How Quickly We Forget: Encouragement for hard seasons of life

posted by Andrea | 03/11/2019

A couple weeks ago, I loaded up all 4 kids for a morning outing to a local event (Nora didn’t have school).

It didn’t start until 9:30 so it was relatively easy for our early-rising family to get out the door in PLENTY of time for a 9:30 arrival. In fact, I had already finished 3 loads of laundry, we had all enjoyed a hot breakfast, AND I stopped by the grocery store (just for a few things) and the bank before arriving at the event with almost 10 minutes to spare!

Once the event started, 2 different moms with “only” 1 child each strolled in 10-15 minutes late, looking fairly frazzled and unkempt. One was eating a granola bar, the other was feeding her child a banana, as they apparently hadn’t made time for breakfast yet.

Their tardiness truly didn’t bother me or affect me in any way; I just kept doing what I was doing with my own children… but I do remember thinking: “sheesh, I got here early with 4 kids; they only had 1 child and were still late.”

I’m horrible… I know!

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Later in the morning, I started up a conversation with one of the moms. She made reference to the fact that she was late and said she couldn’t imagine how she would ever arrive anywhere on time with more than one child (she was pregnant with #2 and noticed me playing with James and Clara). 

I smiled and nodded, knowing this was NOT the time to share any advice (or the fact that I actually had 2 more children with me!)

Then she mentioned how clingy her toddler is and how impossible it is to get anything accomplished as he “just wants to be held all the time”. 

In an instant, I was brought back to when Nora was a toddler and I was pregnant with Simon… and how insanely difficult life felt back then. 

How quickly we forget! 

Honestly, I can’t believe I could “forget” so quickly and easily — but at the same time, I’m certainly glad I’ve been able to push those memories WAY to the back of my brain! 

At that time in my life, I vividly remember thinking, “There is no way I can have any more children! I can’t even manage the one I’ve already got!” 

Life was exhausting with Nora NEEDING ME every minute of every day (and night). I never got a break because even when other adults were around, she stayed by me for the majority of the time. 

Dave was also much more involved in extra curricular activities at school and not home nearly as much as he is now. 

And… we had no other children to entertain her. It was ALL ME! 

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Of course, after Simon was born, it was EVEN more challenging for a while because I had 2 children who weren’t sleeping through the night and 2 children who needed me for almost everything during the day. 

SIGH… I’m tired just thinking about it again! 

 

Fast-forward a few years… and my life as a mom looks COMPLETELY different! 

My kids play SO well together and all look out for Clara — which means I can easily accomplish so much even when they are home. 

They play games together, look at photo books together, play outside together, or listen while Nora reads to them.

Nora actually enjoys cleaning out the dishwasher and the boys think it’s a special treat to “help” me set the table. 

They are all fairly good at picking up and putting things away. 

The older 3 can get ready completely on their own (Simon does James’ hair — it’s so cute! And Nora loves doing her own hair too.)

The older 3 all make their own beds (not well, but they do it).

They brush their own teeth, wash their own hands, and wipe their own butts! 

They can get their own shoes/boots on and aside from helping James zip his coat, the older 3 can get ready to go outside all on their own.

They can buckle themselves into their car seats (I need to tighten James’ straps for him)

They can eat by themselves without help from me — and I don’t even need to cut up all their food anymore!

They go to bed easily, without crying or fussing… and they almost always sleep through the night!

They communicate and can actually tell me what’s wrong instead of me trying to decipher what might be bothering them. 

Seriously, I could add 50 more things to this list — it’s just AMAZING to me how much easier life is with slightly older children who can do so many more things for themselves AND entertain each other!

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How quickly we forget.

All of these thoughts flooded my brain in a split second as this other mom lamented the fact that she was late (yet again) for something with “only” one child.

I didn’t say much as I’ve learned that’s often the way to go when someone is “venting”, but I did mention that the hardest part of my motherhood journey was the point she was at right then and there — pregnant with #2 and a super clingy, needy toddler to care for ALL DAY LONG.  

She looked relieved and hesitantly asked, “So it DOES get easier?”

I smiled and said, “Most definitely! It’s actually even FUN!”

We chatted for a bit longer and then went our separate ways… but I’ve continued to think about our conversation for the last 2 weeks. 

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Just a few short year ago, I would have been the frazzled pregnant mom, arriving late with my clingy toddler in tow. I would have been the mom looking at those parents with 3, 4, or 5 children, wondering how on earth they could keep them all alive while maintaining her own sanity. 

Now, I’m “on the other side” of that super-difficult pregnant, newborn, clingy toddler stage of life, and WOW does it feel good! 

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The more I thought about it, the more I realized how quickly I’ve forgotten those overwhelming, want-to-give-up, life-is-hard feelings from previous years…

For example: 

All the late nights and long hours I put in during the beginning years of starting and growing my business. 

The ultra-frugal years we lived through with the goal of paying off student loans and our mortgage ASAP.

Dave’s first couple years of teaching and coaching when he basically spent every spare moment at school or working on school-related things at home. 

The first few years living in our farmhouse with construction debris EVERYWHERE, all the time! 

The exhausting, I’m-going-to-die-if-I-don’t-get-some-sleep newborn stage. 

All of these situations felt very overwhelming and challenging when we were living through them, but now we can look back and better-appreciate where we are today as a result of those struggles. 

I suppose I’m glad our brains tend to push memories of hard times to the side, but I DO hope I never fully forget how difficult different seasons of life were in an effort to better empathize with others. 

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30 comments

  1. Lori Margo

    03/17/2019

    This made me really think back to those years of having toddlers and all the busyness and exhaustion. Loved your perspective.

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  2. Amber Woods

    03/12/2019

    Andrea,
    I agree with so much of what the others have said. One other thing that your post shows is your investment in your children, not from a care standpoint, but you have invested your time to teach them “how” to do for themselves and each other. So many parents think they learn simply by watching, but most people learn better when someone stops to take five minutes to teach and then takes another few minutes on a different day to remind. Kids are remarkably capable when they are given the right tools.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Amber — I suppose this happened out of necessity! I NEEDED the older kids to be more self-sufficient so I didn’t have to do everything for everyone!

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  3. Melinda Myers

    03/11/2019

    Andrea,
    I want to thank you and I commend you for this post. I am also genuinely and truly happy, from one mom to another, that life has given you the gift of forgetfulness of early motherhood hardships. I recall reading your posts during Nora’s early years. I was going through similar struggles at that time. You and I met briefly twice. I used to worked at the now former Shaker Messenger in downtown Holland. I admired your haircut (I still do). I, sadly, am still the mother of one who always runs late, despite planning ahead, despite much begging and pleading, and despite much heartache and misconceptions from other moms. My little girl is autistic. My little girl is a wonderful human being. My little girl is often misunderstood. Many people, including my pre mother self judge what we either have not lived or what we think we know. Often we are very, very wrong. Andrea, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post as it came at the absolute perfect time and was so very needed for this mother’s currently wounded heart. I apologize for the heavy tone of this post. I just really wanted you to know the good things that your blog does for so many women. Thank you.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Melinda!
    I LOVED that Shaker Messenger store — totally my style (not necessarily in my budget though!)
    I’m sorry to hear about your struggles, but I am glad my post was somewhat encouraging for you today. Hugs!

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  4. Anna

    03/11/2019

    This is very nice to hear! I definitely have aggravating conversations with parents who don’t remember how hard it was or how there children misbehaved until they were older. There children have always been saints!

    My husband also has to tell me how my MIL forgot how much help she had from her in-laws but we don’t get the same kind of help from them. And also they were able to hire people to help when the kids were smaller.

    And my mom was a stay at home mom so she has no idea how to balance two jobs and a household while having husband is also working two jobs.

    They also never remember how hard it is to keep the house clean with small children as well.

    It’s hard to find some who doesn’t have the oh it wasn’t that hard when I did it or who has as much of a load as we have as well.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, yes, all the older generations who seem to only remember the wonderful times of parenting, none of the challenging, day-to-day troubles!

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  5. JJ

    03/11/2019

    Some of the most encouraging moments have been strangers smiling and telling me how sweet and well behaved my children are(even if they saw a “moment” in the last aisle). Sometimes moms are so hard on themselves and compare, but motherhood is a calling–not a competition! When we see it that way, we become encouraging to other moms. You were probably balm to that woman’s soul!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I agree — I love it when strangers compliment my children (instead of saying something snarky or know-it-all-ish) yes, that’s a word!

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  6. Lynn

    03/11/2019

    Such a good piece of writing, Andrea! It made me think back to the 80’s, and I’ve definitely blocked the year I brought a newborn home to my 18 month old. In fact, the only thing I remember of the 80’s is the Thriller album and wearing leggings all the time. It’s a good reminder to all of us to be kind and gentle to those on the path….but each part of the journey has it’s own “thing”…just wait till y’all get to the last third! I’m a complete neophyte and women don’t tell you much, in the coffee circles! but I am, and I’m asking questions.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — glad you can block out that full year of your life! I was just tell Dave and I’ve sort of blocked out the first 6 months of James’ life (Simon was only 15 months and Nora was 3) It was HARD!

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  7. Debby

    03/11/2019

    I left a FB comment but wanted to leave one here too. This post is so spot on. My difficult years were with my oldest during her teenage years. And when I just wanted to vent and have someone tell me it would be ok or better yet say nothing. Just listen and maybe say wow that must be hard. Or you are a good mom. I had someone telling me it was the happiest time of my life. Uh no. It was not. Today she turns 23. She is a college graduate and a beautiful kind person. And now we laugh at her antics. But it was not funny at the time. So no matter what season of parenting you are in, just know that you are doing the best you can and when others need to vent just listen. 🙂

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    Lynn Arnsdorf Reply:

    Debby, those teen years were by FAR the hardest for me too. Nothing at all prepared me for it, and it seems my peers all had perfect teens who loved their parents! (Years later, those same peers have revealed a much different story!!). It’s important for us to share, at the time we are experiencing difficulties. I did have one friend who saved my sanity. I just needed her to tell me every day “Lynn, you laid a good foundation, it will all turn around”….and of course, it did.

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    Jen Reply:

    Debby, I agree! We didn’t necessarily have difficult teen years (although we definitely had our moments), but I DO think it’s sad that so many moms of littles get so much support and encouragement while many parents, who find the teen/young adult years SO much more difficult, don’t have much support at all. It’s a sad commentary because, usually, the struggles in those years are so much more scary and life-impacting. It occurred to me recently that when our children are young and we have a lot control over their actions/ decisions, we (as parents) are largely unaffected by the minor consequences of those actions/decisions. (Taking away a privilege for a small child doesn’t negatively affect me, for the most part.) However, when they are older and we have zero control and they make poor decisions, we are VERY affected by those choices (drugs, illegal activity, texting and driving, etc) It’s a very hard dichotomy to live in. I have found that when my kids were small, it was very physically hard. But as they got older, it’s been very emotionally and mentally hard. We are blessed to have great kids, but we have had our own very HARD things. I wish we moms were better about support and encouragement in those grown up years as well. All the best to you!

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh my, you guys are making me super nervous about the teen years!
    Also, I’ve been thinking about what you said regarding parenting young children as more physically difficult, but older children as more mentally difficult. Interestingly enough, we parent younger children when WE are also younger and (most likely) more physically able. Then we parent older children when WE are also old and more mentally and emotionally “stable” (and probably a bit wiser as well)!

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    Ruth Reply:

    Jen, as someone once said, “when they are little, they step all over your feet, when they are big, they step all over your heart”. You nailed it right on the head, the teen years are heart stopping with the stupidity possible for sure!

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    Andrea Reply:

    thanks for sharing this quite Ruth!

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    Maria Reply:

    Hi Debby: Totally agree with you.

    God bless.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Debby!
    I agree with everything you’ve said — and I make a point to NEVER say anything to anyone about the “happiest times in my life” because I know how much I hated it when others said that to me in the middle of Nora never sleeping for the first 3 years of her life!

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  8. Annette Silveira

    03/11/2019

    I think this post will help people in many situations, not just exhausted moms. It’s my belief that tough experiences teach us, and as you said, give us empathy and wisdom to share.

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    Chris Reply:

    Yes, good point! I know from experience that my husband and I have more empathy and wisdom towards others because of things we have been through with our child. We have noticed others sometimes seem more hard towards people with “trials”. They haven’t been through it and don’t seem to have as much empathy.

    More specifically, lining up with this post, I have very low energy and I think I have undiagnosed inattentive ADHD. I have an extremely hard time doing many normal things, such as keeping my house picked up. I even have a hard time following multiple steps cooking. I actually think one of the reasons I love this blog so much is that this is how I want my home to be. 🙂 I have never had a dishwasher. The rest of my family find it hard to get rid of things, so we each have our own issues.

    Your posts are so encouraging, Andrea!

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    Andrea Reply:

    this is so interesting for me to read — I have friends and relatives who say they have trouble following recipes too and it just boggles my mind. I can’t comprehend not being able to look at a list of instructions and simply follow them. It’s good for me to hear you explain it so clearly — thanks (as always) for sharing your perspective!

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    Susan Reply:

    Chris, I have never heard of inattentive ADHD but I just googled it and wonder if I have it too! I absolutely have many of the symptoms and low energy, too. My issues have become worse since having kids. For the last year, I’ve been trying to figure out what is “wrong” with me, how to become more motivated, have higher energy, and be more focused. I keep failing!! And I keep wondering what I need to fix these issues so that I can enjoy the feeling of “success” in both my home and at work. And also wondering what job could I do where I don’t need to have these characteristics to succeed. It seems I need to figure out how to overcome these problems in order to succeed.

    “Inattentive ADD is a subtype of ADHD that often manifests as limited attention span, distractibility, forgetfulness, or procrastination.” “A student with inattentive ADHD may quietly stare out the window while her work goes unfininshed”

    https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/symptoms-of-inattentive-adhd/

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    Andrea Reply:

    This is interesting — thanks for sharing Susan!

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    Andrea Reply:

    That was my hope Annette!

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  9. Jo

    03/11/2019

    Yes! I often find myself thinking similar things but then I remember that the transition from 0-1 is really totally life changing. And for most of us it takes a good few years to find our groove as a mother and what it means to be a mother (or father).

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    Andrea Reply:

    TOTALLY life changing. I can still remember the panic I felt as we left the hospital with Nora. I literally shouted at the Doctor saying, “I can’t do this! I don’t know what I’m doing.” Sigh… SOOOOOO glad that was 7 years ago already!

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  10. Janiina

    03/11/2019

    Thank you for this post! I am a new mom to 1 year old twins ans exhausted all the time. Only thing pushing me forward is the thought that it will get easier. I just can’t hear that too many times 😀 At the same time I do wish for more children and also question my own sanity about that. But this kind of encouragement from others make me believe than I too can do that 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh yeah, twins will do that do you… huh!?!?
    Don’t think about more children for a bit — you’ll know when you’re ready, but until then, just do your best to thrive in your current situation.

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    Lea Reply:

    Janiina,

    From one twin mom to another – you’re doing awesome! Twins are SO HARD. Mine were healthy, full term and I still thought it was going to be super hard forever. Somewhere around 2 1/2 it seemed like a switch flipped and things “magically” got easier. You got this!

    The multiples pre-natal class we attended reminded us that twins are more than twice the work of one, so if any of us wanted another, a single baby would seem “easy” simply because of the volume of time alone. As Andrea said, don’t think about that for bit, focus on where you are and enjoy it to the full.

    Hugs,
    Lea

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