She struggles in her cot. I lean in for the third time in two hours, bent, exhausted.
Roo simply can’t settle and I think of the half teaspoon of banana she’s sampled for the first time.
The rattling of the cot rail punctures the quietness of the night as I bundle her in my arms again, nuzzle her soft downy hair and she nurses, relaxes.
My inner voice murmurs, Breathe. Deep.
It’s hard dealing with the push and pull, the rock and roll of motherhood. I wait.
The room is finally silent and I steal out.
There are empty cups in the sink, an unfinished load of laundry, rice smeared onto a floor that has tasted oatmeal and cheerios for eight years.
My hands get into soap and water for the umpteenth time in a day of 13 nappies, food preps, nursing, toddler activities, dishes from three main meals and two snacks.
The phone buzzes and I go through messages in the toilet where I can now enjoy five long blissful minutes without interruptions.
They toss words like “Supermum” because I have four kids and I wonder who that might be because I want to sit down for coffee and cake with her and ask a gazillion things.
The wanting and not wanting.
The loving and the hating of a role I cherish yet want to fling away in some moments for all its polarities – the attachment and isolation, the vivacity and boredom, joy unspeakable and the cave of despair.
This I-need-to-be-in-five-places-at-one-time intense vocation.
I get on the treadmill hurriedly before Roo goes into light sleep and ease away the knots in my back and shoulders. It’s the season of baby wearing while vacuuming and cooking stir fries when Roo can’t be put down without wailing and older kids need to eat.
They don’t tell you this. Those parenting books that make it seem the other mum has got it all sorted and why oh why haven’t I, yet.
I stare breathlessly at the numbers racking up too slowly on the treadmill.
Am I supposed to love toilet seats that I have to scan constantly for little boys’ pee pee before sitting down? Or perpetual crumbs on the floor and spills? Legos and trucks that find their way into my handbag alongside the occasional rotting tidbit? Broken lipsticks in my make up kit?
They don’t tell you how to deal with being with them almost 24/7, seeing the rewards but also having to suck the desperation in.
I pray and pray this mish mash in my head while the shower runs and it feels so good. Done, I check off lists in my head.
I think of Roo’s nursing, 3.00 am and 5.00 am, welcoming her sweet baby scent and warm toes snuggled up to my tummy and then feeling the heaviness of a body aching for sleep at dawn.
I think of tomorrow’s lunch and dinner, kid journals, a project deadline. An unfinished written extract that weighs upon me, yet captivates because it breaks the monotony of reading Clifford the Big Red Dog three times a day, pays some bills and makes me want to create something other than menus and play dough cars.
It isn’t easy being home for everyone’s health, happiness and peace of mind and juggling so many hats.
It’s tough, missing the daily camaraderie of colleagues and holding myself back from busting the family budget just so we can live this life the way we want it.
Tomorrow I’ll revel in the sight of my children running uninhibited in the breeze and zipping down slides, then struggle inwardly with a rising temper because of dawdling over meals, bickering and nap time struggles, trying to remember I’m the parent here and feeling sick just for feeling this way.
Sometimes it seems I’m the worst mother in the world giving begrudgingly of herself to motherhood.
Then it comes to me.
The normalcy and intentionality of it all – the ebb and flow, the glory and the mundane. How it’s all designed to bring me to my knees and gift me with the realisation of my pride, selfishness, impatience, need for divine grace.
And how all of it can break my fallow ground and hone me gradually (if I so allow it) to become the sort of person who utters kind words in between the laundry loads more often than not.
The sort of person who can find joy in the boring ordinary, who knows the discipline of sacrifice, of contentment, of being slow to speak and slow to become angry.
And so I breathe again, deep.
I remember our perfect moments together, laughing as tennis balls go over the net and Papa missing the return.
Tiptoeing to set the table, helping a little brother put on his shoes, chocolatey faces because they’re still learning how to lick and swivel ice creams.
I think, That’s the way it is. The vocation that helps bind families together, that builds a nation, that changes the world one child at a time – how can motherhood be anything less than heart-warming and arduous at the same time? Buffeted from within and without from all sides?
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…” ~ Theodore Roosevelt.
Roo wants comfort and I step away from my laptop and go in, careful not to wake the others. The room is dark but I can see them lying in their beds.
My children, my quiver full of arrows.