My babies turned 6 a couple days ago. My oldest baby turned 11 a couple weeks ago. How did this happen?
While I had 5 preschoolers, I had lots of seasoned moms tell me that "the days can seem really long but the years really fly by." They were right. I knew I was supposed to be enjoying motherhood - and I certainly did - sometimes - but everything just kept coming at me so quickly and those days of diapers and messes and being needed by several little people with mutually exclusive needs at all times did seem very very long. But quite suddenly, years full of those days are over.
Now I have five kids in elementary school. Now I have 3 hours of kid-less time each day while the twins are in Kindergarten. I have 5 kids who can get themselves dressed and put on their own socks and shoes. I have 5 kids who can read. I have 5 fun people around to talk to about all sorts of interesting things and to accompany me to the library and to museums and to instigate bike rides and art projects and family read-a-thons. I've got 5 people who know how to do the dishes and clean up their rooms (but of course knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two different things).
I'm loving motherhood these days. While I loved my kids' babyhood and toddlerhood and often wish I could go back in time to cuddle their squishy little bodies, hear their babbling and first words, and see their adorable first smiles, first steps and first laughs again, I think I've really hit my stride as a mother with all my kids in this middle childhood stage. I think most moms have a stage of motherhood that really clicks for them. My sister Shawni is all about newborns. Others can't get enough of toddlers. Some adore the teenage years (and I hope that'll be me). So far, the stage I'm in right now is absolutely delightful (most of the time) for me. And I wish I could keep these fun kids right where they are for a while - quite a while.
I heard a quote a while back by a mom who'd had a big career outside her home while also mothering several children. In an interview one time, she was asked whether she thought she was able to give her children the attention they needed while giving her career what was required. Her answer was something like this: "My kids turned out great. They're fabulous people. I think they got everything they needed from me. But looking back, I feel like I'm the one who missed out. I don't think I got everything I needed out of motherhood."
I don't want to look back and feel that way. I want to cherish this precious time when my children are at such delightful stages and when they still want to show me things and tell me things and do things with me. I need this time with my kids just as much as they need this time with me. Last week Isaac brought home a book about ancient Greece and we all read it together. Everyone was fascinated - including me. On the twins' birthday, we all worked together on shoveling the driveway and building a snowman and it was just so fun. Today we all sat around the table after church and talked about the theme from Stake Conference - being a modern day pioneer and getting to know our ancestors - and everyone had such great ideas and thoughts to share. I love this stuff. And I want a lot more of it.
So while there are 1000's of hours of Power of Moms work that needs to be done and countless other timely projects that are important to me and to others, I'm protecting my precious time with my precious kids. I can get work done while they're at school and sometimes in the evenings. I can reply to a few emails while they're happily doing something on their own. But I'm protecting Sunday afternoons and bedtimes and homework time and daily reading time. I'm going to make sure I get individual time with these precious individuals who call me mom plus we're planning some great activities we can all do together each month plus some big stuff for this year.
While I've sometimes been so stressed (especially lately with the move and the holidays and lots of Power of Moms deadlines) that I want to throw up my hands and quit most everything other than being a mother and a wife, I know that for me, I truly need some "extracurricular" activities. Plus the opportunities I have to learn and give through Power of Moms and the chance I have to reflect on my life and actions through this blog helps me be a better mom and person in so many ways while setting an example of community-mindedness and caring and journal-keeping for my children. But I'm seeing the time slip away and I'm determined to get all I need out of motherhood while giving my kids the mom they need. So I'm going to push back deadlines and grab more of the now-or-never moments that have seemed to float on by too much.
You know the saying, "Never put off 'til tomorrow that which you can do today"? My parents flipped that saying in a book they wrote and I want to embrace this new version a lot more: "Always put off a put-off-able in favor of a now-or-never."
NOW is the time to be with my kids. It's also the time to embrace and support the great things that are happening with The Power of Moms (we've got over 40,000 moms who are enjoying the website and new opportunities pop up daily). I'm realizing I CAN do both. But only with carefully drawn boundaries, tons of patience, plenty of help from many outside forces plus a large dose of letting go and letting God.
So to any of you who've been waiting on me to do things (like finish judging the scores of beautiful entries we received for our Power of Moms writing contest or update a bunch of stuff on the website), thanks for your patience and understanding and please know I'm working hard every day. But I only have so many hours a day. The important things will get done. I just can't promise exactly when.
I'll end with this poem I memorized when I was a teenager - it was cross stitched in a frame in the home of a woman I used to babysit for all the time. As I played with her cute kids, I remember thinking of the day when I would have children of my own and I would always prioritize time with them.
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow
For children grow up, we've learned to our sorrow
So quiet down cobwebs
Dust, go to sleep
I'm rocking my baby
And babies don't keep
Here's a new version of the poem that rings even more true to me today:
Websites and emails can wait 'til tomorrow
For children grow up, we've learned to our sorrow
So quiet down projects,
Phone, go to sleep,
I'm enjoying my children
And children don't keep.
Oh, and if you want to join me in making the most of your current stage of motherhood, please play the Bloom Game (click on the flower on the right) with me. You can sign up for free and it'll take you to a self-assessment where you can figure out what you want to work on then decide on how you're going to be the deliberate mother you want to be while pursuing your own interests and talents in a balanced way. You'll get to set bite-sized goals each week and the program will prompt you to set new goals each Sunday. Plus the program encourages you to look for and create more opportunities for "serendipity" in your life. I've slacked off on the program myself for a little while and doing it again this week has made such a difference in my life! When I'm doing Bloom regularly, I find I FEEL so much better about my life - plus I AM better.
And if you do the program, please please please take a minute to share a little about how your goals went that week when prompted by the Sunday reminder email you'll get. It's so motivating to share and hear about experiences with this program.
Even if you only do the program for a couple weeks for free, it'll totally help you to do the self-evaluation and learn a simple new way to set and achieve goals in a manageable, balanced way so you can move towards becoming the mom and person you really want to be. DO IT!