Extra Pulp: Frazzled But Thankful

Laura Anders Lee gives thanks for her chaotic, exhausting life as a mom.

It’s the season of thanks. Yet I find myself complaining.

The past seven years have not belonged to me but to my high-maintenance sons. My entire world revolves around Anders and William and answering their every need—feeding them, dressing them, disciplining them and even serving as their own personal jungle gym. People who say something is “a walk in the park” or “a real picnic” never took my kids to the park or to a picnic. Both of these situations for our family end in fighting, crying, whining, losing a shoe or getting mosquito bites. I’ve never felt so exhausted and discombobulated in my life.

The days start early when my energetic 5-year-old, William, wakes me up at 5:30 every morning, even on Saturdays. Doing a simple, everyday task is now extremely complicated when my children are around—like remembering to put in my contacts or putting water in the coffeepot. I cannot take a shower, pay a bill or pack lunch boxes without at least five “urgent” interruptions. Because I’m constantly distracted by my boys, I reheat my coffee multiple times throughout the morning. When it’s finally time to head out the door, I can’t find my car keys or my cell phone, and once I do, William has managed to get himself undressed and Anders informs me he never ate breakfast. In the car, we hit every single red light, and I’m late dropping the boys at school, despite having been up for more than two hours. Afterward, I’m so frazzled and frayed, I drive for 20 minutes before realizing I’m still listening to Kidz Bop instead of NPR.

The evenings are just as hard, with homework struggles, picky-eater woes, colossal Lego spills, and wrestling matches between the boys that end in tears. Once they’re in bed, I have no energy left to finish my to-do list, much less do something relaxing for myself. Even if I wanted a glass of wine, I’m not sure I could find the corkscrew in the clutter of the kitchen.

Then there’s going to the grocery store. Newlyweds and empty-nesters go grocery shopping (for fun!) on date nights, leisurely strolling through the aisles and giddily deciding what they’re going to cook together for dinner. People with children in tow, on the other hand, go to the grocery store in survival mode. We make a list of only the most crucial items, we strictly adhere to that list, and we get in and out as quickly and painlessly as possible while drawing the least amount of attention to ourselves.

It was on one such mission to Publix that we not only made a scene, but my hectic life stopped just for a moment. The boys were especially testing my limits—crawling in and out and under the cart, squishing the bread, opening and eating items, leaving a trail of pomegranate seeds on the floor, hitting each other and secretly throwing junk food into the cart behind my back. We finally made it to the checkout line, and I was desperately digging around in my purse for my credit card when a jolly older gentleman piped up behind me:

“You’ve got your hands full, don’t you?!”

I paused for a moment, looking down at the crazy scene he was experiencing in front of him. And I smiled. His welcome words had justified all my frustration, and I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I hadn’t realized how badly I’d needed the recognition that being a mother is challenging, that going to the grocery store is hard. Someone had validated that raising two small children—rowdy boys at that—is not easy.

Back home, I finally uncorked the Chardonnay, and the boys were fresh from the tub with their hair slicked back. “I want to marry you, Mom,” said William, planting a wet kiss on my cheek. “You’re the best mommy ever,” said Anders, wrapping his arms around me and smelling like toothpaste. Just when I had thought motherhood was a thankless job, I got the sweetest reward.

Despite the messy house, the constant sibling rivalry, the infinite laundry, the endless carpool lines and the bedtime battles, I am grateful to be a mother, even if that means putting up with all the crap that comes with it. When I stop collecting my complaints and start counting my blessings, I realize just how lucky I am. Life with children is not perfect and it’s far from easy, but I wouldn’t change a thing. For my boys, I am immensely thankful.

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