To the mama who feels she is never enough: Be present

By Laura Smith|October 24, 2017|special needs parenting, Uncategorized|

When my kids were both under the age of 5, it would be a gross understatement to say I was “tired.”  With one kid at least you could nap with them; but with two kids, naps became a thing of the past and lack of sleep reigned as the new order of the day.

My oldest child has special needs, and though that shouldn’t technically matter; it amplified stress, lack of sleep, and anxiety.

I remember many people telling me various versions of the following sentiment:

“Enjoy it while they’re little.”

In fact, I was told this as early as my first born daughter being 2 weeks old when we took her out to dinner for the first time.  I remember being annoyed at the woman who didn’t understand what a chore it was to even get out of the house and that of course I was enjoying it!!

“Enjoy it while they’re little.”

I would take it to heart and admonish myself for being angry, stressed, or upset that day because one day they wouldn’t be little anymore and all I would have was regret.

I remember stumbling upon this great meme and adopting it as my mantra.

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

I would repeat this mantra in my head when any difficulty arose.

Need to rush my daughter to school on time.  Everything is packed and ready to go. Shoes on, coats on, hats on….and, somebody pooed their pants and needed a diaper change.


“The days are long but the years are short.  The days are long but the years are short.”

Youngest son is old enough to start fighting with oldest sister while I’m trying to listen to my daughter’s speech therapist give me homework for the week.  Youngest runs out of the room, out of the building, and with my anxiety, probably into oncoming traffic.

“Excuse me, I’m sorry.  I just need to grab him.”

“The days are long but the years are short.  The days are long but the years are short.”

Church on Sunday and youngest son is running in and out of aisles while I do my best to use my stern yet whispered breath to bring him back.  Oldest daughter, jealous of the attention starts to act up and run out too.  After wrangling them both out of church full to the brim with embarrassment, I would silently curse in my head,

“The days are long, but the years are short.  The days are long, but the years are short.”

Park on a weeknight finds my oldest daughter making friends, and my son who felt left out.  Oldest daughter has special needs and motor skill issues so I’m hovering make sure there is not some horrific accident where she falls and leaves her with a broken limb.  Youngest son feels sad from the lack of attention and pushes down a baby trying to play with playground equipment he wanted.  Mortified and angry I leave the park with both kids in a football hold screaming, and in my head I was repeating,

“The days are long, but the years are short.  The days are long, but the years are short.”

Can I tell you a secret though? I still feel like I have these days and my kids are growing older now.  They are out of the toddler stage.  I will no longer take a kid to their first day of preschool or Kindergarten.  That season is over.  However, some days still feel extremely long.  I don’t think I quite realized a season was over until I was watching a young mother wrangle her two kids under 5 the other day.  Her hair was disheveled and she breathed deep breaths as she tried to manage these two beautiful humans she loves more than life itself.

I found myself smiling at the chaos.  Her chaos, and thinking,

“Oh wow.  Enjoy it while it lasts.”

I stared at her stress and wistfully thought in my head how I will never have that again. I decided to empathize with her and told her I understood her stress and to just remember,

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

“That’s what they tell me,” was her reply, as she scooped up her children and told me goodbye.

Motherhood, parenthood, is HARD.  It is this crazy paradox of loving another human being more than yourself, more than ANYTHING; but then being stressed and crazy, and wishing for something else, anything else, in that moment.

The mother with a newborn, exhausted from the ordeal of childbirth and lack of sleep is envied by the woman who doesn’t have kids, while she herself envies the mother of toddlers who is able to take a moment and sip a latte.  The mother with a toddler envies the simplicity of having a newborn while being stressed by chasing a busy toddler.  The woman with a teenager, seeing the mom with a toddler, remembers that smaller kids have smaller problems and finds herself missing the days when her worst fear was that her child would fall off the jungle gym instead of making a poor choice like drunk driving that could end with some very big and serious consequences.

I think we as mothers need to give ourselves more grace.  We need to allow and accept our humanity.  We need not feel guilty and just know that EVERY stage of motherhood is hard, but also wonderful at the same time.  Every stage, every season, has this push-pull of enjoying it and feeling happiness you have never known, and yet surviving it all at once.

I don’t think the message should be “enjoy it while it lasts,” even though that is what I myself even thought when watching a mother and her two young kids a week ago. I think the message all mothers need to know simply this:

Be present.

If you are present, you WILL enjoy and not miss all those little moments with your children that bring tears to your eyes.  If you are present, you will also understand that we are all human, and some days are more difficult than others; but that doesn’t mean we love our children any less or would change our life.

Be present.

Be present and live every moment with you children, good and bad.  In this way, we don’t need to feel pressured to “enjoy every moment,” because the human experience itself is not enjoying every moment.  That’s ridiculous.  The human experience includes happiness, but also sadness, pain, anxiety, and uncertainty.  Our children don’t need us to be happy or perfect all the time, just that we were there,  by their side,

 through it all.

Be present.

That’s my new message.  Yes the days may still be long and the years may still be short….and yes you may look back on this time in your life now and urge yourself to “enjoy it.”  However, life is to be LIVED.  To be EXPERIENCED, and not every experience is joy.  My message this short journey through motherhood has taught me  is to just simply,

Be present.

No guilt.  No shame. No apology of emotion. Maya Angelou once famously said,

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Kids will not remember everything, but they will remember whether or not you were there.  Did you show up?  Were you there to talk to when they needed you?  Were you plugged in?  Did you love them through all of their actions and emotions, good and bad?  I no longer believe we need to “enjoy” each moment; but I do feel strongly, we need to be present in it.

Be present Mama.  Be present. And know by being present, you are enough.




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