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Enjoying: Payoff in the Present

I practically waited by the door the other night for Brett to come home, my time card punched before my shift was over, my patience allotment all used up. My kids needed every inch of me that day—my arms to hold them, my energy to clean up after them, my constant attention to read that book and answer that question and pull that stool away, pour that milk, sign that paper, lock those pantry doors again. By the end of the day, I was tired and frustrated that all these ideas I’ve had remain dormant—no time or energy to feed them, or maybe even more frustrating, just pure unwillingness to act on them. I had work to do, and so the changing of the guards commenced. I passed Brett the baton of the frazzled remains of the day, apologized for the state of the kitchen and kissed the kids goodbye. There were toys on the floor and dishes in the sink, and Nella and Dash both cried for me as I walked out.

For a few hours, I breathed and thought and wrote, nurturing my own needs instead of juggling the demands of all of theirs, and it felt good. I ate by myself that night, quietly writing between bites and watching the sun set from my window in the restaurant. We needed milk, so I stopped at the store on the way home and used it as an excuse to wander—smell candles, sample lotion, peruse books, scout out flashy fall nail polish displays on the store end cap.

By the time I rolled back in the driveway, it was well past dark. And though I opened the door to the exact same scene I had left earlier—dishes still in the sink, toys on the floor, three kids just as needy—it felt different, my weariness softened by the perspective reentry gives. It was home—the bath toys that made it out of the tub and into the hallway, the ice cube melting on the kitchen tile in front of the refrigerator where Dash no doubt tampered with the water dispenser again, the homework that needed to be checked, the lunches that needed to be made, the excited little gasp I heard from the living room–a reaction to my arrival, arms that reached up to me with a “Hold you,” and the other two that ran to follow her lead. We stood in the kitchen, all entangled in a giant hug of octopus arms, and I soaked up their little needs like super hero fuel.

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Sometimes I think I rely too much on the beautiful moments of motherhood to make the hard ones “worth it.” And even though the beautiful far outweighs the hard (listen, I have a black belt in finding good moments), what if it didn’t? If babies didn’t sleep soundly on chests or ever stop waking up in the night, if toddlers didn’t say “I love you” back or reach up to hold your hand, if daughters never smiled and curled up in your lap at night just like how you imagined they would when you dreamed of them, if sons never asked you to help them ride a bike or read a book or hold them when they’re scared, if research and routines and therapists never delivered the breakthroughs you believed in, if teenagers never said “I’m sorry,” if tough love never brought her back home, if you never stopped feeling this tired or unequipped or so completely removed from how you thought it would look, if it never got better…it’s still worth it. Right now.

Loving, even when it’s hard, is the payoff in parenting. Not our kids shelling out beautiful moments or loving us back or being good or becoming something different from what they are right now. The flip side to the hard parts of parenthood isn’t shinier or easier–it’s just clearer. Like coming home to the same needs and messes and volume and stressses that you left a bit earlier but seeing them for what they are–something you get to be a part of.

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So while I picked moments that might look shiny to share, know that they aren’t what made parenting good or beautiful or worth it this week. They just gave us something to smile about.

Enjoying…

Hide and Go Seek.
I swear he’d hide for half an hour, silent and waiting, if that’s how long it took for me to find him.

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Mermaid Tails.

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This Face.

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This Kiss.

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Predictable Rain Fun. 
Same time every day.

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Woodstock Traffic Jam

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Watching Brett Point the Leaf Blower at the Kids
…because gas fumes and power tools are fun safe toys, and we’re responsible like that.

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Nanny Skills

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Spontaneous Witching Hour Get-Out-of-the-House Adventures

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The Westminster Trot
Am I right or am I right? See, look.

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All Three in a Pic.
Stroller seat belt for the win.

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Comments

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  1. Your insights are so beautiful and spot on- I especially loved this: “Loving, even when it’s hard, is the payoff in parenting. Not our kids shelling out beautiful moments or loving us back or being good or becoming something different from what they are right now.”

  2. Gratitude cannot clean the messy kitchen but oh how it heals the sore eyes that see it. :-) Thanks for your vulnerability in this post and for choosing gratitude again and again.

  3. Perfect. Just perfect . Thankyou for sharing . Hugs!

  4. Love this post. Dash’s leaf blower face made me laugh out loud. Such beautiful children.

  5. Your street makes my street cringe with embarrassment. From California with thirst

  6. I’m so there. Need the time. Must take the time. Thanks for sharing Kelle! xo

  7. First of all, “that face” is over the top! Best. Ever!!!

    I often feel like I should share those “hard moments” as well but always feel like no one wants to hear it. But I just read every word of this post and I totally wanted to hear it. Real life is where it’s at. Keeping it real is where we gain perspective, no matter who’s doing the keeping. Why should any of us be expempt from those super hard days? But we expect it, don’t we. Anyway, thanks for the perspective today. Refreshingly real, as always mama!!!

  8. Great post, thank you Kelle! Can’t tell you how much I love the picture of Dash “hiding”. Thanks for continuing to think… and reflect… and post xoxo

  9. Sounds like a wonderful day. Taking care of ourselves is such a gift to ourselves and we need it so much.
    Best,
    Caryl

  10. Great post – this really resonated with me. I just transitioned back into being a SAHM after working full time for 3 years and have been struggling to find balance and patience- things i thought would magically happen once i quit my job! Always enjoy reading your posts!

  11. Just as I was thinking that I could use a few hours to myself! LOL-I am single parenting for a few weeks while the man is away for work…..I CANNOT wait for him to return home! Not only because I miss him but for him to answer 500 of the 1000 random questions my 8 year old has every day. o.O I think on my lunch tomorrow I will go walk around Target…..

  12. Always love reading your blog, and seeing pics of your pretty babies. Someday I hope to meet you all!

  13. The Westminster Trot…hahahaha! I see it 😀
    Nella sticking her tongue out in the last photo… 😀

  14. I love the Woodstock traffic jam…really I love all the pictures…so cute. This really resonated with me today. I have a little two year old boy who has a chromosome duplication…there isn’t a name just a string of letters and numbers…17q25p1q25.3 he just turned two and nobody can really tell us what to expect. He is delayed across the board and we are trying to focus on helping him be the best he can be but we don’t know if or when we will hit the ceiling. all that said, i try not to be heart broken that he can’t say momma….he gets excited when I come home and pats my face and pulls my hair when I pick him up. It’s not shiny or easy but I’m glad I get to be his mom.

  15. Your outfits are almost as cute as your children! (;

  16. kelle, i love every bit of this post! the fresh perspective – the black belt of finding good! you are adorable!

  17. Spot on Kelle, like always. You do have a black belt in creating beautiful moments with your kids. I really depend on getting out with my kids because that’s where the magic happens, but I am very aware that I shouldn’t have to depend on that for the ‘it’s worth it’ feeling- and I’m trying to get better at it. You had some great insights. Your acute awareness is amazing. The way you are able to give voice to these nuanced feelings of a mother is amazing.

  18. love love love. every night you give me a renewed sense of “i can do this” sending AZ love your way.

  19. What a wonderful family you are!

  20. The Westminster Trot… yeah, but Nella is way cuter than that lady :)

  21. Aw such loveliness captured! I feel the same. Sometimes I just need a moment alone to come back and see everything I love and am part of still there. Waiting for me. It’s hard but it is good xxx

  22. I have had this exact experience a couple times this week – the being so incredibly ready for the shift change, needing to escape the needing and the wanting and the constant giving, and then coming back refreshed and ready for more. Yes, all of it is worth it no matter what and loving is indeed the payoff.

  23. I can always count on you for some fresh perspective. Or refreshing perspective I should say. I needed to be reminded of this today.

    Thank you!
    L

  24. you’re amazing & i love you

  25. Love your writing. 2 things in your post that made me laugh out loud on a not so great Thursday (and no, I have no little ones anymore) is this: 1) gas fumes and power tools – hilarious, we did same and 2) definitely the West Minister trot, hands down.

  26. I love this, as I do all your posts. I live in Chicago, but I’ll just keep pretending we’re best friends!

  27. Thank you Kelle. I so needed this today.

  28. oh, my. needed to read this today. and i only have one little!! a two year old boy who messes with the water dispenser on the fridge, opens the pantry door constantly, and also says “hold you” or “carry you.”

    thanks for the reminder & the encouragement. totally worth it.

  29. the last picture….swoon! thanks for your words. parenting is HARD! Even the shiny moments!

  30. Same message I keep on reading at the moment, “the journey is the destination” Dan Eldon

    Thank you for your most beautiful insight.

  31. Could you please (please, please) write where your black gladiator sandals come from? I just like them so much.
    Greetings from Italy, Aleksandra

  32. Love this ~great photos.

    Where’d you get the VW buses? Too cute!

  33. The words here resemble me.
    And I get equally as frustrated with myself as I do with the Mothering role, and ironically feel comfort when I see my partner express the same lack of ability to take it all and grin. Even at 4 am when my patience is tried from being woken up and the crying of my kid whom I’m in the midst of night weaning is making me angry- even then I still feel deep love. It seems like I do a lot of hugging and kissing of foreheads even when I want to run for the hills.
    Our children are so powerful- their little energies send us in every direction emotionally imaginable- multiple times a day. It’s good for all to take breaks- even from spinning the grit into gold!

  34. Kelle,
    I am a newly single mother, for the second time in my life. There are weeks on end where I feel overwhelmed with all of the parenting demands. When you wrote that you walked back in and changed your prespective, I felt like that was written for me at this exact moment in my life. I have been struggling for a couple of days and feeling stressed with parenting. Tonight when I go home I will think of it as, this is something I get to be a part of. Thank you for this.

  35. Oh my gosh-I so needed to read this. At times, I feel so lame for needing a break, for not wanting to listen to whining, for getting frustrated….but you know what…I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You are so right! Everything we endure, feel, and encounter is so worth it. I love my little world. It rocks my heart to sleep each night. :)

  36. Beautiful! Well said:)

    And your photos are just gorgeous as always. How good are Nellas red gumboots?! Just adorable & so what is have wanted at that age too:)

  37. Love your leaf blower pictures! The leaf blower is one of my toddler’s favorite activities. I got some really cute shots of him awhile back when he first discovered the magic that is the blower. If you can handle the cute, and I’m sure you can, the pictures are posted here: http://alwayspaintedusuallychipped.blogspot.com/2014/05/mothers-day-weekend.html?m=1

  38. Kelle – I read your posts consistently, but have to comment on this one: it shines. You really nailed the feeling, the reality, the love. Thanks. xoxo illana

  39. Beautiful! And I’ve gotta ask, where did you get those adorable VW buses that Nella is playing with? I want one 😀

  40. Thank you, Kelle. The weary passing of the batton–we do that too at my house. Our youngest only 4 months, not quite old enough to be away for long, but those few moments I get after the long day, I treasure. Your photographs are beautiful. Thank you so much for letting us see your life.

  41. I’m not a mother yet, but hopefully soon. Lately the anxiety of whether I’ll be good enough, patient enough, clean enough, loving enough…has weighed on me. But your posts always remind me that it’ll be something so beautiful that I get to be part of. Thank you for sharing!

  42. I love to come here and get a fresh perspective on motherhood. I get a little more free time these days, all four of mine are now in full time school as of last week, but the days are still so crazy! I love being a part of it all, though.

  43. I love this post – thank you for writing and sharing. It’s posts like these that truly make you stop and reflect on the beautiful moments in our own lives amidst everything.

    You write this and turn the focus around – you’re not writing to showcase anything that you have or a positive way in which you are experiencing things. The effect on your readers is a challenge and encouragement to apply the same lens to their lives.

    Thank you!

    The Rossetto Blog

  44. What a beautiful post. I’m not a mother [yet], but your post makes me feel what it could be like to be one, someday. The stress, the craziness, the disorder but also the love, the smiles, the special moments and the joy. Thank you for sharing such an insightful piece.

  45. Hi Kelle,
    This part really resonated with me “…if toddlers didn’t say “I love you” back or reach up to hold your hand, if daughters never smiled and curled up in your lap at night just like how you imagined they would when you dreamed of them, if sons never asked you to help them ride a bike or read a book or hold them when they’re scared…” As the mother to a child with severe Autism and Cognitive Impairments, for the first decade of motherhood (before my 3 other children were born) I didn’t get the “pay backs” mothers sort of “expect” to receive as part of the gig. So when your child doesn’t talk to you, look at you, acknowledge you, like to have a birthday party or sit in your lap to read a book… it sort of tests your own beliefs about motherhood. What I learned is what you’ve described her – but you have described it so much more eloquently.

    I appreciate you :)!!

  46. After discovering my newborn son had Down syndrome, a good friend bought me your book. It was very inspiring and I’m very grateful that you shared such an emotional journey with the world. I thought I would share my story with you if you get the time! http://Www.youcaring.com/sweetbabyjett

    Lacey

  47. Kelle, you have such an amazing way with words. I’m sitting in the nursery room chair with my laptop and coffee, a tired mama, reading this and straight up sobbing. It’s so hard but it’s so beautiful and you have a way of perfectly explaining it. Thank you. I AM GOING TO SAVE THIS AND READ IT OFTEN!

  48. Just beautiful.
    Sometimes I cry when I come here.

  49. “the ice cube melting on the kitchen tile in front of the refrigerator where Dash no doubt tampered with the water dispenser again”
    Oh man. If that isn’t my life, I don’t know what is. Thank you for this post. It’s lovely in it’s reality.
    Thank you for the example of taking time to spend on your own. That is something I need to be reminded of. That I come out better for fueling up.

  50. My husband stays home with our son and these types of days are all too familiar. Love your take on these hard moments. Thanks for sharing. ahhhh the water dispenser… No way to lock that thing down. We are also loving hide and seek right now. Ha. Why is it that everything in the garage is way more fun than any toy?

  51. Thank you for sharing. I am in dire need of some me time as well. It’s nice to know that others feels that way …

  52. This is so lovely. So you. Especially appreciate: When life hands over some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, you have to remember it’s just a middle. And you’re writing a good story.

    xoxo

  53. westminster trot. awesome.

  54. These posts make me happy. So thank you for sharing. :)

  55. This is precious. And, great shot of you & those kiddos at the end :)
    Tejas love,
    Melissa

  56. I SO loved this! And Dash hiding…so freaking cute!! Love the picture of the four of you. Dash’s little face is just so precious.

    Glad to know we aren’t the only ones with a lock on their pantry! :)

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