(This is a piece I wrote last year. Seemed appropriate to repost in honor of the last load washed yesterday!)
As I was doing what probably amounts to my 100,000th load of laundry since becoming a mom, I decided I could look back and mark the stages by what was going in and out, and in and out again, of my laundry.
Years ago it was onesies and bibs and nursing bras and maternity clothes I still needed, even though the baby was 6 weeks old. My life was consumed by sleeplessness and worry, sheer delight and intense love, feedings and changings. I was in first-time-mom bliss. It was overwhelming, though I worked hard to make it look to others like it was a breeze. I didn’t like the uncertainty and inexperience- I wanted to be the perfect mother to this precious first born son. My loads of laundry per week had taken a jump from four to six.
A few years later, and the same onesies and bibs and crib sheets make an encore appearance for “bundle of joy” number two. I am more exhausted but less worried. The first time fears have subsided, and I find I bounce back to life with more ease- ready to chase after a toddler and cuddle my newborn. There are new items in the basket on a weekly basis now- big boy bed sheets, blue jeans overalls and tiny tube socks needed to wear with the brace my first born needs for walking. I am in a constant state of motion- two little boys keep me busier than I have ever been. My desire to be a perfect mom is still strong, but now I believe it’s actually possible, so I work really hard to achieve it. Laundry loads are at seven weekly.
Around two years after that, I am done with onesies, bibs, baby clothes- and heart-breakingly, marriage. I am consumed with grief and fear of the future. I know God says He has a plan- but it feels as though my plan has derailed. This is not what I signed up for. The boys are full of life however, which takes it’s form in rocks and worms and dirty jeans in my laundry loads. Their jammies are snap-together at the waist and Buzz Light Year and Aurthur and Blue’s Clue’s t-shirts make their way in and out of the basket. My clothing is looking more professional, less mommy-like, as I go back to working with my dad and learn to be a single mom. One relief- laundry loads drop weekly back to four.
Fast forward three years. The washer and dryer and everything else in my life, has relocated to Tennessee. The laundry basket holds big boy clothes- still stained in the knees. Cub scouts and karate uniforms make their way in for a season at a time. Jammies are a thing of the past- now it’s boxers and t-shirts for sleeping. The basket also holds maternity tops and pants and dresses, as I am expecting a brand new bundle of joy with my husband of one year. I am consumed with joy as a newlywed and expectant mommy. I am firmly convinced there are no perfect mothers- as raising two boys, two years apart will teach you. I have peace now, knowing perfection was never my job. I enjoy my days as a mom more and more, although new challenges like bickering and picky eating and knowing when they need a time out vs. a spanking do cause me stress. I am not quite a carpool mom although I feel like one with kids in elementary school to shuffle back and forth. I am more exhausted than I have ever been and I nap every day. The loads every week has doubled to eight, and it seems to always be piled up in some stage of not-quite-finished.
Several years later and there are finally pink, lacy and fluffy items making their way through my weekly wash, along with bigger jeans, bigger tops and skinnier mama clothes. There are now seemingly endless soccer jerseys and soccer socks, as the husband has learned to love the beautiful game. I am a mother of three. I am a youth pastor’s wife. I am a preschool worker. I am never, ever caught up on laundry. But I am caught up on sleep- Praise the Lord! I am consumed with homework, paperwork, household work and finding time to date my husband- who seems to be getting better looking every year, while it seems as though age is beginning to show itself on me in wrinkles and the need to color all the grays. I think life may be just about perfect, as my loads per week are at nine.
Two years later and my life feels as though it has all changed direction once again. I decide to not ever get too settled on one thought for the future. I am now a missionary’s wife, a christian counselor and a mother to four- as we are guardians to one of the teens who was part of the youth group we led. My laundry is over-flowing. I am consumed with keeping up. It feels like I am commander of a small army. There are new worries as I try to monitor the newest child’s drug habit- and look through pockets for evidence of his struggle. I have four kids in three schools and I am fully a carpool mom. I add even more professional clothing to my wardrobe as I embrace this new career in counseling. The husband keeps the soccer gear and adds missionary gear to the mix. I don’t have time to think about being perfect- it’s a relief to know God’s grace will be enough. My laundry has become, out of necessity, a well-oiled machine- and I crank out 12 loads every week.
Today I am back to being a mom of three. I only do laundry for 2 of the children however, as the oldest does his own, in exchange for having a cell phone paid for by the parents. The girl’s clothing is less fluffy and lacy, and more hot pink, orange and turquoise. There are ballet leotards for the girl, work-out gear for the ever-sweaty boys. I am able to breathe again. I find I have adjusted to being a carpool and working mom, just in time to have one child ready to drive. I am consumed with not missing a moment- because every day I realize the moments are blurring together with alarming speed. I only have three years left with the first born, before college comes calling. I do not worry about being a good mom anymore- by the grace of God I know I am doing what He’s called me to do with these three children. I continue to find time to date my husband- I realize soon enough it will be only his and my clothing in the laundry basket- and I’d like us to still be in love when that happens. The laundry is on the down swing again- eight loads weekly.
If you’ve ever seen my washing machine, you’ll wonder why I haven’t hauled it to the curb. It is literally held together with duct tape. True story. On a practical level I plan to use it till it dies, because that’s what I always do. I’m cheap like that. On another level, I like looking at it. It looks like it’s been through war and years of work and seems so unlikely that it keeps getting the clothing clean. But it does. Which feels in some ways like my life as a mom. My duct tape is God’s grace and it holds me together in every season. And I plan to keep doing my job as a mom till I die and get my upgrade to a brand new garment. And while some people look forward to getting a crown in heaven, I am just excited to spend eternity in a place with no washing machines at all.