Motherhood is a series of days. That’s all. We begin with that first glorious, overwhelming, basically indescribable day when our bodies do what we never dreamed they could do and a baby is placed in our arms and we’re called Mom for the first time by a nurse and we realize that suddenly, we’re a mother. Or maybe it begins in a meeting room of some sort where a child borne out of someone else is placed in our arms and we hear a social worker say “Congratulations” and just like that, we’re a mother. Regardless of how it happens, it all takes place in a day. Just an ordinary day for most of the rest of humanity, but a marking day for us. The day that will forever divide our life into before and after. The day that sets the course of all the rest of the days that follow.
And that’s what follows. Days. Parenting is described as a journey, as an adventure, as this epic season of life and those are not inaccurate descriptions. We approach it with fear and trembling and in the midst of it we worry that we’re not doing it right or that we’re missing something crucial or that it’s not as epic as it’s supposed to be. Sometimes we get a laser-beam focus on the end goal, whether that is their entrance into college or the work force or their wedding day or simply the day they move out, and all our effort is toward that end. Sometimes the goal seems so far off and our focus is on the moments, making sure they are memorable and special and “quality” and all our effort is poured into savoring every single second. But in the midst of all of our frantic efforts to figure out this parenting thing are just a bunch of ordinary days.
Motherhood is, underneath everything else, a series of days. The first days go by in a haze of sleepless euphoria. Then the days take on a semblance of routine, and we check off milestones and lists and appointments and goals and the sun rises and the sun sets and the days go by. Some days are etched firmly into our memory because of what they brought us–whether moments of joyful happiness or of agonizing heartache. But for every day we remember clearly, there are dozens of days we don’t. And that is what makes up the bulk of parenting. Ordinary days.
We often view the season of raising kids–the years they live in our home and we are actively parenting them–as just that, a season. The word season connotes a huge chunk of time. And parenting is that. But when that’s the only way we view it, it stays big and distant and, quite frankly, scary. There is only one season of parenting, and it stretches out in front of you with seemingly no end in sight, which means both that there is only one shot to get it right, and you may not even survive it anyway. And yes, that’s true when you look at parenting as a whole like that, so it’s easy to see why a gray cloud of fear and anxiety hangs over much of our parenting experience. But let’s not miss the fact that the season is made up of days. Lots of them. 6,570 days gets you to your child’s 18th birthday, and we all know that your kid doesn’t move out the day they turn 18. This could be depressing, I know, particularly if you just experienced a really hard day with your toddler and now you’re thinking about reliving that day 6000 more times. Let’s not look at it that way, though. Let’s find the hope that is abundant in the fact that motherhood is a series of days.
6,570 days between birth and the 18th birthday are 6,570 chances. In one sense parenting is indeed a one shot deal. But in another sense, every day is a new chance. What if we focused on the day more than on the season? What if, every morning, we set our sights on that day? For one thing, a day is much easier to survive than a season, and if we stop trying to borrow grace from the future and focus on the only moment for which we actually have grace, we might find that we are much less anxious and overwhelmed. Will there be days when we blow it? Well, yes. But when we realize the truth that motherhood is a series of days, we will remember that the next day we will have new mercies and we haven’t ruined our shot at parenting this kid just because we had a bad day.
We will also be free from the frenzied efforts to make every day something magical. Every moment of your kid’s childhood can’t be extraordinary, but if you spend much time reading mommy blogs and browsing Pinterest, you will start to think otherwise. There seems to be a constant state of trying to top what we did last year or last week or yesterday, or trying to top what that other mom did–in the name of giving them a special childhood–until we are completely worn out and broke and our kid is so desensitized to “special” that nothing excites them anymore anyway. Give your child extraordinary days, but space them out among lots and lots of ordinary days. Ordinary days when they do chores and learn to entertain themselves and have to learn conflict resolution as they live in close contact with their siblings and do their boring schoolwork. Ordinary days that last forever from sunup to sundown but fly by while you blink.
Motherhood is a series of days. And no one knows when the series finale will come. This is, I think, the best reason to live with a focus on the days more than on the season. Each day is the only day we have. If I miss the moments of the day because I am so distracted by being overwhelmed by the season, I may miss the last chance to enjoy a day with that child. We are not promised the full season. We are only given the days one at a time, so while we need to let go of the notion that one day can ruin a whole childhood, or that every day has to be filled with magic, we also need to realize the importance of living fully in each day as it comes. The days are often full of what seems mundane and unimportant. Making sandwiches and wiping bottoms and cleaning up spills and refereeing arguments and begging someone to clean the living room. We endure these things, viewing them as the necessary evils on the way through the parenting adventure, speed bumps in between the big deal moments like vacations and birthdays and the handful of special days that stick out amidst the blur of the ordinary. What if we embraced them instead, focusing on loving our child well that day, in those moments? What if the truth is that those moments are more crucial to this parenting adventure than vacations or birthdays? What if the days matter more than the season, because after all, the season is shaped and built and characterized by each separate day?
As of today, my oldest daughter’s 13th birthday, I have been a mother for 4,745 days. Some of those days, I planned and put forth a great deal of effort to make them special. The vast majority of them were ordinary. Many of them have been marked by anxiety and a sense of panic that I was failing as a mom. For most of those days, I have viewed parenting through the lens of a season and I have often missed the significance of a day. Being forced to face the fact that my season of child-bearing is already over, and that we are already beginning the navigation of parenting through teenage years has made me long for the days to slow down. And that has made me realize the beauty of focusing on these days.
Raising children is indeed a season, but it is a season made up of a series of days. I don’t know how many more days I have with my children still in my home and under my care, but I pray that I will spend each one of them loving these kids in the moment and let the days build the season instead of letting the season drown out the days.