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As I watch my younger daughter manage her daily routine I remember my days as a young mom and then it creeps in: one of the most overwhelming memories I have that's not filled with rosy emotion is how TIRED I felt when my kids were toddlers and I was a (then atypical) working-outside-the-home mom.

We didn't have a second car, a television, or even a phone for several years. Grandparents weren't available to help us with the kids; our budget had no room for a sitter, a movie or a date night dinner.

I remember when I was a child, and during my early years as a young parent, we didn't have many of the conveniences most families take for granted today. And I can remember my mother having the same problem with fatigue - only worse, because there were 6 of us between 1 and 10 years old and she worked nights.

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Mother's Day

"Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary.
What we need is to love without getting tired."
-Mother Theresa-

Lack of sleep and the constant need to be focused and alert can be exhausting for a mom or dad of any age. My grandchildren are two bundles of energy, excitement and inqusitiveness.

They're in that group of rare individuals who can wake up raring to go after 4 hours of sleep - not after a 4 hour nap, but after a nighttime rest of only 4 hours. Naps are catnaps, if taken at all. They fall asleep in the car and take a power nap for about 45 minutes unless they're not feeling well.

toddler with kitten

Other than that, they're on: constantly talking, exploring and having fun - and they wants those around them to engage and interact and enjoy what she's doing, too. Add to that fact that they're also night owls - perfectly happy to stay awake past Dad's bed time most nights - and I can understand why my daughter is tired most of the time.

Although the kids have finally learned to enjoy going to bed and fall to sleep without a problem most nights, one of them sometimes wakes up after a few hours and calls for Mama.

They simply want a cuddle but other times she's done with rest and wants to get up and start the new day - even if it's 4am. Mama, on the other hand, stays up late after everyone else has gone to bed so that she can wind down, have a bit of "me" time, and catch up on chores she couldn't quite finish while the sun was up.

Ah, yes, I remember those late night sessions doing the ironing, washing the floor, paying bills, making gifts for the holidays, "cooking ahead" (no microwaves then, and we didn't buy convenience foods - we cooked from scratch) and sewing - my craft passion for years. Of course life is a bit different now than it was in the 60s and 70s.

Today in most homes there are many more convenient appliances.

When I was a working mom with 2 kids we didn't have a microwave oven, there were no cell phones and the washing machine we owned had wringers. Our dryer was a nice big clothesline in the yard. The basics of managing the house and caring for the family needs took far more time than it does today.

But there are many similarities in my daughter's lifestyle to how I managed our household when she was a preschooler and how our lives progressed from day to day.

I baked my own bread, tended an organic garden, cooked everything from scratch, sewed much of her clothing, heated the house with firewood and enjoyed crafts. We lived on a tight budget despite having 2 incomes, but we were healthy and happy.

As my daughter has discovered, she can accomplish many of her day to day tasks with a toddler at her side. Doing chores and housework are part of life, and they present a wonderful learning experience for a young child. And children love to imitate or help their parents. Safety is always an issue, but that's also part of life - learning to stay away from the stove or not playing on the stairs are important lessons.

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But there are just some things a mom can't do or my daughter won't try to do during the day. She doesn't log on to her computer to write or surf or shop or check email. She doesn't get lost in a book or magazine, or sit and knit while listening to the radio or television.

Someday that will change, but for now she's learned to live with a bit of messiness. Crayon marks pop up in unexpected places - on the door windows, on book covers, on the wooden truck.

Learning a few rules - like where they can and cannot color - is one of the lessons my grandchildren are learning. They love to make art with crayons and paint with water colors. They need to have someone enjoy these activities with them, not only because they require some guidance but also because activities become more enjoyable, more expressive, more interesting with someone else. My grandchildren are very social and interactive, and practically fearless in new situations.

I remember my own painful shyness as a child (and adult) and my determination to not have shy children. I was successful raising two friendly, open daughters and while working toward that goal I learned to relax and handle my own anxieties and introvertedness.

My daughter plays and talks and enjoys each day with her children, at a child's pace. They paint, they draw pictures, they read books, they take nature hikes, they pick berries, they drive to grandma's house and go to the farm stand or they watch the birds at the feeders and wonder when the rain or snow will stop.

They visit the library for story hour every week where they make a craft and play with other children. They pack a lunch and go off for a picnic and a walk at the local college campus (daddy and mommy's alma mater).

They stack firewood, prepare meals, and make jam and bread and home made mustard. They decorate eggs, cookies, read books, and take photographs.

While these are all activities my daughter would do if she didn't have a toddler, she does them with her child and makes them part of every day life. She is, in essence, doing homeschooling or unschooling. So she's always "on" during the day, and into the night as well, even when the night owl child is still wide eyed and ready for more action and activity time while both Mommy and Daddy are starting to get sleepy.

My daughter takes her role as Mom and primary role model to her child very seriously ... and I know where she got that. I applaud her commitment to being a good mother, an involved mom and a natural parent.

She waited to become a mother until she was past 30, and she wants to perform at the best possible level in this role - the most important job of her life . What's ironic is that her excellence at being a good mom is also one of the main driving causes for her fatigue. But I can't change that, because it's her personality. What I can do, and what I am doing, is to be a friend and a mother who listens and - only when asked - offers advice or suggestions.

I can be ready to help, but not interfere. And I am there for her when it gets overwhelming or frustrating. I tell her day to day familly life will get better as the years go by. I remind her as my mother did me to not wish these days away, but instead to be fully involved now and enjoy this time now in her children's lives. It's a magical time, it's wonderful the time she spends now and it will pay off in so many ways as her daughter and son grow up.

When these days are gone you'll have more time to sleep but you'll always wish this time were still here, and your only chance to enjoy watching a child grow again will be as a grandmother. I understand why my grandmother was so happy to hear from me on the phone and to have me visit her so many years ago.

For that I am very grateful and am still working hard to live each day in the here and now.

Live in the Now - Tomorrow You'll Have Memories, Not Regrets
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