When I was a mom of just one, I devoted tons of energy to fun projects.  I kept a water table in the kitchen, and filled it with rice, oats, shaving cream, or soapy water and toys. We did crafts with feathers and toilet paper tubes, walked through paint to create footprints on paper tapped to the floor, and made sparkly Gak.  After the birth of my second child, I kept this up for another few years.  I look back at pictures of my girls with paint in their hair, and who can forget the crunchy feeling of rice beneath our feet on the kitchen floor (ouch). What happened to that mom? The one who had the time to sit down and play, who didn’t mind a little extra mess, and possessed the energy find innovative ways to keep little hands happily occupied?

My food blog also documents a time that looks too good to be true.  I was cooking, from scratch, all the time.  Bread, yogurt, granola, muffins, trays of pureed vegetables, even bagels.  I still cook often, but rather than three times a day, I’m making batches of foods that can be stretched for a few meals, and loosely defining breakfast and lunch (sure, a cheese stick, an orange, and a muffin on our way out the door count!)  My love of cooking hasn’t changed, but my availability has, and also my willingness to dedicate so much time to the prep, cooking, and clean-up.

I worked full-time until my older daughter was two.  I nursed her all the way through that time, carrying a pump until she was… I’m not even sure how old. More than twelve months. She was tiny and didn’t eat much, and refused solid foods any time she had a cold, so nursing was essential.  When I look back at that time, my primary memories are of my husband, daughter, and I being silly and carefree.  Dancing around the living room in the evening, cuddles in bed, chasing one another around our tiny apartment.  I decided to stay home full time because I wanted to be the primary parent.  I had June Cleaver visions of perfectly running our lives with ease.  The house would be organized and spotless, every meal would be hot and organic, and there would be leisure time left over for playing, resting, and socialization.

I’m pretty sure if I came upon my former self, the young(er) and energetic version, I wouldn’t recognize her one bit.  I know now that June Cleaver moments only exist on television. I’m still running things as smoothly as possible- cooking, cleaning, laundry, homeschooling, errands, extracurricular activities, and socialization.  The main difference is that while my memories of the earlier days of motherhood felt leisurely, now time is flying by.  Sure, the baby days were challenging.  I had Post-Partum Anxiety, and was in the haze of sleepless nights and days filled with La Leche League meetings and changing one diaper after another.  Yet, I remember the toddler days as… relaxing? Have I edited my memories to only remember the best parts?  Does nature allow us to block out the darker times so that we continue to populate the planet?  Or, have I changed?  What has changed, exactly?  One child to two children.  A mom who is twelve years older, and approaching 40 instead of being in her late 20s.  A mom who has given her all, every moment of every day, and forgets to recharge. A mom who homeschools, and parents, and lives at her job 24-7 (and yet doesn’t get paid for any of it).  A mom who juggles life… and everything that goes with it.

I’m not alone.  We’re all the mom who gives her all.  Or the dad who gives his all.  The single parent, the widowed parent, the aunt/uncle or grandparent raising little ones. We’re all trying our best, but tired, and yet we keep going. We have to. Sometimes, looking ahead feels overwhelming, especially knowing the teen years are rapidly approaching.  We feel burnt out, stretched too thin, and just plain tired.  Yet other times, we can look back fondly on those energetic, young-parent moments.  We flip through photo albums, watch home movies, and feel that surge.  Of love, of peace, of being so very thankful.  So when we’re tired, a bone-weary, I-just-don’t-want-to tired, we can tap into those cherished memories as an elixir to get through another dreary January day.  We can allow ourselves to feel energized by the knowledge that we were young, energetic, and creative, and maybe, just maybe, there’s more of that energy left than we realized.  Tomorrow, I’ll get out the paint, unroll the paper across the kitchen floor, and we’ll leave behind our footprints. We’ll do a goofy dance around to the living room.  We’ll snuggle on the couch with a book.  The younger me didn’t care if things got a little messy, or if every chore wasn’t done, and somewhere deep down, she’s still there.  In me, and in you. So join me, tired mom, dad, or grandparent, and let’s find our old selves together.  Share your successes, challenges, and memories with our readers, below.

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