I walked around IKEA today wanting.
“OOOh. I wish I could have that rug.”
“Oh! I love that couch.”
“It makes total sense to buy a bonsai tree stick thingy.”
Yet, I have mastered the art of “not now” when it comes to purchases like those. For me, it has become easy in these years of watching our pennies as we raise three children while also trying to climb out of student loan debt to know that although I want it, I don’t really have to have it. I also many times don’t even need it. As quickly as the thoughts above desiring something pop into my head, they leave just as fast as I reason it out in my mind. Later. Later. Later. I chant.
Yet, sometimes, I find myself in a similar trap when it comes to mothering.
“Ooooh how I wish the baby slept through the night.”
“Oh! I wish all my kids were older so the hubby and I didn’t have to get a sitter”
“I just wish I could pick up and go wherever I wanted.”
Thoughts like these were invading my mind today as I scrolled through my FB feed. I saw a friend from long ago about to embark on a trip to Africa. How exciting. “What must that be like?” I immediately thought. I see pictures of grown children who are getting married and leaving their parents empty-nesters. I see a friend excited about a girl trip she is about to take. And, I want it. ALL of it.
When I imagine a child-free life, stretched on a beach somewhere with no kids to worry about, my first thought? “Wow. That sounds so nice.” Laying on a beach with my husband and not a care in the world except your own thoughts, and the thoughts of the person you love most. My frazzled, I-just-returned-from-IKEA-with-three-kids, mind can hardly grasp the thought.
And, then I am reminded.
I do have it all.
I have a husband who loves me and supports our family financially so I can stay home.
I have three children who are happy and healthy. Who write me notes on a random Thursday afternoon that say, “I love you Mommy. You are the best mom in the whole world!” I think of the toddler who wakes up yelling from the other room (even though he only has like 5 real words) screaming, “MAAAAAA MA!”
I think of the air-conditioned house I sit in, and the beautiful backyard and friendly neighbors surrounding me. I think of the giggles and laughs that are spontaneous in a family like mine because the baby is laughing hysterically when his older brother farts at the dinner table. No matter what kind of mood you are in, THAT is funny.
I remember JOY. I am having it all.
The problem is, we scroll through social media, and everywhere else, and imagine what life would be like if we had married our old boyfriends, or if we were that couple on the beach with no kids to look after, or if we were that friend on her way to Africa. We put ourselves in the shoes of others where we don’t belong. We fantasize.
Sure, some people are making the choice that is best for them by not having kids. And, maybe in their minds, they do have it all. But, I know in my heart that life would by no means feel like I had it all. I don’t consider them selfish. In fact, I don’t think I’m judging them at all. To be honest, it looks nice. Amazing, in fact. But comparing ourselves to others is never really going to end well. I know for example, that a child-free life, to me, would mean a joy-less life. And, having it all means looking around me and feeling joy in the little things. Even if I have to actively look for the joyful moments. Because, they are always there.
In every single day.
The hard part is seeing them. Recognizing the joyful moments in every day is what brings us closer to feeling at peace in whatever circumstances we are in.
I sometimes feel frustrated at myself because I do have to work at it. I don’t naturally think positively. Some people just do. But, I can’t just flip a switch some days and choose to be happy. Those that say, “Just focus on the positive” obviously don’t feel and think what I think. My mind was not wired that way. Sure, I can do it. But, is it easy? No way. It is extremely difficult. It is an inner battle. It is my weight to carry. Because, life was meant to be joy-full.
It is hard in this media saturated world to look away and not imagine. To not fantasize about something that would take you away from your own trials, difficulties and struggles. To not fantasize about having a clean house all the time, or no one to pick up after.
But, one thing I know for sure? I know I can at least be grateful everyday for something. That’s easy. Because we are all blessed in some ways. And, I am blessed by a loving husband and three little people that scream, “MAAAAA MA!” first thing in the morning.
Just the other day, I woke up around 7 am and was surprised to see that I had actually been allowed to sleep that late. I lay there listening to the silence of my house. I remembered thinking, “Wow. It’s so quiet!” It was a foreign experience at that time of day. I imagined, in that moment, as I lie awake thinking of a time that is really not that far away when I will be much older, and that will be the norm. And, I realized that I will be sad when that day comes. When there are no shouts for mommy at 6:30 am from a happy, smiling baby.
So those thoughts of, “I wonder what life would be like if….” are ones that I don’t want anymore. Instead, I want to say, “If only they could feel what I feel, then they would be happy.”
And, when I stop and think about the little things, I can’t help but find the joy in being a Mom to three amazing human beings. To me, THAT is having it all. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Meredith Ethington is a writer and a mom to three, trying to help her kids understand sarcasm and her need for personal space. Meredith’s debut parenting book, Mom Life: Perfection Pending, provides an uplifting yet realistic look at all that is expected of moms in the 21st century and is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at Absolute Love Publishing. She proudly writes for many of her favorite parenting sites, including Scary Mommy, Babble, Momtastic, and on her own blog. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where she loves to laugh at herself and admit that while parenting is the best thing ever, it’s also the hardest job on earth.