Seven years ago, I had a baby and a toddler to care for. With diapers and wipes and highchairs and cribs and strollers to push and carseats to buckle, it was a very different season.
A younger, sweet friend of mine has two little boys, almost identical in the age difference between them (and in their all boy craziness), but seven years behind us. She told me one morning, as we sipped coffee and talked about how sleep deprived she is, that she wanted a blog post from me about her stage in life, with babies and toddlers.
This is the same friend that texted me last week and said she couldn’t help but think of me when, upon seeing the pile of laundry that had been sitting in the middle of her living room floor for more than a day, her toddler son ran and jumped into the pile. He joyously exclaimed that he was jumping into a pile of leaves and started throwing the clothes everywhere. She just laughed, and then teared up, and then moved on with her day as a momma of littles.
Her request got me thinking—what would I say to the me of seven years ago? Besides the really, really true but always said right when your child is having a public tantrum, “Treasure these years. They go by so fast.”
Seven years ago was a very difficult time for me—probably the worst season in my life. My marriage to the boys’ father was ending. Although I won’t go into details, it was a brutal separation and eventually divorce. The boys were still the same two boys, complete with all their special circumstances (although I didn’t know it at the time), and they were also dealing with the loss of their father. I was working from home with occasional travel, and barely functional. Needless to say, it was a very difficult and stressful time in our lives.
So, I am not sure all the things I would say to the seven years ago me, are completely applicable to the momma my friend is now (she is a much better momma than I was then without question). But I love her and she is so sweet to me, so I am going to try anyway.
To the Mommy I Was Seven Years Ago:
Pick Your Battles
I know it’s hard to imagine this, but seven years from now, you will not remember that you didn’t clean the bathtub for weeks. And even if you do remember, you won’t care. Neither will your kids.
Right now, try to choose the things that make the biggest difference and put the rest on hold. Quality healthy meals, a bedtime routine and getting some sleep might be all you can manage right now. That’s OK. Believe me, there will come a time in the very near future when you will be able to clean your house without too much interruption. There will be a time when your floors will be clean and your kitchen scrubbed. Right now is just not that season for you.
Don’t beat yourself up because you are not getting it all done. Pick your top three or four things. Do those and then congratulate yourself on being planful and a wise steward of your time. Everything else can wait.
That, and if anyone offers to help, take them up on it. I repeat, if anyone offers to help, take them up on it.
When You Don’t Know What to Do, Just Do the Next Thing
There will be times when you have no idea what to do next. When how to potty train and sleep train and discipline will be like learning a foreign language, that everyone else seems to know how to speak except you.
They learned and so will you. For now, when it is tough to know what to do with your child, do not play out all the ramifications of your decision. Do not assume that because you let him sleep in your bed this one time he will never sleep alone and end up 13 with mommy issues and in therapy. Do not assume that because your oldest is regressing that he will go to Kindergarten in diapers. Do not assume that because you gave in and let them have cake for breakfast that you might never recover from your failings as a mom.
When you focus on the future, you lose sight of the present. That, and you totally freak yourself out.
For now, in those moments, take a deep breath, and just take the next step. Just do the next thing. When they are done with the cake, wipe those sweet little faces and move on.
Snuggle Those Little Ones
I know, I sound like the sweet grandmas that say it goes by so fast. But those sweet grandmas are completely, 100 percent right.
Snuggle them, smell their sweet little baby smells, if they fall asleep in your arms take a moment and savor it. In seven years, I have never, ever regretted any time I spent just loving on my boys. You won’t either.
Seven years will go by faster than you can imagine.
You are your children’s momma for a reason. What I now know is that God has already equipped you to do this job, and do it well. Pray without ceasing, even if it’s in the bathroom with little fingers sticking through under the door. Nap when you can, whenever you can. Go to bed early instead of zoning out in front of the TV.
Oh, and make your little one bacon as soon as he is old enough. You’ll feel like a hero and he’s gonna love it.
With so much love and grace and encouragement,
You in Seven Years