I sat in the family room watching my oldest daughter interact with her baby brother. The whelming flood of emotions that I felt seeing this all unfold left me feeling both empty and exceedingly full.
I started to contemplate the complexities of raising children, especially now as a big family, and all of the emotions and lessons that it has brought with it. My mind continued to mull it over as a drifted to sleep later that night.
At 5:16am my eyes popped open and my brain blurted out to me that “Motherhood is not linear!” which I took time to ponder as I kindled the morning fire.
For something to be linear it has to be in sequence, in line, or as some dictionaries put it “progressing from one stage to another in a single series of steps”. But that’s not life — other than being able to count from one year to the next how old you are — and it’s definitely not the journey of parenting, especially not with multiple children at home.
I think in the days of starting a family I thought that raising children would absolutely be linear and that there would be an instantaneous nature to growth and development both in my kids as they grew and myself as I matured into the parenting role I had been blessed with.
As a child, it’s easy to dream of having a family one day and to romanticize what it might look like. Not that there’s anything wrong with romanticizing life and making the most of it, I just didn’t take into account that even my own growth and development as a human being was full of ebbs and flows and wasn’t the simple image of a stick figure ascending a uniform set of stairs.
Likewise it has been in motherhood.
There have been steps,
long and straight paths,
dives, curves, and even loops to navigate.
I often lament “How did we get here?” or “I remember this stage”.
Just as often, I find myself contemplating the idea of how I could have ever forgotten a growth stage from one child to the next whether it has been teething, learning to read, or a whole host of childhood development milestones.
The pattern of progress as well as the emotional roller coaster of raising little lives was not something I even considered in those early days of starting a family.
Who knew that the moments that overwhelmed me with my first child would be the same moments I felt so satisfied by in later children? When I look at the sweet twinkle in Max’s eyes as the fifth baby and see him beg for attention, I remember how much of myself I poured out into Jenn when it was just her. I feel thankfulness that there’s so much love to spread around and that his needs are met by more than just me as Jenn is a safe place for him, Emma gives him horsey rides around the kitchen, Rhett helps him navigate the stairs, and Ranger polices his naughtier behaviors with triumphant tattling. But I also long to be able to go back and have the same kind of heartwarming reactions when it was just me trying to do it all, wanting to do it all, but absolutely unable to give any more of myself.
I both delight in and grieve the passing of time.
Without it, there would be no progress.
But with it comes a longing to linger.
I remember when I was still running my podcast, I had two, nearly 3 children. Every guest would be asked three questions: 1) How do you re-fill your parenting cup? 2) What’s your greatest learning moment as a parent and how did you grow? and 3) what’s your favorite age thus far and why?
I remember repeatedly getting guests who said in their interview that age 2 was their favorite and I remember being so incredibly saturated in that life that while I loved my children, I was doing my best to merely try to enjoy 2 year old mayhem. I just had only previously interacted with teenagers in an intellectual classroom setting and it wasn’t my wheelhouse. Now, suddenly, I sit in tears aching for the days of 2 and in joy and excitement waiting for it to come again. It’s such an age of innocence, exploration, and loving attachment.
What if I could just hit pause? Because somehow I have an 11 year old that I remember being a firecracker two year old yesterday, but there’s a new one year old taking that position and 3 other kids in between. How can this be so incredibly heavy but full of joy at the same time? How can I go back? How can I get it to stop?
I don’t want it to end, but maybe that’s the true, heartbreaking gift of motherhood.
We grow and change just like they do, we get do-overs with subsequent children even if we can never change the past and we learn that nothing in life is instant, especially not us.
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!