Right now, I am perfectly happy. I’m making dinner in the kitchen while my children play in the basement, distracted and quiet. The Witmark Demos are on the stereo, and I am singing along quietly with Bob Dylan’s young, strong voice. I smack fat cloves of garlic with the side of my knife to release them from their papery skins, chop the heads off thick broccoli stalks and enjoy the solid sound of the blade hitting the cutting board.
This is what I thought life as a stay-at-home mother would always be like, and this is most emphatically not what life usually is. It’s been seven months since my second child, my daughter, was born, and probably about as long since I have been able to enjoy cooking dinner without anyone else in the kitchen. I knew family life was hard work, but no one ever prepared me for how draining, ceaseless, and all-consuming it really is. Nor could anyone tell me the complete joy and depth of love it would also yield.
Madeleine L’Engle writes of marriage (and I find it true not just of the marriage relationship but the parent relationship too), “I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown.”
For all the times I’ve cried in frustration trying to get babies to sleep at 3 in the morning, I’ve kissed chubby cheeks in pure delight. For every petulant “No!” from my two-year-old’s mouth, there has also been a heart-melting “I love you, Mama.” For every stormy misunderstanding between my husband and me, there are moments of utter unity. And, for every clamor of little voices, smashed toy and broken piece of china, there are, increasingly, moments of solitude, music I want to listen to, and the sound of a knife chopping broccoli.