It's Saturday morning, and we're at Costco. (I know...who goes to Costco on a Saturday? The answer: EVERYONE.) The baby and the three-year-old are both sitting in the cart, vying for space and attention. We have exactly an hour before we have to get the three-year-old to her gymnastics class, so we're rushing down the aisles to get the items we need. The baby is getting tired and cranky, whining to be picked up. The three-year-old, bored, is starting to misbehave and climb around on the cart. I dole out a steady stream of snacks to placate them.
I look around at the wide aisles full of merchandise, rendered garish by unflattering fluorescent lights, and I'm surrounded by suburban discontent. I start to feel slightly desperate—I have a sudden urge to run for the exits.
When I signed up for this "having kids" project, I was prepared to change a lot of diapers, clean up various bodily fluids, struggle with sleep deprivation. I understood that being a mom meant putting my kids' needs before my own. What I didn't realize was how unrecognizable my life would become.
Gone are the days of partying until 2 a.m. and sleeping in until noon, or lazing around on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea and a good book. Gone are the spontaneous evenings—if someone at work has tickets to a show or a friend wants to go for drinks, I can't just say yes without carefully planning first.
The truth is, much of the time, the daily grind of working full-time and raising a young family isn't all that enjoyable. You run around all day—dropping off the kids, picking up the kids, squeezing a full day of work in between—and the time you do spend together as a family is that few hours in the evening when everyone is hungry, tired and grumpy.
So why do it? Where's the reward?
It's in watching my baby copy me, as she toddles around the house with a purse on her arm, saying "bye bye" and blowing kisses. It's in playing hide and seek with my three-year-old (whose idea of hiding is to sit behind a chair in full view). It's in watching my girls tackling each other in their pajamas, giggling, clearly loving each other's company.
I need to recognize the joy when I see it—in those moments—so that when I'm tired and out of patience, they'll remind me of why I chose to become a parent. So that I'll once again feel that intense, binding love that will carry me through the most difficult days.
It's not much, I know. But it's a start.