The ups and downs of motherhood

Being a mother has its joyous moments but it also has its challenges.

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  • Editor's note: This article was originally published on Power of Moms. It has been modified and republished here with permission.

  • This morning I woke up to hugs and "I love you's."

  • In the dim morning light of a crisp morning, the two sweetest little boys in the world quietly climbed into my bed as I was waking up, snuggling up on either side of me, patting my cheeks and pulling my arms around them as Oliver said "Mommy, I love you SO much" and Silas sang me the little song he made up for me and sings to me several times a day "Mom, I love you so, so much. I will never stop loving you."

  • This is the stuff joyful motherhood is made of.

  • I held those little boys close and told them how grateful I am that I get to be their mom. I felt their coarse hair against my cheeks and their strong little hands grasping my hands. We were silent a minute together and my heart was full and ready to burst.

  • Motherhood is a lot of hard stuff. And some days (like yesterday) involve one crazy and frustrating thing after another as mutually exclusive needs of all the kids and the mom and the dad pile upon each other.

  • But motherhood is also a lot of good stuff. And some golden moments count way more than all the hard stuff.

  • At our last Learning Circle meeting where we talked about what we love about motherhood, we left with the assignment to make a list of the top ten things we love about motherhood. It's been interesting and wonderful to see everyone's lists. I put off making my own list – there always seemed to be something more pressing to do. And I've had a few days lately where all I could think of was what I DIDN'T like about motherhood. But I finally sat down and made my list. It was a great exercise that helped me see things in a different light.

  • Here's my top 10 list of what I love about motherhood right now

  • 1. Knowing I really matter to five wonderful young people who each show their love for me in different ways.

  • Having Silas sing me the "I love you" song he made up about 12 times a day (even though his siblings get bugged with him for singing it so much). Having Eliza tell me I'm the best mom ever when I tuck her in. Having Oliver tell me how much he missed me when I see him after school. Having Isaac lean his head on my shoulder and snuggle up to me in church or while we watch a movie. Having Ashton tell me stuff he's excited about and show me how to do things on the computer.

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  • 2. Telling stories and watching my kids' great facial expressions of awe or excitement or empathy as the story unfolds.

  • I also love listening to audio books with my children and enjoying the unfolding of a new story together while we all relax.

  • 3. Learning new things together

  • Reading books, visiting new places, looking up answers to questions we have on Wikipedia or YouTube and getting sucked into learning about everything from how baby carrots are made to what a "concentration camp" was to what make lightbulbs work.

  • 4. Doing a final tuck-in for each child before I go to bed each night

  • Seeing them sleeping all skeewampus but still looking like angels, straightening them out a bit and tucking them under the covers, kissing their soft cheeks.

  • 5. Watching them be kind to others (especially when the recipient of their kindness is a sibling).

  • 6. Snuggling with the kids on family movie night and at church every week

  • Holding my babies in my arms was always a huge highlight – and snuggling them now, remembering how small they used to be, makes me smile and feel the wonder of bearing children and seeing them grow.

  • 7. Seeing my kids succeed in something important to them

  • I love seeing them work on something new and hard and seeing them figure it out and get excited about it.

  • 8. Making and enjoying great food together

  • I love making them happy by making them their favorites from the list of family staple recipes we've developed over the years and I love finding new favorites together. I love teaching them to cook and bake and enjoying that process of creation together.

  • 9. Enjoying the wonder and excitement of the world with kids who are experts in wonder and excitement.

  • Exploring new places together with my kids – hiking, biking, finding new and interesting things to do in our own neighbor hood or traveling to new places. I love sharing adventures with my kids and getting excited about things together.

  • 10. Seeing my kids become cool and fun people that I like to hang out with

  • Now that my kids are a little older, they are some of my best friends. They are so fun to talk with and have so many interesting ideas and thoughts to share (when they're in the mood to share, that is!). I get sucked into long conversations about music or choices friends are making or ways teachers at school are handling things as I tuck in my children at night.

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  • While it's great to remember and dwell on all the sparkling moments and beauty and meaning that motherhood brings to our lives, I think there's also a place for remembering the day-to-day stuff that's not so fun but is still a part of the big picture of motherhood, the stuff that teaches me patience and helps me grow (if it doesn't annoy the heck out of me first), the stuff I want other moms and my posterity to know I DID experience and DO understand.

  • So here's my list of current LEAST favorite things about motherhood

  • 1. Mutually exclusive simultaneous emergency needs

  • At least once a day there is a time when everyone quite suddenly and very urgently seems to need something different from me at the same time. Those crisis moments aren't fun. If everyone could just take turns needing things, I'd be able to be a much better mom.

  • 2. Interruptions

  • My kids interrupt me and each other constantly and it's driving me crazy. Plus everything I try to do gets interrupted again and again so I feel like I'm half doing hundreds of things every day and never really finishing much.

  • 3. Paper and writing utensils everywhere

  • Homework papers, pencils and crayons are scattered across every flat surface in the house after school, newsletters and other papers from school are handed to me while I'm trying to drive the carpool home, paper airplanes and bits of discarded paper along with pencils and markers seem to be always laying around under chairs, on top of dressers, scattered about the floor. I applaud the creativity and homework-completion involved in all the bits of paper and writing utensils strewn about – but having my house look like garbage is constantly strewn about gets old.

  • 4. Being late and rushed and stressed

  • Too often, I try to cram in too much and I'm not very realistic about how long things take. My kids have picked up these unfortunate tendencies up from me. So we're always rushing at the last minute and it's not a happy time for any of us. "Hurry" is not really a happy word. And "we're late" is a phrase that gets repeated way too often in our house. I have been working hard on this one lately and it's getting a bit better. But it's so easy to slip back into old tendencies …

  • 5. Repetition without results

  • Motherhood involves repeating a lot of pretty dull and mundane actions again and again and again – making food, sweeping the floor, doing the laundry, changing the diapers, driving kids to school, etc. Repetition of actions can be boring and sometimes annoying but mostly it's OK. But what really gets me is having to repeat what I SAY so many times and finding that often, despite my best attempts to say the same thing in new and hopefully more effective ways while attempting to stay patient and loving, the result is often not commeasurate with my efforts.

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  • 6. Fear and worry

  • Mothering my young children involved a lot of moments of nearly heart-stopping fear as they would speed-crawl towards stairs when they didn't yet know how to get down the stairs safely, make a dash for a busy street, jump off a swing in mid-air, or disappear from my side at the grocery store. But I'm finding that mothering older kids involves it's own heart-wrenching fears and worries. When I see an email from a teacher of a class where my child's been having issues, I'm scared to open it – worried about what might be happening now. When a child casually mentions that they'ves been eating lunch alone and can't think of anyone to invite to a party, worry sets in.

  • 7. Trying to get kids to do things they don't want to do

  • I TRY to help my children see the logic and importance of doing the things I ask them to do and help them WANT to do the things that they need to do. I try to make expectations clear and very manageable. I explain and offer incentives. I try to be flexible and understanding and give as many choices as possible. But somehow they just don't seem to hear me or to internalize or fully accept what I'm saying. But there are things that simply must be done whether any of us like it or not!

  • 8. The bickering!

  • One child is always doing something that the other kids deem "annoying." One child is always riling the others up – getting the twins going on wrestling and rough-and-tumble fun until inevitably, someone's crying and someone's accusing and everyone's mad. The issue of who gets which seat at the table and which seat in the car is getting SO OLD. Some days it seems like the kids just wake up ready to nit-pick and argue all day long!

  • While every mom could readily make a sizeable list of the stuff that's downright hard about motherhood, the hard stuff generally makes the good stuff sweeter. Hard and good come hand in hand. I'll keep this hard stuff (and keep working on the stuff I know I can change with more effort) because it comes part and parcel with the good stuff that I wouldn't trade for the world.

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Saren adores her five energetic, adventurous, precocious children but doesn't totally adore the mess and busyness and bickering that comes with them! She grew up all over the world, did her B.A. at Wellesley College and her M.Ed. at Harvard, did humanitarian service in Eastern Europe, and conducted training programs for teachers and enrichment programs for kids. But after she got married and had her five children, the real education and work began! When she's not trying to answer five different needs and questions at once, she writes and puts together programs for moms for the website she co-directs, Power of Moms. She currently lives in Ogden, Utah and loves reading, hiking, and biking with her family (or by herself when possible!). She often struggles with balance but finds joy in being involved in many things that are meaningful to her.

Website: https://powerofmoms.com

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