“Well now, that's an impressive balancing trick you are pulling off."
So said the older gentleman at the coffee shop as I was attempting to get out the door.
I had one child with a hand in my pocket, sort of dragging along with me, the other holding a hand, a hand that was also helping to balance two stacked coffees with a pinky finger dangling a bag of tiny donuts. As I lifted a leg to open the door, my small daughter reached up with her baby doll, and ever so sweetly asked, “Mama? Can you hold Baby Watermelon too?" Sure, I replied, without hesitation, squatting down to insert Baby Watermelon into the crook of my arm.
That's when I heard it. “Well now. That's an impressive balancing trick you are pulling off." I flashed my best I got this smile—“It's what we do!"— I cheerfully quipped back.
He graciously opened the door for me, for us, I should say, and that was that.
Except it wasn't. Because his comment stayed with me for a while. Until I realized that's it. That's just it. A balancing act—“It's what we do!"
I think all parents of young children do it. The balancing act. Every day. Whether it is the physical— holding a toddler in one arm, and infant in the other, and somehow also stirring some pasta, or the more large scale—balancing working from home with mama-hood, or mom by day/other job by night, or whatever the myriad of hats we wear each and every day. It's just what we do.
And someday, we will look back—realizing what a feat each of these days was.
Balancing dinner prep, a sick kiddo, a book report, and bills to pay. Balancing one child's proud moment at her first dance recital after having received a challenging diagnosis for the other child. Balancing an ill and declining father, an exhausting teaching position, and the needs of two young children not yet in full time school.
It's a lot. It's so much. We just do it.
When older folk comment on our daily doings as though they are, in fact, miraculous triumphs, I have to pause. Do they not remember they did it too? Or was it different then?
My mom tells me that families (or at least ours) didn't go as many places. There wasn't as much hustle. Probably that morning at the coffee shop wouldn't have happened. My mom and dad brewed Folgers at home. The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup! (Side note: we usually brew at home…we were out of coffee that morning. And that is not acceptable.) I do remember taking ballet and piano. And we had to get to school. So we were leaving the house. Was there just not as much pressure to look like everything was under control while doing these things?
Maybe life was simpler then.
Maybe older parents have simply forgotten the day to day challenges of this season of life. To quote my own lovely mother again, she swears that the three of us (my older sister, younger brother, and I) never woke in the night. From the beginning, we slept soundly. With my dad working far more than full-time, and not an “available in the night" kind of dad, she says she counted on that sleep. She says she wouldn't have been able to do the 3 kid thing had we not been good sleepers.
Now: She was an attentive mother. If we were crying in the night, I'm sure she would have heard us. Were we actually good sleepers? Or does she have an amnesia specific to the sleep patterns of late 1970s, early 1980s infants? She has told me, “I don't know how I would have done it, had you kids slept like your four (my two and my sister's two)." She told me upfront with my daughter's sleep issues—I have no advice. This never happened with you three.
I do remember the time the adult world gave me Benedryl when I had chicken pox - and I was jumping out of my skin for over 48 hours. With an elementary aged daughter, a toddler son, and a husband out of town, my mom had me, her middle child, awake and WIRED, for over 48 hours. I am 98.8% certain my mom must have been a zombie during this time. But does she remember it like that? I don't know.
Maybe when she says to a younger mother “Now that's an impressive balancing trick,"it means I feel you. I've been there.
Regardless of what the older generation means when they say this phrase (or ones akin to it) to us—I think we should stop for a moment and let the words wash over us.
It is impressive.
All of it.
From start to finish of any given day, we are thinking about so much more than the one thing in front of us. Weighting advantages and disadvantages, deciding on medical procedures, answering questions about everything from “Mom? If babies are really in a Mommy's tummy like people say, then why don't daddies have babies too?" to “Why do some watermelons have seeds and some don't?" to juggling two jobs and four kids— every day is a balancing act. A feat that defies the odds.
We do it. And mostly, we love it, because we love these little people—these little people with HUGE spirits—oh so much. So we do it.
We forget it is a Really Big Deal.
So Mama. Beautiful, Dear, Balancing it all Mama—Stop reading now and pour yourself a cocktail. Or a cup of tea. Or simply stop and hug yourself. Toast yourself. You Rock.
The world is a better place because of your balancing act. Believe that.
Now then. Carry on.