A letter to my future self.
Hey there future me,
I hope that you are well. I imagine that you are relatively rested. I imagine that you have more time to yourself now than ever before in motherhood. As I write this (on my laptop covered in fingerprints and crumbs), I’m assuming that you have kids in middle school and high school (or even older). You are no longer literally being pulled on all day long, but you have a different array of challenges that lie before you. Maybe it’s juggling work and homelife. Maybe it’s being involved at multiple different schools. Maybe you’re finally following your dreams. Whatever it may be, I imagine that your days start and end with insanity. Getting pre-teens/teenagers out the door in the morning is no easy feat, especially if they have to remember sports equipment for practice or projects for the science fair. Then homework, dinner, games, events, social agendas, debate team and music lessons in the evening. I’m sure you still feel pulled in every which direction, and wish that you could duplicate yourself so that you don’t have to miss being present at any one of their extra-curricular activities; so you don’t have to miss being there if one of them needs you. I’m writing this letter to remind you that that feeling is one that you have felt for a long time. Whether you’ve known it or not, you’ve always wanted to duplicate yourself. You felt that for different reasons, but yes you did feel it. You want to duplicate yourself now because you don’t want to miss anything, and the same thing is true of the past. But also, you wanted to duplicate yourself because you needed help.
You needed help when both of the little’s were blissfully sleeping, but you had to wake them in order to be at school pickup.
You needed help when you arrived at the playground and each kid ran in a different direction.
You needed help when you just couldn’t clean up messes faster than the kids could make them.
You needed help when one child wanted help with a craft, but you had to keep the baby from pulling wipes out of the wipes container or sticking his finger in the electrical socket.
You needed help EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT when you made dinner, the pasta needed to be drained and the screaming baby was clinging to your ankles and you had to answer, “How do you spell hippopotomus?”
You needed help when multiple kids were sick, and you couldn’t comfort one because you needed to clean up after the other.
You needed help when YOU were sick and couldn’t complete a task without having to run to the bathroom.
You needed help when you were pushing a loaded stroller and wearing a baby in the blazing hot sunshine.
You needed help when you put the crying baby down in his crib, because you had to deal with yet another potty accident.
You needed help when the toddler ran out of the playground toward the road at FULL SPEED while the other kid is playing on the jungle-gym.
You needed help when you couldn’t put together a coherent thought let alone a healthy, home cooked meal.
You needed help when you had to lug all of the kids to the doctors when one of them was sick.
But now, you are in a season where there is a flexibility that there once was not, and I’m here to challenge you. I'm not saying you're not busy; I'm sure you are. However I want you to remember those feelings that you once felt - overwhelmed, failing, exhausted, impatient. Seriously, take a minute and remember the weight of those emotions. Remember the chest pain and anxiety at the park. Remember pushing/ carrying 70lbs of child in the double stroller and ergo. Remember the thoughts that came along with having a house where NOT A SINGLE ROOM was clean. Remember sitting on your bed with tears streaming down your face because you couldn’t feed your brand new, chubby and starving baby. Now please put those thoughts into action.
Please bring a new mom a meal. She’s too sore to get out of bed, let alone make a meal and feed herself. Don’t say, “Can I bring you a meal?”. Say, “I’m bringing over a meal on Wednesday”, and make sure that it’s in a freezer friendly container so that if she happens to have plans, she can save it for another day.
Help a mother who is in the potty training phase (and don’t downplay the fact that you’ve successfully potty trained a few kids by now. Hopefully). Take any other kids she has so that she can focus on pumping the trainee full of liquids, setting a timer and running back and forth from the bathroom with them (and maybe even enjoy making a game out of it). Arrive armed with paper towels and clorox wipes.
Go to the park with a mom of little’s and PLAY. Chances are, she can’t (either because she’s too tired or because she has to many other kids to watch). Chasing games and bubbles are timeless.
Team up with a friend - one of you take a tired mom out for a mani/pedi while the other watches the kids. It’s a good excuse for you to touch up your manicure, too (or get in a dose of “The Cat in the Hat” or “Llama, llama red pajama”)
Figure out a way to sneak into a mom’s house (maybe ask her husband for a key) and do the dishes, pick up the toys, vacuum, mop, organize - don’t be afraid of doing it “wrong”. There is no such thing as wrong if someone comes home to an unexpectedly clean house. (If she comes home before you’re done, help with lunch or build a tower with the kids.)
Please offer to take the kids for a walk so that a tired mom can take a nap (or take them for a drive. Take her car so you don’t have to worry about switching carseats over). When they’re buckled in, you don’t have to worry about them escaping, so it’s actually a pretty easy gig.
Please offer to help organize clothes when seasons change. I know you may not be good at doing it yourself, but sometimes people just need someone THERE to get it done.
Please do laundry for a mom with a few kids. It doesn’t matter if all of the lovely clean and folded piles get messed up within a day of two, at least clothes will be off the floor and in drawers for a split second.
But remember, don’t just offer, DO. Follow-up. Check-in. And then offer again. Put it in your phone once a week or once a month as a reminder. There was a time when people offered to help you, and you were so overwhelmed with daily life that you said no. Or maybe you didn’t know how much you needed help. You said no because you were juggling so many things; you had so many balls in the air that you were afraid that if someone took one, you’d drop them all (Remember Michelle Pfeiffer saying that in “One Fine Day”?). You wanted help, but didn’t know how to say yes. You have survived going through the fire of toddlerhood, and you’ve come out the other side but remember that others are going through the same exact thing, and it’s more demanding than we even realize. So, help a sister out. Give her the break that she needs. Love her well.
Oh, and coffee. Always bring coffee. Or wine.