House Guest: Maggie Draper – It Won’t Always Be This Way

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This week I am pleased to introduce you to a new Mom Blogger on the block, Maggie Draper. She has a quick sense of humor, a great capacity for story telling, and a charming writing style. Check out her story here. If you like her then be sure to click on her links in the BIO at the end of the story. You will be able to follow the fun on all of her social media hangouts!

It Won’t Always Be This Way

Two pink lines.  That’s all it takes to change my world forever.

Almost overnight, the life I know becomes a mix of morning sickness, strange food cravings, and raging hormones.  A few months in, and even getting off the couch requires serious effort.  My back is killing me, my feet are starting to look more like balloon animals than the trusty appendages that once carried me through my day, and the gynecologist visits are more frequent and far more intrusive.  The doctor assures me, “The last few weeks are the hardest, but Baby’s almost here.  It won’t always be this way.”

After 9 months of waiting, the big day has finally arrived.  There’s a flurry of activity, and just like that, we’re parents.  Returning home with a baby for the first time feels oddly out of place.  The first year is exhausting.  She sleeps during the day.  She cries all night.  She’s colicky and impossible to comfort.  And the bottles—Good God, the bottles.  All I do is wash bottles.  And do laundry.  And change diapers.  As I’m throwing in another load of puked on onesies and crib sheets, my husband assures me, “We can do this.  It won’t always be this way.”

One year old
It’s thrilling to see those first big milestones.  Sitting up, crawling, climbing, and ultimately walking.  All at once my daughter’s first unsteady steps have become a full-on sprint accompanied by a complete disregard for personal safety.  She fearlessly climbs onto the couch, the chairs, the table—anything within reach.  She upends cereal boxes and bottles of baby powder.  I let out a tired sigh as I clean yet another mess and remind myself, “Hang in there. It won’t always be this way.”

Two years old
The Terrible Twos need no introduction.  Your sweet little baby begins their transformation into one of the moodiest creatures on Earth.  My well intentioned attempts at mothering are met with blood curdling screams, tantrums, and plastic tea cups being flung at my head.  My family assures me, “It’s just a phase.  It won’t always be this way.”

Three years old
Potty training is in full swing now.  I’ve read all the articles, bought the best potty seat, picked out the coolest underwear—I’ve got this.  I put her on the toilet.  Nothing happens.  “Let the poop and pee come out sweetie,” I say while demonstrating the appropriate grunting sounds.  Blank stares.  Five minutes go by.  Then ten.  Fine.  We’ll try again in 15 minutes.  Mere moments later, I find Princess Pee Pants sitting atop a soaking wet couch cushion.  After months of rollercoaster-like progress and setbacks, I’m officially desperate.  I start scouring Internet forums for advice I may have overlooked and am at least comforted to know I’m not alone.  These Internet strangers assure me, “They’ll do it when they’re ready.  It won’t always be this way.”

Four years old
The most independent age yet.  The word “No!” is a permanent fixture in her vocabulary now.  Words like “Please” and “Thank you,” once a source of great personal pride, are increasingly rare around here.  Sharply on the rise though, is my use of the phrase, “Excuse me?” (complete with sassy head action).  Her imagination is also flourishing now, and she’s suddenly afraid of the dark, afraid of her closet, afraid of the basement—just afraid.  It’s storming tonight, and thunder rumbles in the distance.  Our oldest is sprawled out next to me in bed.  My husband has vacated in favor of the couch.  I’m spent and honestly a bit anxious about what the next day will bring.  Does this ever get any easier?  Friends with older kids see my yawns and disheveled appearance, and they remind me, “Oh honey, little kids are tough, but it won’t always be this way.”

Five years old
I’m really not ready for this you guys.  Lying.  Premeditated deception.  This 5-year-old child, with arms and hands covered in green marker, has the nerve to look me straight in the eye and blame the latest wall art on her younger brother.  Seriously?  As my husband scrubs marker off the wall I overhear him muttering to himself—something about our house, also a crack house.  Hmm, graffiti, trash everywhere, questionable odor—he may have a point.  I put my hand on his shoulder, and once again find myself reaching for those same familiar words in an attempt to preserve our sanity, “Don’t worry babe, it won’t always be this way.”

Six years old
Emotions are at an all-time high around here.  If this is a preview of the teen years, we may be in serious trouble.  It’s the end of another especially trying day when our oldest crawls up next to me on the couch with her favorite book.  I instinctively reach for it, but this time she stops me.  “No mom, I want to read,” she says.  And she does; my 6-year-old daughter reads to me.  Afterward, she hops down and gets herself a glass of water.  No spills.  She uses the bathroom, washes her hands, and brushes her teeth before gathering her things for bed.  She gives me a kiss goodnight and climbs the stairs to her room.

These aren’t new occurrences, but for some reason, in this particular moment, the enormity of what I’ve just witnessed washes over me.  This was the same girl whose constant screaming as an infant caused my husband and me to lose countless hours of sleep.  The same girl who drove me practically insane with her stubborn refusal to potty train at a reasonable age.  The same girl who instigated the infamous “doll-gate,” the beheading and dismemberment of an entire box of my collectable antique dolls.  All those stages of her childhood—gone forever; replaced instead with a capable and confident 6-year-old complete with her own unique set of challenges.

Could it be that I’ve squandered precious time waiting for things to get “better”—always looking forward to the next year, the next milestone, the next step on her journey towards independence, instead of fully enjoying right now?

When the next set of challenges arrive, will they be any easier to handle than the last?  At 27, I might find myself up in the middle of the night with sick kids.  At 40, I’ll probably still be up, lying there in bed with one eye open, wanting to sleep but unable to; not until I hear the sound of the garage door creeping up and know that my kids are home safe.  Which one of those is easier?  I’ve been behaving like there’s a concrete answer to that question—as if everything gets universally better with age, but I think I’ve been mistaken.

All I’m certain of is that things will change.  In many ways, my role as a parent will become less pronounced, but my emotional investment in these crazy kids will remain the same.  I’m a mom; I can’t help it.  I’m not ready for them to stop needing me.  I doubt I’ll ever be, which really begs the question:  Why do I catch myself looking forward to a time when my kids won’t be exactly how they are right now?  What’s the big hurry?

So this is my resolve, one which I make in full awareness of the fact that there will be plenty of rough days ahead.  In fact, some days will be downright awful, and I know I’ll want to quit this motherhood thing altogether.  Be that as it may, I resolve to look for the things in each day that make it all worthwhile.

I’m going to enjoy this special time with my kids—the good and the not so good—the poopy diapers, the ridiculous messes, and the temper tantrums; because once those things are gone, they’re gone.  So I’m going to love all of it.  Every second of it.  I’m going to hold on to these kids while they’re still young—while they’ll still let me.  And you know why?  Because my doctor, my friends, my husband, and even those strangers on the Internet—they were all right.  It won’t always be this way.

maggieBIO: Maggie Draper is a stay-at-home-mom of 2 girls and 1 boy.  Her days are usually spent chasing after a swirling cloud of debris that might contain her children.  When she isn’t getting someone a drink or homeschooling her oldest kids, she blogs at Our Parenthood Adventures.  You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+.

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.