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Emily Morrison Emily Morrison
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Motherhood: no rest for the weary

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Sometimes when I can't sleep at night, I creep into my kids' bedroom and stare at their faces for a while. When they were babies I used to watch them sleep. It wasn't hard since we co-slept. By co-sleep, I mean they slept beside me, and I prayed for the miracle to continue.

It's different now that they aren't tiny amoebas anymore. They've been mobile for years, and life seems so far removed from those long maternity leaves when going to the grocery store felt like an adventure. It was. Taking three children under four into a public establishment certainly upped Hannaford's wine sales. Looking back, I don't know how I did it, but doesn't every mother say this?

Balancing a full time job and full time kids seems to be de rigeur for modern moms. Gone are the days of the one income household. Given our chosen profession and the cost of children, our family needs two working parents. Beyond that, I want to work. My mother always told me, 'I was a better mother when I came back home than if I'd stayed home,' and I know exactly what she means. This is not to say that all women are made this way, and that's OK. I just know I'm made this way.

One of the sacrifices working mothers make is their capacity to focus on one task at a time. If I'm not doing three things at once, then I'm two steps behind. I pack lunches, have breakfast with the kids and read 'The Lord of the Flies' simultaneously. Soccer practice after school? OK, I can watch the first half, go for a run, and then sprint back in time for parent teacher conferences. I'll just splash my face in the drinking fountain before entering the classroom. Isn't the dewy look in anyway?

At the risk of sounding like one of those whiny women who want it all and then complain they can't do it all, I just have to admit something. I can't do it all. Perhaps that's why I can't sleep at night. When did I become the kind of mother who spends one hour of 'quality' time with her children a day and then forgets to kiss them goodnight? Tonight.

Tonight my son was entertained by 'The Avengers' while the girls watched yet another Disney movie on my husband's laptop. I graded papers and picked up from dinner. Dad did bedtime while I continued to slavishly peck away at my pile of paperwork. They were fast asleep before I realized I had forgotten to say goodnight. I always kiss them goodnight. How could I forget?

And the doozey that wouldn't let me doze: How could they forget? How come they didn't come in and say, 'Mumma, you forgot to kiss us goodnight!' like they've done, sadly, before. When did I become the mother even her own kids write off? 'Oh, she's working. We'll catch her on the flip side. What do we need her sloppy kisses for anyway?'

So I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned with my truth. I wrestled with my guilt and my pillow for the thousandth time before I realized that I needed to see them. I needed to see their faces smushed against their pillows, their cheeks still chubby with childhood, their blinking eyes caught in the dream cycle. I had to know that they were still a part of me somehow.

She's got my cheeks; he's got my chin; she's got my eyes - they're still mine. I'm still their mother. No matter how many nights I repeat this ritual, it always amazes me to discover that standing in the middle of this room, scanning their sleeping faces, I already have it all. So what I can't do it all? I have it all.

As I turn to head back down the hallway, my oldest continues to snore like a trucker. I take a step to leave when my son calls out in his sleep. He says only one word, 'Mumma...' and my universe shifts back on its axis.

'Shush. Go back to sleep. Mumma's here,' I say. He stills at the sound of my voice and goes back to his dream. Somehow I know I can sleep now.

Maybe there's rest for the weary after all.


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