Motherhood is filled with hard choices. Lately, I’m constantly deciding which of my children comes first.
Maaaaamaaaaaa! Jacob hollers, banging his hands on the sides of his crib insistently with all the power and energy of a two-year-old.
Wake-up time!!!!!!! he calls, as though there was any chance I could have slept through his yelling. Nouk! Bum! Peatut burr!!!!” His way of demanding his daily breakfast: milk, banana, and peanut butter.
I glance at the clock, bleary-eyed. 6:34. At least it’s later than yesterday. I’m nursing his baby sister in my bedroom, hoping that she’ll get a halfway decent feed. The day before I’d gotten them out of bed together and she was distracted by his antics as he danced around with his milk while I tried to nurse her. I’d chosen to feed them together.
This morning, I’m choosing her. He has to wait.
I’m constantly choosing between them – him or her? Whose bites do I cut first at each meal? Who waits longer for pajamas after their joint bath? Whose nap gets compromised because of the other’s activity?
There are the times when I feel like I’ve failed at assessing my kids’ needs well and have chosen the wrong thing, chosen the wrong child. When what I thought was the best decision, in retrospect, seems like a huge mistake. (And sometimes, depending on the mess of the aftermath, it’s actually pretty clear that the choice was a huge mistake.) Mommy fail, we say to each other, my friends and I.
Motherhood is certainly filled with failing.
The times when I didn’t pack that extra snack or pair of clothes or ran out of wipes or lost another pacifier. When I cursed out loud because I burned my hand on the oven, or yelled at the kids in frustration, overreacting to the whining and the demanding, the crying and fussing. The big failings and the little ones.
When I threw sweet potatoes in sudden anger at the floor.
I want to be everything for them, these beautiful babies whose bodies grew out of my own. These darling children whose eyes look longingly into mine, mirrors into my own soul.
But I know I can’t be everything for my kids, try as I might, and I know I can’t give them everything. I also know that it’s not even healthy for me to be everything for them or give everything to them. And as much as I want to be the perfect parent, I will certainly fail them. I’m a fallen, broken, mortal human. At some point, on some level, I will always fail.
Nonetheless, the love of a mother is a sacrificial love. In both our feeble and fervent attempts to keep from failing our kids, we make sacrifice after sacrifice. We give up our bodies. Our sleep. Our eating habits and our work-out routines, our uninterrupted phone calls with friends and our ability to do anything without checking in with the babysitter. Some moms give up their careers; others, their beds. There is no love like a mother’s love.
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19.
Last time, I wrote about The Plan that my husband and my therapist and my doctor and I came up with to fight this latest bout of mood swings and hopelessness and feeling-too-strongly. All those necessary things that I was going to reincorporate into my life.
I didn’t mention that the plan also involved a prescription in my wallet.
It’s a prescription that I haven’t filled, but it’s there, riding happily in between the bills and checks I need to deposit, accompanying me to the grocery store and to preschool coop and back and forth to church, like a little amulet – a bit of solace or comfort or, well, a little drug to make it all better.
I don’t doubt that it will work. In fact, the drug whose name is written on that piece of paper is one that I know very well. And it’s one that I know works very well for me. And neither do I think it’s “strong” to go without medicine, to muscle through on one’s own. I know and believe that the strongest thing I can do is admit my own weakness.
My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
No, I haven’t filled that prescription because my baby daughter is still nursing and I can’t do both. I can’t keep nursing her if I start taking the medicine. I can’t take care of her and take care of me in the ways that I want. I can’t love us equally; I have to make a choice between us.
Sometimes being a mother is hard because I have to choose between my kids, preferring one to another. And sometimes it’s hard because I have to choose between my kids and myself.
I’m choosing myself in half a dozen ways as I work all those necessary things back into my life — all those things that are helping me to be the best mom I can be for my kids. But a mother’s love is a sacrificial love. And in this way, I’m choosing her first.
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