When you are knee-deep in toddlers, the world is a fog. Whether you are a working or stay-at-home mom (or dad), you often spend your days tripping from one second to the next. Some days you barely scratch your to-do list. Manage to get a few things accomplished? It’s a molehill compared to the mountain in front of you. You tread water just to barely stay ahead, and if you stop for a moment to float you find yourself drowning in the tasks you put off.
I heard once that life changes when your youngest turns 3. When my oldest turned 3, she was still an only child (and a super-easy one) so the struggle was minimal. However, the day before my son turned 3, I popped out another baby. Thus began my season of parental fogginess. And foggy it was. In the midst of diapers, potty training, breastfeeding, and remodeling the house to fit our family while still working three jobs between the two of us, we rarely had a chance to look up. Life was great, but it was fast and every second counted. We collapsed in bed each night exhausted and crawled out the next morning in the same state, ready to do it all over again.
Then my youngest turned three and things began to change.
It didn’t happen overnight like a switch. It happened so gradually that, initially, I didn’t even realize I could slow down a little. Things came into place one-by-one. First, we made the hard decision for me to leave my second job. It meant we would have to adjust our finances, but the time we gained was far more valuable. At the same time, our little one was becoming more independent while her siblings were becoming more responsible. Less time was devoted to simply keeping my children alive, and I found myself having pockets of time I did not have to fill with caring for them or for our household. Finally, I made an adjustment in the way I thought about my home. I slowly learned to live with the clutter. It’s clean, but not orderly, and that’s ok now. The state of my living room floor is not a reflection of my worth as a person, and it took me a long time to accept that.
Now, that’s not to say that we aren’t still really busy or that messy kitchen counters don’t bother me. Mornings are spent herding children into the car and dropping them off at their various schools. Afternoons are spent feeding them quickly (while trying to unload the dishwasher) so we can get them to dance, soccer, gymnastics and whatever else we have on our calendars. But it’s not every night and it’s not every minute anymore. The fact that I’m sitting here blogging again is a testament to the fact that I now have time to create and grow. I can devote some time in my week to things I enjoy , like photography, video editing, yoga, or whatever else I never felt like I never had time to do, and the benefits that time has contributed to improving my spirit and well-being are immeasurable.
So, dear parents of toddlers, I promise there WILL be a time when you get to come up for air. I know it seems like it may never come, but it’s just ahead and you may not even realize at first when it gets there. Just hang on and keep swimming!