How long does it take you to leave the house? For some reason lately, it’s taking my three kids and me longer and longer and longer to leave the house. My breaking point occurred when we were trying to get to swimming lessons for my oldest, a first grader. She was the only one in lessons, so I had to have a bag packed for the two smaller ones (2 years old and 6 months old) so they would be content to wait poolside. We spent the entire morning slowly moving toward being ready for the 11am swim lesson. By the time I was loading kids in the car, I was exhausted and sweaty and questioning not only my deodorant, but my very existence.
We pulled into the parking lot at the pool and my first grader jumped out, eager and so very excited for her swim lesson. She had been looking forward to it all summer long. She saw friends on the other side of the parking lot and wanted to go meet up with them. I told her to wait by the car until we were all situated. I pulled out the umbrella stroller, the diaper bag, the Ergo, the water bottles, the small children, the kitchen sink, etc. It felt like the distance across the parking lot could have been the Pacific Ocean for how long it seemed until we’d actually be able to reach the other side.
I looked up at one point to see that a dear friend of mine and her kids were already on the other side of the parking lot and ready to walk in. Her children are all school-aged now, and I was so jealous. Tears sprang into my eyes as my tired, sweaty body tried to schlep all the things to the other side of the parking lot while staying vigilant to make sure my two oldest were safe as we slowly, SLOWLY made our way across the parking lot.
It was a hard morning. I envied all my friends whose children are older, who don’t have to pack a diaper bag before they go anywhere, or locate and attach shoes to little feet, or buckle wiggly bodies into carseats. I can’t imagine what that’s like, and it seems as if those days will never come for me.
When I think about where I’m at compared to some of my friends, I start to feel a tightness in my chest and it’s hard to breathe. I feel so far behind. I want to shout at them, “Hey, wait up! Don’t leave me here!” I picture an airport where we’re all walking together, then suddenly a wheel falls off my suitcase and my luggage spills and I’m trying to pick it all up and get back with the group, but when I look up, the crowd has absorbed my friends, I can’t see them anymore, and I’m all alone.
I know the truth – I know that this is another “grass is greener” situation playing out. I’m sure there are days that my friends who are farther along in the parenting journey would look upon my days and wish for the chubby baby cheeks, the toddling, and the naptime snuggles. I know these years of having little ones is a magical time, but it doesn’t change the fact that I sometimes feel left behind.
I long to embrace who I am and where I’m at, and this struggle is not new. It’s been present most of my life, weaving in and out of elementary school and into the awkward middle school years. It showed up throughout high school and came with me to college. It followed me to various jobs and friendships and life decisions.
This has been a struggle all my life.
I had hoped that adulthood would somehow take this struggle away, completely cure me of it, but it hasn’t. So I fight to embrace who I am. I fight to embrace where I am at in life. I fight to acknowledge that my life journey is unique to me and I cannot compare it with anyone else’s.
It’s tough, but the hard work is worth it. This life – this one beautiful life – is all I have. If I don’t choose contentment and acceptance now, I will surely spend my whole life looking longingly ahead and calling out, “Wait up!”