Being the youngest of six in a family that blended together when I was seven, I always savored the feeling of a full house. There were countless activities and conversations going on at any given time. Mostly pleasant, but sometimes listening in on a tantrum-throwing teenage older sister who liked to slam doors so hard they nearly popped off their hinges, or throw all of my belongings out the second story window. I was still better off than the old boom box with a busted antenna that met its ultimate demise when she lobbed that sucker into the air from the driveway to its crash landing in the middle of the street. Never a dull moment.
A couple times each summer we would load up my step-father’s Astro van for camping adventures and being the youngest, I got the make-shift “seat” comprised of a stack of pillows wedged between the middle row captain’s chairs. Seat belts are overrated.
I always imagined when I grew up I would get married pretty soon after high school and begin my own family. I was going to stay home, but probably have some little odd job in the community just for fun, and maintain a clean-ish home with medium-level toy and laundry chaos. (Yes, I was that realistic even in my youth.) I wanted six, possibly as many as eight kids. The thought of raising that many kids seemed daunting, but my long term goal was to ensure that I was a little old lady someday surrounded by gobs of grand kids and great-grand kids so I figured struggling through my 20’s and 30’s with a giant brood of my own would be worth the reciprocity of endless babies paving the way to my peaceful, fulfilled deathbed.
Besides wanting lots of kids, I also had daydreams of a career in Hollywood. (Who hasn’t?!) I loved theater and singing and felt totally at home on the stage. I wanted to entertain people somehow, someway. I never knew how that ambition might weave itself into my real life role of Mother, but the images of success still flittered through my mind, and I’d watch those hopes and dreams as private screenings in my brain.
I’ve learned over time that often God doesn’t deliver our biggest hopes and dreams at all in the way that we expect. My firstborn child, a daughter, came as an unplanned pregnancy at the tail end of my senior year. This wasn’t my plan! How did this experience end up on my plate? You’ll be able to read more about this story later in 2016 when my first book is published, but for now we’ll keep rolling.
My world was shaken, I wasn’t yet married to my Prince Charming, I was worried I’d never find one after slipping up on something as profound as the Law of Chastity.
Eventually, well, actually only four months after my daughter was placed for adoption I met the man I would marry a couple of years later. There were/are challenges with our relationship that still hadn’t necessarily met my checklist of needs and wants but I kept hanging in there. I worked full time, sometimes with a second job, for six and a half years before we had our first son together.
Bringing my son home from the hospital was overwhelming. I didn’t take my first baby home with me, and the trauma and insecurity I felt from that pregnancy and in the following years made me too scared to have children of my own. The moment you realize you are pregnant it’s either absolute joy or unparalleled panic. I’ve experienced both of those feelings, and either way, it clicks your brain into the motherhood vortex, wherein nothing else on this orbiting planet matters because there is a baby on the way.
Life, career, hobbies, children…they all have their twists and turns and now I’m on the approach to my fifteenth wedding anniversary and have three young children. Not the six or eight I thought I would have by now, but my home is certainly full and so is my humble, sometimes bitter heart.
The lessons I get to learn are invaluable, and I love talking to my kids about the work I do now. I also cherish the times I get to play with them, hold them, smooch their plump cheeks, read to them, comfort them, and occasionally try my hand at firmly disciplining them. We all plug forward together.
I’m not a great cook. I have about four meals in the rotation, and I’ve recently destroyed a slow-cooker meal which I am embarrassed to admit. (Curse you rice and chicken pile of slop from hell!)
My daughter’s hair usually looks like a wreck because she refuses to let me wash it half the time, and a thorough brushing is out of the question. I’m this close to buzzing it clean to her crusty scalp.
I hate holidays and I barely pull things together for them. Usually I send my husband on the errands to the store because to me everything is about candy and junky toys. Trying to teach your kids that every single holiday is NOT about candy and toys is near impossible if you let them out into public. Trust me, celebrating Jesus rising from the tomb does not have anything to do with a pastel basket full of sugar, bubble wands, and hot wheels. Ugh.
I’m not a perfect mother. I feel like my shortcomings are magnified, and I’m often riddled with guilt that I’m not doing enough for my kids. Like in these moments where I’m determined to post another blog so I can feel like I did something today. It’s a tough choice when baby is napping and the 3-year-old is happily playing dress up and eating popcorn for me to decide between a few minutes alone in the office, or scramble to get showered and tidy up the house that will be destroyed again and again by sundown.
I work hard on projects I created myself. I get to tell my kids what I’m working on and why it’s important. Last fall I showed my oldest son a task list I was working on for Idaho Laugh Fest, a comedy festival I created, and he asked me why I made a job for myself that was so much work. Touché, lad. The conversation that followed was just what I needed to hear myself say, that I am working hard to do things that I love and WANT to do so that I can have more flexibility to choose my mom duties first when needed. So I don’t have to punch someone else’s clock for the rest of my life.
I’m a working mom. A hard-working one. I dream big. And I prioritize the time with my kids very well. Sometimes that means I choose to just play or sing with them instead of trying to clean the house or cram in too many errands. I have this messy, chaotic, humbling, rewarding, insane life.
But it is in these moments where I get to step back and observe the whole picture. I’m not at all the mother I always dreamed I would be. I’m so much more.