effort into forgetting about the dishes in the sink that need to be washed or the basket of clean clothes that need to be folded. I'll imagine I'm just an empty shell taking up space in this vast universe.
With those thoughts floating around my mind, I'll fall back asleep, that sweet, blissful darkness taking over my senses. "Alright, this is okay," I'll think to myself, but before I know it, the alarm goes off again. I'll sigh and open my eyes, knowing fully well it's time to actually get up and face the day. These moments happen so often I purposely set the alarm earlier then necessary to give myself time to dread my reality.
"Why do I do this day after day?" I'll ask myself as I climb out of bed and make my way to the bathroom. Staring at my reflection in the mirror, I'll sigh again because I already know the answer. Slowly, I'll run through my morning regime consisting of brushing my teeth and washing my face before making my way to the kitchen and my beloved coffee pot. With a soft smile at the thought of that first morning cup, I'll begin the preparations of my daily coffee routine: Fill the pot with water, pour said water into the coffee machine, grab a filter, place the filter in the proper area for it, open my tubware containing day old, freshly ground coffee, measure out the proper amount with tablespoons matching the poured water, place the measured coffee into the filter, close the top, place the pot and press brew. All of this is done in a matter of seconds, actions I could do in my sleep.
While I wait for my coffee to brew, I'll make my way into the living room, past the sleeping baby, past the toys left out by my four year old from the night before, past my fiancé's dirty t-shirt casually thrown aside onto our couch, all the way to the sliding glass door where the soft morning light peaks in through the closed blinds. I'll take a deep breath, knowing this is probably the only quiet moment I'll get to myself before the kids have gone to bed at the end of the night. I'll wait the five or so minutes it takes to brew my coffee before returning to the kitchen, the pleasant earthy aroma dominating every other scent in the room. After I pour the coffee into my favorite mug, I'll open the fridge, grab my coffee creamer and set it on the counter. Once the fridge is closed, I'll grab my sugar canister, open it and fix my coffee to just the way I like it. Before taking my much anticipated first sip, I'll clean up the counter, square my shoulders and bring the mug to my lips. As the warm liquid runs down my throat, I'll feel the anxiety settle down to a tolerable level.
The question I asked myself before pops into my head again. "Why do I do this day after day?" Simple. Because I'm their mother.
When I was young and growing up, I didn't have a care in the world. Sure, I had normal kid stressors like making good grades, finding ways to survive PE classes and being able to watch my Saturday morning cartoons, but for the most part, I had no idea how hard it was for my father and grandmother to raise me. Food was always in the fridge, the light and water were always on and there were always clean clothes in my closet. I knew they both had jobs to some capacity, but I didn't really understand what that meant. Saying they had jobs was equivalent to saying, "The sky is blue." It was simply the way things were.
Although I knew they struggled sometimes in the same way every child senses the emotions of their parents, I had no inkling of what made the adult world go round. It was always "grown up stuff". Yet now that I'm an adult with my own job and my own children, I can only imagine what they were feeling and didn't let me see. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and instruct young me to appreciate them more because they went through so much to give me as good of a life as they could. I didn't know it then, but I do know now and it made realize the true meaning behind the phrase "You'll understand when you're older."
Now that I am a parent myself with my own job and my own responsibilities, I see the same look I had then in my older daughter's eyes. On the days I have to work evenings and my girls stay with their grandmother, I'll tell her I'm leaving for work and she'll look at me briefly while saying, "Okay, mom." before returning to her movie. That sweet, young child is just like me when I was her age. Innocent and carefree, processing things only as they happen, leaving the "grown up stuff" to the grown ups. She has no idea of how the food shows up in the fridge or why the water and light are always on or how there are always clean clothes in her closet.
But in those quiet moments in the early morning when her and her sister are still asleep and I entertain those feelings of giving up and pretending nothing matters, I'll remember the answer to that so often asked question. "Why do I do this day after day?" Easy. "Because I'm their mother and it's my turn. But that's alright. I know one day they'll fully appreciate everything I do because just like I was always told, they'll understand when they're older."