Before I had kids I never caught vomit with my hands. I never laid in bed for hours in the darkness listening patiently for a whimper of fever from a baby, only to get up in the morning ready to take on another day. I never stumbled down the hallway at three in the morning to give a coughing boy his asthma medicine, struggling to get him awake and propping his heavy sleeping body up against his bed begging “please baby, wake up, you have to take your medicine.” I never dropped a hysterical kindergartner off at the first day of school, having to muster the strength to smile and wave, assuring him it was going to be ok and save my own tears until I was in the hallway out of sight.
But for us mamas, something brews within us when we have kids.
Mama strength is what comes out of us when our hearts are trembling, eyes leaking, souls aching; but we forge on anyway. Because our kids need us.
Yesterday I was planning on an amazing day in solitude. My three boys were spending the day at my mom’s house. I had a quiet and empty home just waiting for me to nestle down in the best chair with my laptop and get some writing done. I had been looking forward to this euphoric moment for so long. But I didn’t even make it back to my driveway after I dropped the kids off and I got the phone call. That phone call that says “one of the babies is sick, they need you.” I sighed, retreated back to my mom’s house, and scooped up my sick little boy and held his scared clammy head in my hands. My day of productivity and solitude vanished in an instant, and I was back to being mama. I was back to being mama with a little boy who needed some of my mama strength.
Today, thankfully, he’s back to normal. He’s fighting with his brothers, pestering them in that way little brothers do best. And my heart smiles seeing my ornery little boy being himself. So I tuck my mama strength away for another day, another illness, another hurt feeling or bad day, and let it brew and build until I need it again. The writing and work I was planning on doing, I tucked that away too. But that’s ok, it will wait for me.
Mamas and our strength, we’re not perfect. We’re not superheroes. We don’t have all the answers. But we don’t have to. We are simply mama and we have strength. And that is enough. That is more than enough. Sometimes that means being strong enough to say “I don’t know.” Or giving a reluctant child a gentle push into preschool and saying “I know you’re scared, but I can’t do this for you, you can do it without me.” Mama strength is teaching our children to be strong, with or without us. Mama strength is catching vomit in our hands, then using those same (washed) hands to gently guide our children to their own confidence and success.