Our quick trip to the grocery store began like every other. Fights over who got to sit in the “baby” seat and who had to walk or ride in the cart and “can we buy this” and “I want that”… Goodness. I was a frazzled mess as always playing referee and keeping glass bottles from shattering while just trying to buy dinner.

“You have such beautiful children,” a soft voice whispered over the madness. Huh? I looked up from the spaghetti sauce to find the kind eyes of a sweet old lady smiling at me. My daughter had chocolate from her coco puff cereal snack smeared across her cheeks, and my son had chosen his outfit for the day… this new big boy freedom is a whole different story. She looked right past all of that and said, “They are just lovely. It goes so fast you know.”

I could see in her eyes that she was thinking back before the days of likely grown grandchildren. It was as though she had grabbed my hand and transported us back in time 50+ years. Images of her own children flashed before her eyes, and I swear I could almost see her babies myself. “Enjoy every minute,” she prompted as she disappeared onto the next isle.

Before I became a momma, while my sweet babies were just a beat in my heart, I knew that “they” said it would go fast. I had heard that phrase plenty of times. Who knows where… it just seemed like a little plaque that hangs on the hearts of mommas everywhere. “They grow up so fast.”

As her words lingered behind that day, I turned back to my sweet babies … 2 ½ and almost 4. I knew exactly what “they” had been talking about. Where had the time gone? It feels like yesterday that they were swaddled up tight with that precious new baby smell. The truth is that I have been there for all of it. I have had the blessing of staying at home and watching my babies grow day by day.

But if you aren’t careful, there is a special kind of guilt that creeps up in the heart of a stay at home momma. I suppose it creeps up for all mommas. It is a constant ache of being home and not being present… Of having to tell your sweet two year old girl with big eyes and crooked pigtails that you have to keep cleaning/cooking/paying bills and you just can’t play right now. Because should you stop to play for what seems like just a moment, you might not have the guilt of saying “no,” but you will replace it with couches full of clean laundry and sinks full of old food… and toddler messes everywhere…

Trust me. I can imagine few things bring more shame in the world of stay at home mommies than avoiding your own two year old like a lady selling hand cream at a mall kiosk. OH no! I bent down to put away the PJ’s and accidentally made eye contact. No, I still can’t play… please don’t ask me to play again. I just can’t take it… I wish I could stop and play, but I have to keep working.

Times such as these make me wish that being a stay at home mommy was what everyone thought it was. I wish we had loads of free time and “didn’t have to work.” I wish we were just lazy and selfish and sat on our rears like some pre-conceived notions might suggest.
But the truth is…

Along with the joys of being present to celebrating every milestone and triumph… right alongside being there to kiss every scraped knee and cheer for every recognized letter, is the sense that we are somehow watching their childhoods flash before our eyes and are missing it. We fear that someday 50 years from now we might find ourselves warning other young mommas in the grocery store to “enjoy every minute,” while wishing we could do it all over again.

So, we make up for it with extra popsicles and bedtime snuggles… and as our babies drift off to sleep we kiss their sleeping heads and promise ourselves that tomorrow we will get it right. We will make time for princess parties and super hero chases. We will be silly and carefree and let the dishes pile up… and then tomorrow comes and we start all over.

So, maybe you have had a day of rushed errands and toddlers that have played quietly by themselves. You may have lost your temper a time or two, and have made promises to yourself that tomorrow will be a day only for fun. Or maybe, night has come, and they have drifted to sleep in your arms and now that the day is finally over, you are holding them tightly wishing you had done it all differently. But you know what?

You are doing okay, mom.

They know you love them. They wish you weren’t so hard on yourself. They think you are the greatest coolest momma in the world… even if their toddler vocabulary can’t express it. In the middle of your crazy hectic schedule, you somehow made time for that special book or that special snack or maybe you just sat for a few minutes and let them tell you what was on their heart.

They will remember you being silly and they will remember you on your hands and knees washing floors and scrubbing dishes at the kitchen sink. They will remember the smell of your shirt as they snuggle into you at night for bedtime cuddles. They will remember the chases around the living room and the special trips to get an afternoon snack… Because that is what real life is made of…

No, there is nothing you can do to keep it from going by so fast, but one thing is certain, they will remember you being there… and some days we just need the grace to let that be enough.

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