The park was quiet except for my three. They ran around, chasing and yelling at one another while I sat on a nearby bench with a book and a water bottle. It was a perfect cloudy day. Not too hot, but comfortable.
I watched them play for a while, smiling at their antics when I saw another mom — topknot, sunglasses, leggings — pushing a stroller. Baby was old enough to sit up in the stroller but too young to play at the park. I watched them walk past as baby’s big blue eyes took everything in. Then a thought hit me like a punch to the gut:
I was her just yesterday.
And it startled me.
“Enjoy every moment! It goes by so fast!” is the phrase young moms love to hate. This phrase always seems to be tossed out so casually. We roll our bleary eyes because we’re on our eighth straight month of not sleeping through the night; which is a method of actual torture. We try to hide our spit-up stained clothing and unwashed hair, to herd our feral children through the grocery aisles with some semblance of dignity.
These older people don’t remember; we tell ourselves to cope. They don’t remember how hard it is every day to change all these diapers, breastfeed until it hurts, to sing “Wheels on the Bus” over and over and over.
We slog through the day having woken up at 5:04 AM, reheating our coffee in the microwave three times too many. The hours from 3:00-5:30 PM crawl by as we’ve exhausted all of our ideas for the day, and collapse on the couch in absolute despair while children scream and throw toys around us. We wonder, as we hit the buttons on the microwave or put a throw pillow over our heads one more time, just how much more can we take?
I still consider myself a “young” mom, with two five-year-olds and a three-year-old. My parenting journey is still at the beginning. Yet I’m sure that day at the park it looked like I was living the life to that stroller mom: book, water, sitting, kids playing while I paid half-attention. I used to watch those moms at the park and envy them as I chased after twin 15-month olds dashing off in opposite directions. Sitting at the park on a bench with a book? That was #goals.
I wondered if I looked like I had everything figured out. I still often feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I wanted to tell her that even these moments of respite don’t last, that I would likely be interrupted by a fight, or an injury, or a request for a snack soon enough.
“I was just you!” I wanted to rush over and tell her. “I know I look like an ‘old mom,’ but I swear I’m not. Everyone was right; it goes by fast.”
Never again will I push a stroller on a simple walk. We rarely use our stroller anymore, besides for extra-long days at the zoo. Once upon a time, I couldn’t go anywhere without that double stroller. I hauled it in and out of the back of our car and strapped in twin car seats in one fluid motion. Now it sits unused in a corner of our garage. I have to remind myself how to unlock it.
I sat at my desk just this morning after dropping my youngest off at preschool. Three mornings a week now, I enjoy a brief respite of almost three hours. I caught up on email, placed the twins’ book orders, and did some writing. I looked out the window to see another mama walking slowly down the street with her toddler. The idea of time on a weekday without my kids—any amount of weekday time without my kids—used to seem impossible. We often went for similarly paced walks. But there I was, in my own quiet house with a mug of hot, fresh coffee, and two whole hours stretched in front of me before I needed to pick up my preschooler.
A few tears pricked my eyes, surprising me. I had grinned on the way home from drop-off. I’m still getting used to this (albeit small) amount of freedom as I move into a new stage of parenting. Yet from this point of view, it seems like the past few years have passed by quickly. Five and a half years and here I am — really a blip in the scope of a lifetime.
I worked to remember those long January afternoons that crawled by imperceptibly with three kids under three. When we played on the rug in the living room, and I tried to find yet another something to do as the windchill dropped outside. When my husband finished work to find the kitchen table scattered with Play-doh, a train track winding its way through the entirety of our first level, and an assortment of stuffed animals, Duplos, and blocks covering the living room floor. The children would be jumping on top of one another, and I longed for both adult conversation and peace and quiet at the exact same time.
“I’m mostly happy, but I’m also a little bit sad,” I told my husband, and I told him about the stroller mama, the dawdling toddler, and everything going by fast. He smiled and held back a laugh. I’m sure he thought of how much I’ve been longing for some space and my very vocal enthusiasm all summer for this pocket of time. He probably thought of the days when it seemed that I did nothing but yell, or the times I retreated into myself in the evening, totally and completely spent.
I’m still not sure how I survived the first few months of twin newborns, or last winter’s polar vortex when we were trapped in the house for days on end. I don’t know how I managed an entire year of three kids under three, or how we made it home for nap time every day, or how I got through the days when I was awakened every hour on the hour. All I know is that those days were both just yesterday and also a lifetime ago.
Shannon Williams is an interior designer turned stay-at-home mom. She and her husband have always been overachievers, so they kicked off this whole parenthood thing with not one, but two babies (yup, twins). A third followed exactly two years and two days later. A complete bibliophile, Shannon also finds it impossible to say no to iced coffee, pedicures, or a good beer. You can find her scribbling her thoughts on motherhood and life during these newfound pockets of time on her blog or on Instagram.