Dear Overwhelmed Mom,
I’ve seen you in our favorite store (*cough*Target*cough*), with a baby strapped to your front, a toddler struggling to get out of the buggy seat, and a preschooler or two that can’t decide which part of the buggy they want to ride in, on, or attach themselves to. Your eyes are kind of glazed over as you push the cart through the aisles. You’re not really at the store to get much, but your buggy will end up as full as everyone says your hands already are. I see you.
Suddenly, one of the preschoolers darts away, and flits back with arms full of all the things he thinks he needs, and your struggling toddler has lashed out at her big sister who can’t decide if she should fight back or try to be helpful. In the midst of the chaos, I see you.
You are overwhelmed, struggling, and wondering why on earth did you think coming to Target would be easy enough to manage. You’re questioning your judgment and hoping there’s a really cold Diet Coke in one of the fridges by the cash register. You see me, looking at you. Trust me, I’m not judging you. I am you, or at least I was, not that long ago. And I get it. I want you to know, it gets better.
I had my three bundles of joy in the span of four short years. Life was chaotic, and messy, and hard. Looking back, I am amazed we all survived it. Because when you have a few kids without much space between, survival is often as good as it gets. You learn to soak in the peaceful moments when you are feeding the youngest and the older ones are zoned out to Peppa Pig. Or when the big ones decide to teach the toddler how to dance to the Hokey Pokey. Those are good moments.
My youngest is five now, and my oldest is eight. And I tell you, I am amazed how far we’ve come. Do you know, I can take them – by myself! – to Lake Murray and it’s not in the least bit stressful. The younger two wear puddle jumpers and my oldest knows to stay close, and I don’t even have to get in that ice cold lake water unless I want to. And I do.
When we are at home, and my oldest is feeling charitable, he will take his little brother up to the neighborhood park and my daughter will tag along or visit a friend along the way. They are gone for an hour or more and I have the whole house to myself. It’s so quiet! and I can watch grown-up shows during the day! Like the adult I supposedly am!
So, dear overwhelmed mama, I know life is hard right now. If you’re like me, you probably have cried in closets and yelled way more than you’d like. And that’s OK. The truly wonderful thing about all these little people who depend on you so much right now is that pretty soon, they will learn to depend on each other, and that’s a beautiful thing, too. All those times you’ve told one to help the other, or asked a little one to hold a big one’s hand, they are learning that having siblings around is a good thing. That asking and offering to help is how big things get done.
You’re doing a great job, mama. Hang in there! It really does get better!
Granted, I’m pretty sure now that I’ve written this, life’s going to throw me a curve ball with the teen years . . . . But hey! I survived three kids, 3 and under, I can handle three teenagers, too, right?