I struggle from time to time balancing the "fill my cup first" moments and the "momming" moments. Very often the "momming" moments have to come first; they simply do because necessity dictates that reality. Being a mom is a full time job whether you work at home or away from home, and I think we can all agree that the mom-job (and parenting job, for that matter. Dads, you know you keep these families afloat!) doesn't really have any days or moments off. All of us, for the most part, realized that our parental role was going to take over most areas and dimensions of our lives when we excitedly saw the positive results on that pee stick way back when. But I would guess that we never knew the extent of that "take over" effect until we were elbow deep in the trenches of parental warfare. There is never a down moment or dull time of life in this path from womb to dorm and every other step, fall, bump, bruise, broken bone, tantrum, teenage attitude or drama in between.
So...We know parenting is hard. What happens when we throw some hiccups, pot holes, unexpected events, and bumps in the road? Well, life is very often unpredictable and notoriously known for uncertainties and changes in plans. We've all come to expect those things, and trust me when I say I'm not looking for any sympathy or words of encouragement during our own unpredictable situation. But I am maybe trying to figure out what to do when being both mom and dad isn't going as successfully as I'd hoped. You see, I love being mom and wife. I love staying at home and selfishly having all of my kids' moments. With that said, I seem to be more successful at those two jobs when my husband is in the same country as me. Actually, it's most successful when he's under the same roof.
What I thought would be an old hat really hasn't proven to be the truth of the matter. Deployment is a difficult experience...every single time. And every single one is equally hard....not "been there done that" as maybe is assumed. It's simply not. Just because we've "done it before" doesn't necessarily mean I'm some kind of master or role model in this less-than-ideal experience. My six boys are all- all of them- handling it differently and none of them are handling it in the same way they did 5 years ago. Things change. Times change. Children grow and change and are faced with different challenges and stresses all the time. This isn't the same. And trying to feed their minds, bodies and souls all differently isn't easy. I'm very much struggling to meet each individual boy's needs at the time they should be met in every individual situation that presents itself a hundred times a day...each day...every single day.
Basically, I'm failing this mission. Not in the sense that the house is falling apart or the kids are struggling emotionally and in need of an intervention or that I simply cannot function any more. But in the sense that the house IS quite messy and more unorganized and dustier than usual and the boys often are sent to bed without their love language being completely met or getting a one-on-one talk with their parent or simply having a bath. We eat leftovers more than we ever have before. There is quite often dirty clothes crawling out of the baskets. The kitty litter is almost always stinky and in need of attention. The turtle tank is murkier and stinkier more often than not. I show up late and usually frazzled to my kids' events. There's college information that needs to be addressed and decisions that need to be made. There's additional expenses that don't quite fit into the designated budget which is requiring more math than I'd ever like to use. Sheets and bedding hasn't been washed since Captain Hubby left. And, quite honestly, I can't remember when I last bathed (with soap and deliberate washing) my youngest two. This is the real nitty gritty. It's the "real" of this moment. It's not graceful or pretty and sadly it doesn't feel very close to my family's motto of "I've got this". Not at all. It feels more like "well, maybe I'll get it".
You see. My cup is so empty right now- emotionally, spiritually, physically- that I'm struggling to get drops into each of the six kids' cups. And because of that amazing thing we all know as MOM GUILT, I'm not very forgiving to myself. It's actually my job to make sure these boys are filled with love, security, attention and not to mention food, clean laundry, a clean healthy home, and the feeling of a safe, calm haven to which they can seek refuge. It's just not the case right now...at least not all of it and not all the time. I'm trying really hard to yell less and smile more. I'm making a conscious effort to make eye contact when the child wants to tell me another story about what happened at school or a joke they heard that is "so funny"! I'm doing my best to keep my eyes focused and ears open longer into the night than I'd like so I can have another oh-so-precious conversation with my college bound oldest babe. These moments are fleeting. So fleeting. I'm watching them grow and mature and handle life without their dad in such an amazing way that it makes me sad. Nostalgic even. It needs to slow down. I need to linger in their moments longer. Inhale their beauty and stinky smells on a more regular basis because I know I'm going to miss it. When did the ugly, busy, craziness of life become the most beautiful thing I could ever imagine? When did these moments that seem so insignificant and so overwhelming become the beat of my heart?
And at the end of it all, I'm hoping that through the exhaustion, leftovers, not always as-clean-as-I'd-like home and all too often a short response instead of really giving them my full attention...that they'll know I did my best and gave them all I possibly could in these moments. I'm doing my best by these 6 boys; giving all that I have in me to get them through this as unscarred as possible and perhaps with a life lesson or two.
And maybe, just maybe they'll have learned enough through three deployments that grace and patience and love was the answer the entire time. And maybe...maybe they'll declare without any irony or doubt that "we've got this"...