The Wilder Life: May 2016
05/03/2016 09:06AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
Carpe Diem, Momma
By Amanda Jean Harris
I always hated that Willie Nelson song “You Were Always on My Mind.” I would hear it when I was younger and while some found it romantic I would think, “Well, Willie, ya’ shoulda’ done right by your woman in the first place. You shoulda’ treated her right when you had the chance.”
That old adage “you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” One of my favorite mommy writers penned a beautiful piece once title “Don’t Carpe Diem Me” as an ode to all the older women who would see her hanging by a thread with her kids and say “enjoy every single last moment because it goes so fast.”
I read this when I was in the pit of exhaustion. You know the bone weary momma tired? Before I had a child I could pull an all nighter and then skate through the next day and sleep briefly and then eventually get a long night in there and keep trucking. My motto: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I thought I knew tired.
Momma tired is different. It’s mind, body and soul. There’s something you give of yourself when taking care of children that is different than any other kind of work.
It’s why stay-at-home moms that “don’t work” can be far more exhausted than single women who do work at times. (I’ve kind of been both so I can say this with near certainty.) And so my exhausted momma brain loved and absorbed this idea that older women need not remind us tired mommas how much we should treasure these moments.
Now, I see myself even at my son’s tender age of 4 looking at moms with new walkers and crawlers and first time food eaters and thinking, “Girl, it’s going to go by SO fast and it’s going to be gone. Don’t roll your eyes as he throws those sweet potatoes, don’t groan and lament him not walking yet. Girl! Carpe Diem!”
I left a meeting the other day for work in my clean clothes with my semi-clean hair and passed a mom holding a little girl’s hand while pushing a stroller and she looked tired — momma tired. And for maybe the first time I realized that the preschool years are over.
I am not sentimental about many things. I’m of the mindset that my job is to grow a man, not ta-ta a baby. I’m not that mom who wants them to stay young forever or wishes I could turn back the clock.
I am fast becoming that mom who gets that in motherhood one of the only regrets is not knowing what ya’ got until it’s gone. Sure, I’m no Willie Nelson and I treat my son the way I shoulda’ at every stage. But, it’s time to stop looking forward to the next. Or the reverse — focusing on the past. The present is all we ever have. The present is all we have. It’s it. It’s the thing. It’s what it’s about.
As adults, we’ve been kinda’ the same for so long the only thing we look at are our increasing wrinkles or those age spots (not that I have either, but I’ve heard - I’m telling you I’ve heard - these things begin to happen). As we raise children they grow and change so crazy fast, it’s easy to keep looking to what’s next. And then one day, what’s next is now. And we missed the now.
I want my son to learn to put on his shoes. Like just put them on. Use your hands and open up the shoe and just PUT IT ON. He insists the best way to get into a shoe of any kind is to “stomp” his way in. “Imma stomp my feet in.”
That’s not a thing. It smashes the back of the shoe and then I have to fix it and put the shoe on. JUST PUT ON YOUR SHOE! (Only I don’t talk in all caps because that’s yelling and I remain a calm and serene and supportive mom with words of affirmation even when running late for school in the morning.)
Will I ever miss putting on my son’s shoes? I have no idea. But, it’s all part of the package. The older I get the more endearing my own mother is. The more I understand what it took for me to get from a drooling baby to a speaking in sentences graduate. And I get her love because it required sacrifice. Love without sacrifice is just Willie Nelson thinking about ya’ after you’re already gone. Love without sacrifice isn’t much love at all. It’s only when we are willing to give of ourselves that we can truly express love.
As a single mom there are times I do wish I had Fairy Godmother powers. I wish someone would just put on my child’s shoes and wake up at 2:30 a.m. when he can’t breathe through his nose or bleach the bathtub. But, being a mom is the whole thing. Otherwise, it’s just babysitting.
Being a parent means more than just thinking of our children. It’s doing all the things that require they live and learn. All the things that take them from mashed bananas and rice cereal to chex and burgers. This is not exclusive to moms. It’s what parents do. It’s love in action. Love has to be more than words and it has to live right here in the now. Love for our children can’t linger in the past or leap ahead to the future.
Each May we celebrate Mother’s Day and at this juncture it’s kind of an odd day when you’re a single mom of a small child. Those in my life have done a great job of making me feel special via Wilder on this day. Without them my 4-year-old would have no idea what day it was.
If you do nothing else this Mother’s Day, take time to help a little person in your life with a single mom do something for her. And if you’re a man reading this, know that there’s perhaps no other holiday more precious than this to these mommas trying to be all the things and carpe diem and get the laundry done and the board presentation and not leave the house with yogurt in our hair.