Last night, while my husband was working late, I loaded my two kids into the double stroller, strapped leashes on the dogs and headed out for an evening walk.
It had been a long day. Nothing had gone as planned and by the time I got everyone out the door it was practically bedtime.
The trials of the day had taken their toll, fraying my nerves and eroding my patience. I felt leaned on and used up and just plain worn out.
So many days as a stay-at-home mom feel like yesterday did. Two young kids and two rowdy dogs provide a fair amount of chaos inside my home. Nothing’s ever clean enough, we’re never punctual enough, no one gets to bed early enough and my son could definitely use a few more baths throughout the week.
There are so many jobs to do as a stay-at-home mom that it’s hard to feel like I’m ever doing enough. There are days when I feel I’m doing great as a parent, but that’s usually when the dishes sit in the sink unwashed. And on the days when the house gets a good cleaning, dinner may get neglected. It’s not often I feel like I’m succeeding on all fronts.
So as I negotiated the heavy double stroller down our steep driveway, I exhaled a deep, long breath. Not your best day, I said to myself, letting it all go.
It takes some concentration to steer the kids with one hand while gripping two dog leashes with the other. Countless things can disrupt the careful balance: a toddler removing and hurling a shoe, a dog walking toward us, a loose hair tickling my face. But we found our rhythm and picked up the pace.
The breeze felt good against my skin and the sky was darkening just enough to provide glimpses of families inside their lamp-lit homes, preparing for the end of the day. Eventually, we passed a middle-aged couple out for an evening stroll. I saw them eye my cumbersome load and, instead of offering up the usual remark (“you’ve got your hands full!”), the woman nodded to me and said matter-of-factly, “You’re doing a great job.”
Just like that. You’re doing a great job.
I knew she was referring to my command of two dogs and two kids, but in that moment it felt bigger than that. I let her words wash over me; let them soak through my skin and into my core.
You’re doing a great job.
Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I thought this job was easy. I admit it: I did. The realities of this vocation blew my expectations away.
Raising children is physical, emotional, patience-testing work.
It can be painfully lonely. It can be demeaning. It can leave you aching at the end of the day, exhausted and wired at the same time. Some days, it can make a person wonder if she’s up to the task.
And yet, here was a total stranger, telling me I was doing a great job when, most days, I can’t say those words to myself.
It’s so hard to let go of the laundry that didn’t get done, the dinner that didn’t turn out as hoped, the tufts of dog hair that waft across the floor just after the vacuum’s been run. Every time I start to feel like I’m succeeding in this job, one of the dogs chews up a precious toy and throws it up in the middle of the night or my toddler reacts with total disinterest to a fun surprise I’ve planned.
You never know when something’s going to pop up out of nowhere to make you feel like a big, fat failure. Last night, the opposite happened.
This is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. I don’t know that I’m always doing a great job, but maybe I ought to tell myself I am a little more often. In parenting, you’ve got to celebrate the successes and let go of the flops.
I’m doing a great job. (Now excuse me: I’m pretty sure there’s some dog vomit around here somewhere.)