“This should be magical,” I cried as put my newborn down and sat at the edge of the bed. I wept into my hands knowing I would be up 15 times before morning. I was exhausted. Older moms said to “enjoy this time” because “it would go by so fast”. I just wanted to be over and to be getting a full night’s sleep again.
But the next morning he smiled his first smile and it was magical. My heart swelled and I knew what they meant. By that afternoon he had cried for an hour straight and I was outside walking even though my kitchen was a mess, because it was the only thing that kept him even close to happy.
I was beginning to feel a little crazy. I had been babysitting since I was 14, and I had been a typically level person, was I losing my mind? Was I this out of control of my moods now? I know how to keep a house clean, how was this my new normal?
The 20% Pattern Emerges
As I eased into toddlerhood, then had another baby, and eased him into toddlerhood a pattern emerged in every stage. Huge swaths of motherhood were mundane. Long afternoons keeping them out of the rose bushes. Mountains of laundry that had to be washed every week. Hours watching them play in the sandbox. Toilets that needed to be scrubbed. As soon as I finished cleaning the kitchen it was time to make dinner, and so on.
But then, just as it all seemed bleak, one of them would say something funny. The baby would fall asleep in my arms and my heart would melt. The sun would hit a limb just right and cast the most beautiful shadow on my wall. They would dance through the sprinkler. I also learned those moments can be savored but rarely manufactured.
And that is what it means to look for the 20%. Rather than living every day in dread of the repetitive work that has to happen, look for, water, and tend those 20% moments. Those moments happen whether we take the chance to slow down and enjoy them or not.
We all see what we look for. If you look for the messes, you’ll see messes. I’m not saying you’ll never have bad moments when looking for the good, but I am saying don’t let those beautiful moments go past without taking a minute to savor them.
- Savor that cup of tea or coffee. Notice the steam coming up off of it.
- Notice what makes them laugh.
- Write down something they say that made you laugh (share it on FB to make your family laugh too)
- Set up a picnic outside, so the kitchen stays clean.
- Set up a blanket fort.
- Take a walk at sunset.
- Stay in bed a little longer and snuggle them until they start getting to crazy and the moment passes.
- Read their favorite book.
- Dance in the dining room.
Can you live for the 20% in desperate times?
Some seasons are just harder than others. One summer we were displaced to an apartment when a tree fell on our home. Our car permanently broke down leaving us a single-car family, our home was broken into, we lost the baby we had tried to conceive for a year. My toddler and I were nearly hit by a train, and I had nightmares for weeks.
But even in the middle of those trials, there were still moments of joy. There were long afternoons at the public gardens in the late fall sun. Mornings so foggy you couldn’t see the skyscrapers. There were Sunday afternoons around the corner in my favorite coffee shop. Moments recorded in my heart that make that time almost seem like the best days of my life rather than the worst. (Don’t get me wrong I would never go back.)
Live for the 20%
Motherhood is hard. Crazy hard. If you don’t have any experience with children, or if you have a mom that did it all for you, it makes it even harder. But if someone is telling you it’s easy, run, they are probably trying to sell you something.
But motherhood is good, crazy good. You just have to look for the 20%, wait for. it, live for it, anticipate it! Those beautiful moments are there waiting for you, they are coming, so prepare your heart to notice them and live for the 20%.