I got to spend 7 days in Hawaii with my hubby.
It was heaven.
My college-age niece came and stayed with my kids for the week at our house. I had her cook meals, clean house, drive carpool, and do homeschool.
As I typed up the week’s schedule for her, I had an overwhelming sense of awe for what mothers do on any given day.
Simply put, we are rock stars.
I was nervous that my niece would never want to have kids after spending a week at my house. Not because my kids are bad, but because motherhood is WORK.
I was anxious to check in with her to see how she was surviving. I texted my niece after her first full school day with the kids. (She had already spent a weekend with them.) I asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being ‘come home tomorrow; your kids suck’ and 10 being ‘I’m plotting to kill you because I want your life’, how did today go?”
She replied, “8! Your kids have been wonderful! You definitely do a lot for these kiddos. But they have been so helpful and responsible.”
I was proud and relieved.
As the week progressed, I would check in with her and she was always upbeat and positive about her experience. She even navigated the car breaking down on her, being locked out of the house, and changes to the kids’ schedules.
Although I was 100% happy that things were great at home, a small part of me wondered if I was replaceable…if someone really could come in and just do my job for me with a few written instructions?
I didn’t mull over the doubt much because I was in Hawaii after all. Sun and sand and uninterrupted sleep tend to bring zen, but on our return home the doubt creeped back in. I wondered what I would find at home when I returned.
Well, the kids had a great time. They only sort of missed us. The house looked nice. The living room was picked up, the laundry was done, and the kitchen counters were clear. School work was completed and everyone made it to their activities on time.
All was well.
I grabbed the refrigerator door handle to open the refrigerator. It was crusty and sticky underneath, and an overwhelming feeling of importance came over me.
Then I opened the fridge and a slight funny smell came out. Again, my bizarre reaction was “I AM IMPORTANT. I AM NEEDED.”
I realized all I didn’t write down for my niece to do. I gave her the basics to function for a week, but I didn’t enumerate every little detail of my day.
The sticky handle and smelly fridge reminded me that no one knows I wash the refrigerator door and handle down every night or that I continually monitor the food in the refrigerator. No one knows that I wipe down the washer and dryer on Tuesday or that water plants with water bottle leftovers. No one notices that I spot mop spills in the kitchen daily or wipe down door frames and doors when I see fingerprints. No one notes that I open all the blinds each morning or close them at night. No one cares that when they get out of the shower there is always a clean towel hanging on their hook. No one knows that I change the hand towels in the bathrooms twice a week and fill up the soap dispensers when they are empty. No one notices that I continually put pillows on the couch and straighten rugs.
I am like a little fairy that flies around the house making sure that everything is taken care of and that there is order and cleanliness.
But the sticky refrigerator door handle was just a metaphor for more important matters of mothering.
Beyond keeping my house clean, no one knows that I kiss every kid goodnight even if I come home late and they are asleep. No one knows that I pray about them or that I constantly think about what is good, better, and best for them. No one knows that I think about what to teach them and how to nurture them. No one knows that sometimes my stomach is in knots over decisions I have to make on their regard. No one knows what goes into preparing for holidays and arranging schedules and how far out you have to call the dentist for an appointment.
But as mother, I know. I know when Crew is tired and when Locke needs to eat. I know when Elle needs a hug and when Croft needs to be listened to. I know when they are sick just by the sound of their voice or the color of their cheeks. I know when to lecture and when to listen. I know when to exercise justice and when to exercise mercy. I know when to boost their ego and when to keep it in check.
These are things you can’t write down. You can’t list. You can’t check off. You can’t type them all out for the babysitter to follow.
So the moral of the story is that while nieces are super awesome, mothers are irreplaceable. Sticky refrigerator doors speak volumes. And all mom’s deserve a trip to Hawaii so that we can remember just how important we are.