I test drove motherhood this week.
I was one of 18 chaperones on a three-day trip to Savannah with over 200 8th graders.
I love these trips, but they are such a shock to my system as I go from no kids to being completely responsible for a group of 16 and sharing responsibility for the others.
My days started with me trying to grab sips of coffee while I made the rounds, making sure students were awake and appropriately dressed, administering medication and giving sage advice to address the issues that arise overnight when you stick four teenage girls in a room together.
Breakfast, usually my peaceful time in front of the computer, was taken standing up in the lobby of the hotel so that I could direct the girls and strive to keep their voices at a semi-reasonable level. I think I managed two bites of hot oatmeal before it congealed.
Through the day, I lugged a large backpack filled with their medications and the day’s schedule. I was nurse, tour guide and counselor in one. I made sure that sunscreen and bug spray were applied. And then reapplied. I cautioned them about the effects of the overconsumption of sugar and the need to bring a jacket. I even found myself repeating the dreaded mom words, “Just try,” at the limited bathroom opportunities.
I swear the girls knew the moment I stepped into the shower at the end of the long days as the phone would start to ring as soon as I applied the shampoo to my hair – the hotel equivalent of calling “Mom” across the house.
By the time all of the girls were settled in their rooms, I would collapse, exhausted.
Yet unable to sleep.
The details of the days are tiring, but it is nothing compared to the weight of responsibility that motherhood, even of the three-day variety, holds. I saw potential dangers lurking around previously harmless corners. Every stranger was a threat, every body of water a potential drowning and every curb provided an opportunity to fall. At night, I found that I could not enter deep sleep, as I was constantly listening for the kids.
When I was a kid, the pastor at my church would call all of the children up to the steps in front of the pulpit for a brief children’s message embedded within the larger sermon. One year when I was about four, the pastor celebrated Mother’s Day by beginning with the prompt, “Mommies are” and then holding out the microphone for the kids to complete the sentence.
The first few shares were your standard:
“Mommies are nice.”
“Mommies are pretty.”
“Mommies are gentle.”
And then the microphone was put in front of me. My contribution on that Mother’s Day?
“Mommies are tired.”
Yes, they are. Motherhood is a job with the biggest responsibilities possible and no time off. Motherhood is a job that, just when you think you have it figured out, your kid enters a new phase; you’re in perpetual training. Motherhood is a job that requires that your own needs are neglected so that your offspring’s needs are met.
It is tiring.
But is also rewarding beyond belief, as reflected in the faces of the moms as they reunited with their kids at the end of the trip. I’m sure they enjoyed their three days of peace and quiet but they were thrilled to see their kids (even stinky, cranky, hopped-up-on-sugar kids:) )again.
As for me, I enjoyed the test drive but this particular model is not for me. I’ll stick with teaching!
Happy Mother’s Day to all you tired mommies. I am in awe of what you do every day.