Now I Know
Before I had three kids, one infant seat, a playpen, a gnawed crib and an incomplete magnetic alphabet stuck to the refrigerator, I lived simply in a two-bedroom apartment with my husband. We had a double bed in one bedroom and an office set up in the other. We had a spare closet filled with wedding gifts that we had never used.
Each week as I did my grocery shopping at the neighborhood store down the street, I couldn’t help but notice the chaos that seemed to accompany most Moms and their small children. I watched in fascination as they shrieked, coughed, sneezed, dropped canned vegetables in the isle and yelled. From what I could tell, the Moms looked like they were dodging one disaster after another.
As a new wife and beginning teacher, my life fit very neatly into my Franklin-Covey Day Planner (This was long before the days of cell phones and ipads). Throughout my day, I performed a series of elaborate and time consuming rituals. Over cereal, I would read my Bible. I spent my day teaching reading, writing and arithmetic to a class full of third graders. Over a Diet Dr. Pepper, I graded papers while faithfully watching the ten o’clock news each evening. It was more or less the pattern of my life…enter daughter number one.
I suddenly found myself pushing her stroller through the mall, feeling overwhelmed by all the things I had to do and the fact that she didn’t like to sleep, but she loved to cry! I felt ambushed by the demands on me. Then my son came on the scene. In an efficient moment, I could nurse kid two and eat the cold remains of kid one’s scrambled eggs. Then while brushing kid one’s hair, I could list the things I needed to do for the day. And yes, I did have to make trips to the grocery store. I think anyone who observed me would have seen only our chaos and confusion. I knew, however, that while there was little external evidence to indicate my competency as a mom, my efficiency was definitely getting better.
Is there any visible result of all the effort and energy mothers put into their families? Has a three-year old ever said, “Thanks, Mom, for the delicious nourishing breakfast you worked hard to prepare for me and the frying pan you so diligently scrubbed—someday I will go off into the world and be an admirable human being because given your training and good example, what else could I be?”
I’ve often wished I could find those moms I had watched so many years before in the grocery store. Despite what life looked like on the outside, now I know that they were consciously moving their clan safely through childhood. Now I know they were nourishing their child’s individuality and giving them plenty of opportunities to know joy. Now I know the heartfelt joy a Mom experienced because she chose not to miss a detail of their lives. To someone without kids, motherhood may look like total chaos. But I am now convinced that inside almost every mom lurks a highly competent efficiency expert. If I found those Moms again, I would tell them so. But how would I get there driving in all that traffic with my three kids in the back seat arguing over whether the package of Skittles was divided evenly among them? I’m still working on that one!