Remember those early baby days? When nothing made sense and your perpetual exhaustion brought you to your knees? And you wondered when, for the love of God, it would get easier? When would you finally figure it all out and really get the hang of it?
Because within a couple years, that screaming newborn who wouldn't nurse and who pooped up her back every single Sunday at church turned into a very strong-willed toddler. And nights were still a battle. And church was still a challenge. You still didn't feel like you had the hang of it.
But once she's out of the toddler years, then, you told yourself, then it will get easier, right? I'll know what I'm doing then, right?
Eventually, she turned three, then four. Then a sassy five. And after a few more years, a tween and then a teenager. And in the meantime, you may have added some siblings into the mix, so even when she was in the sweet spot — around age six when she still wanted to be around Mommy — you had a new baby or toddler. Or both.
Maybe that's when it was supposed to get easier? Because by then you were supposed to know what you were doing, right? So why was it still so hard?
When do we get to sit back, take a break, and sigh with relief that the hard part is over?
Well, now that I'm 10 years in, I can tell you it's not in the first decade. And since I haven't navigated the teen years yet, I'm pretty sure it's not before year 20.
Maybe we will finally know what we are doing when we are grandmas? But then aren't we just floundering in our new role? Like—how much should we say? How much help is too much help? How do we make sure we don't overstep?
So I guess I'll break it to you: Turns out, we don't ever actually get the hang of it. It never gets easier, per se. Sure, my kids are done with diapers, but now they're facing school bullies and friendship struggles and pressures to fit in.
And that little babe you rocked all night long, desperately praying he'd stop crying? You thought that was hard until you watched him walk into kindergarten, carrying your whole heart in that Pokemon backpack. And you stared at the clock, not sure how eight hours could last so long until you could hold him in your arms again and make sure he had a good day and wasn't scared and got to the bathroom in time.
But kindergarten is only the beginning. From now on, with each passing day, he'll break away a little bit more, forcing more distance between you two, adding gray hairs of worry onto your head, as he learns how to be in this world without you by his side.
Someday that kindergartener will be 10, on the cusp of tween years, already angling for his own phone, and you'll lay awake night terrified of social media and cyberbullying and how scary the world is.
But you'll make it. You'll figure it out—together.
And then suddenly he's 18, driving out the driveway, heading back to college, after breaking the news that he got a sweet internship and won't be home this summer.
And you may long for those tiring nights when he fit in your arms and nuzzled your neck.
Mamas, it never gets easier. We never get the hang of it. At every turn, there are new challenges. Learning how to be a mom to toddlers. Learning how to be a mom to tweens. Learning how to let go of that 6-foot-tall boy and say "see you in a few months."
And the other wild part about motherhood is that no two kids are the same. I have three, and my youngest makes me feel like a new parent daily.
He throws me curveballs that the other two never imagined. Like when he threw his shoe at my face at Target in a raging tantrum, he stopped me in my tracks. I was dumbfounded. I felt like a new mom all over again. I'm a good mom. I have my kids in check. All I need to do is give "the look" or the stern whisper-shout, and they behave. So what on earth was happening here?
Newsflash—"the look" only works with the first two. My third? Oh boy, is he a new ball of wax.
So "the hang of it"? Nope. Still don't have it. Even though I'm on kid #3.
But do you know what I've realized? We don't have to be sad about this. We just need to embrace it. We need to stop waiting for our "aha!" moments of motherhood, and just have confidence in our abilities to simply do our best, every day. Maybe having "the hang of it" means taking steps forward—sometimes timidly, sometimes with force, but we keep going, continuing to learn as we go.
Because tomorrow our kids will challenge us. They may throw us something new—like a shoe in the face—or maybe make a poor choice and get in trouble at school. We may get a phone call we never thought we'd get because our kids would never… until they did.
And although we probably never get our "expert" status badge, we can take comfort in this—our kids know we love them. They know we're there, even when they make mistakes. (And when we do as well.)
Because motherhood is a lot of things. It's messy. It's exhausting. It's joyful. It's rewarding. And it's unpredictable.
But it will never be easy.