Thank you for your honesty. Seriously.

I am an old mom. Not by Mormon standards, but by legitimate biological standards. I am simultaneously dealing with kindergarten orientation and arthritis. My friends are starting to firm up their retirement plans, and I am firming up an understanding of how much string cheese and gogurt I currently have in the fridge. I have to use my big brain to outsmart my five year old, because if he decided to bolt, there is NO WAY I could catch him. I am an old mom.

While there are some obvious joint- and exhaustion-related drawbacks to this situation, there are glorious rewards too. I get lots of hand me downs from friends who have moved on to other stages of life–stages that don’t involve elaborate bedtime routines and occasional potty-training regression. I’ve never bought a bike for my kid, and occasionally, amazon packages just show up from friends with notes that say “this (toy/book/crafting kit) saved me when my kids were his age.”

While I’m so incredibly grateful for this kind of material generosity, I’m mostly grateful for their brutal and searing honesty. Old mom honesty has saved my sanity, and kept me from throwing in the towel. Thanks old friends.

It all started a couple weeks after my kids were placed with me in the foster system. My daughter was 10 at the time, and my son was 14 months old. I was struggling. The kids were struggling. There is nothing easy about a foster placement and the circumstances in kids’ lives that lead up to one. But it didn’t get easier once we started getting used to each other and the routine of life with kids set in. It was brutal and relentless, and I was having a really hard time keeping up with the needs of these little people who had invaded my home. That’s when my first old mom miracle happened. A very dear friend, a super mormon mom with way more kids than I had, invited us over for dinner. She fed us, sent the kids out to play, then had a heart to heart with me. She said that after she had her second child she realized she had just been waiting for the magical motherhood she had been looking forward to her entire life to set in, and it didn’t. It was hard and thankless–and frequently boring and gross. She told me she finally realized “this is it. This is all there is to motherhood. And once I realized that, it made it a lot easier.”

I am not kidding when I say that her honesty with me is probably the kindest gift I have every received. And it has been followed by other friends confessing their failures, and laughing at the relentlessness of it all. I didn’t need carefuly curated pinterest mom advice. I didn’t need soft filters or faith promoting stories. I needed validation and I needed solidarity. I needed to be seen. And once I could acknowledge that being a mom wasn’t a magical cotton candy and balloon existence, it made it easier to get up and fix lunches and drive the kids to school after a night of the stomach flu. It made it easier to deal with the fact that I was two hours of dinner, homework, clean up, and bedtime away from just sitting on the couch and hearing myself think. It made it easier to endure tantrums and catastrophes and fighting and vomit and sass.

And, most importantly, when things aren’t loud and chaotic and difficult, it helps me really appreciate the snapshots of time when everything is right. When both kids are strapped into the back seat of the car quietly giggling together, and my stinky, hairy dog is panting away in the back, I stop and think, this is a perfect moment. I think “my whole heart is in this car. How can I love them this much? How is that even possible?” And then I hide my tears before they both start teasing me. Because those moments don’t last long.

Comments

  1. J. Stapley says:

    This is so lovely and wise.

  2. John Charity Spring says:

    Absolutely wonderful. This is the wisdom that comes with age.

    Unfortunately, many younger parents are not willing to make the sacrifices that this “old mom” is. Far too many young parents these days spend their time playing violent video games or hitting the like button on Facebook while their kids are left to get their own bowls of cereal for dinner.

    There is a lot to be said for a mom like this who practices the values of hard work and self-reliance. We could use more like her. Many more.

  3. Jennifer in FL says:

    Let’s not demonize the moms whose only moment of peace/self-care/connection/whatever is when she’s “hitting the like button on Facebook”. No kid suffers from getting bowl of cereal for dinner. I mean, I don’t want to put words in Karen’s mouth, but this kind of superiority is *exactly* what she’s punching back against.

  4. Thomas Parkin says:

    Love it

  5. Christina says:

    Beautiful words from you! As a rather worn-out mother of four kids ages 6-15, I can say that many great friendships are formed as we hold each other up through this parenting journey. It’s not a competition; it’s not a race. It’s life. You are doing it!

  6. Karen H. says:

    Thanks all. John, I appreciate your kind words and assumption that I’m doing a good job. I’m probably not, honestly. I am really grateful for Facebook because as a single mom, I need contact with other adults I care about. And some days my son and I curl up on the couch and eat popsicles while we watch cartoons for dinner. Bottom line, I need them to know they’re safe and loved, and I make sure they’re not hungry. I also have a personal rule that I never, ever, ever judge other parents. Because we have trauma history in our home, I parent differently–including publicly. I prioritize my kids over what other people think. I’m sure I’m being judged. I don’t have time for that.

  7. What a wonderful post, Karen. Thank you.

  8. Karen, I love this. I don’t think there’s a mother alive who would think she’s not a failure in some way. I wish we didn’t have that propensity. I remember my mother weeping to her mother, “I have failed!” I did not say those words to my mom, because my own failings would have made her feel like more of a failure. You know, if her daughter had had a good mother… Somewhere in our DNA, there’s a mother saying, “All will be well and all will be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

  9. Thank you, Karen. This is a lovely post!

  10. Dogheart2021 says:

    motherhood is like medical school any requests for vacation or time off are always denied. Even when they’re not with you you think about them worry about them plan for them. Zero breaks but most mothers wouldn’t have it any other way cuz that’s their kids and you do what you got to do.

  11. I think I once described motherhood as little dots of joy in a sea of horror. Or something similarly non-poetic. (Or perhaps it was more poetic. I’m old and I don’t remember.) I love your family’s story.

  12. Holly Miller says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this, Karen. It made me feel compassion for myself as a parent and thoughtful about my role as a friend.

  13. What a beautiful post, Karen.

  14. brynbrody says:

    So lovely and full of (exhausted) joy. Thank you for this gift.

  15. brynbrody says:

    So much love and (exhausted) joy. Thank you for sharing this glimpse into your life and heart.

  16. Karen, watching you parent your beautiful children is one of my life’s pleasures. You so obviously love your children, are so deft at cultivating their gifts, and are so respectful of their personhoods, that more than once I have wanted to talk parenting theory with you (true story, I have been thinking of writing post about parenting theory on FB since Fathers Day but have been too lazy to bother). Keep on keeping on creating that space where your children can thrive.

  17. Samurai6 says:

    Well said Karen.

    Now, sharing without endorsing, here is what was said on parenting theory in my home ward growing up in Idaho. It still makes me laugh. From the ranching father of a soon to depart missionary–“Raising kids is like raising horses. You can have any old stallion but you’ve got to have a good mare.”

  18. Laraine says:

    This is such a helpful post. Someone told me “just let yourself be overwhelmed” which totally described life with children. Recognizing reality somehow made it easier.

  19. Karen: Thank you for describing the challenges and rewards of parenting. I had my children when I was 36 and 39, so I relate to some of your experience. I had gray hair when I had my second child. People regularly asked me if my children were my grandchildren. But then I had greater resources (financially, emotionally, etc) for parenting. I was also far away from my extended family, so I had to build a support structure to help advise me and to help with driving kids around and such. I am also highly analytical, so I can see all my weaknesses as a parent. (And my kids as teens and 20-somethings help me see my parenting flaws! So. Much. Fun.) It can be a rollercoaster! You are a smart, fun, grounded, devout, caring person. You have a beautiful family. I wish that we lived closer to you so that we could offer practical support. Michael and I are cheering for you from SW Indiana!

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