Parenting requires a constant balancing act, especially when you have multiple kids. There are so many things to get done already, and you never know when a new problem is going to pop up to distract you from whatever task you were previously focused on.
Blogger Rasha Rushdy knows this feeling all too well, as she shares in her inspiring article titled “To the Mama Who Didn’t Accomplish Anything Today” published on “Her View From Home.”
All parents will be able to relate to the start of her post: those mixed feelings of guilt and relief that come at the end of the day when the kids are in bed.
“Finally. They’re asleep,” Rushdy writes. “You take a breath. You know, really take it in, and then release it slowly. You let your eyelids close for a moment, a little longer than usual, and you bask in the silence.
“You feel a little guilty admitting it, but you’ve kind of been waiting for this silence all day.”
But then you start to think back over the day, to all the things you did or didn’t do.
“You look around and think to yourself, ‘I should be feeling something more. I should be feeling like I accomplished something today. If I’m this exhausted, this spent, then that has to mean I actually achieved something today, right?'” Rushdy writes.
Rushdy lists all the ways a parent can feel unaccomplished—from feeling like you could workout more to forgetting to do laundry, to failing to make those fancy grain-free IQ-boosting muffins you found the recipe for online.
Then she offers an explanation as to why those things didn’t happen, to what got in the way.
“Do you feel like you pretty much spent your entire day trying to get a baby to sleep? … Did you maybe spend it breaking up endless squabbles between dueling siblings and their coveted toys, the toys they wouldn’t even look at twice if it wasn’t for the other sibling picking it up?”
The unrealistic idea you had of being the perfect mom, always staying calm and talking kindly whenever your kids acted up, goes out the window when they do one more thing that tips you over the edge.
“Did you blink back tears as you recalled how you snapped at your 4-year-old again, after you swore you were going to be more mindful and respectful and never yell and never be human, ever again?”
The never-endingness of caring for young children can feel overwhelming.
You can feel the empathy in Rushdy’s writing as she perfectly captures a typical day. But that’s not what she wants us to focus on.
The true accomplishments are something we can’t tangibly see or feel—but they are way more special.
“Hey, mama? I know sometimes it feels like you didn’t accomplish anything. It can feel that way when you can’t see your accomplishments right there in front of you… But maybe here’s what you don’t see,” she writes.
“When you feel like all you’ve done is answer repetitive questions all day long, even when they ask ‘Mamaaaaaaaaaaa??’ for the quadrillionth time without knowing what they actually want to say next, what you don’t see is a child’s steadily building trust that when they call, you will answer.”
“With every cuddle, every rhythmic pat of that diapered little bottom, every rock of that creaking chair, and every instinctive sway of your hips, you are reassuring that child that you are his, and you’ve got him. You’ve always got him.”
And that endless struggle of trying to get stuff off your to-do list—Rushdy beautifully compares it to the process of writing.
“When you feel like you are just volleying back and forth between tasks, never really completing anything, and always, always being interrupted … it feels like you’re trying to write a complete paragraph but punctuation keeps getting thrown in at random places, and everything becomes garbled, and what you had planned becomes stripped of all logic and meaning.
“Those interruptions, mama? You don’t see that every time you stop what you’re doing and show them you’re willing to attend to whatever it is that they need, it’s not just punctuation. It’s the stuff of a literary masterpiece.”
There are so many silly wonderful moments that shape a child’s life from giggling over a book with them to placing your hand on their forehead when they are sick. Rushdy truly believes “you’re writing the most exquisite story of their lives.”
Rushdy believes that it’s a story that can be edited later. Nothing is set in stone. It’s not being sent out for publishing right away. You can take your time and accomplish things at your own pace.
So take heart in all the things you see and do that go unnoticed, but that make all the difference.
“Mama, I see you closing your tired eyes. I see you vowing to get more done tomorrow. But mama? Those eyes? Those eyes take in everything, and everyone, without you even realizing it.”
“Those eyes notice that the house is running out of toothpaste or bananas or toilet cleaner. Those eyes notice your secondborn’s crestfallen face at dinner and make a mental note to talk to him about what’s going on at school when you tuck him in at night.
“Those eyes are so busy noting the needs of so many, and you are unwittingly ticking things off an invisible, silent list that never stops running behind the scenes.
“So tonight, sweet mama, when you close those eyes, try to look, really look, at that invisible list. Because that list? Well, some of your very greatest accomplishments in life are sitting right there, and maybe you didn’t even know it.”