This is What I’m Doing: A Mantra for the Little Years


We came home with him and I locked myself upstairs for three days.

Have your cellphone handy, I told my husband, and keep the dog away.

Four days before, I packed my bag, along with all my expectations, and headed to the hospital with a spring in my 42 weeks pregnant step. I kissed the dog, told him I would be bringing home “brother,” and left believing in blissful homecomings.

He cried so much. So much. I rocked him long and hard until my rocking chair moved in increments, hitting the wall. He nursed around the clock until I bled. I kept bra pads in the freezer, and endured with gritted teeth and curled toes until I was numb. I had a lactation consultant on speed dial; a true therapist.
I cried too. Even in my most zen state, the slightest sound of distress from him struck a hormonal chord somewhere in me, releasing a flood. It was hard that first year. I second guessed my decisions. I worried about him for no good reason.

“I worried about myself too, afraid I might be the one woman in the history of the world that became a mother without the instinct. I prayed a lot. Please, please, please, please, I prayed, leaving the specifics to be divined by someone with a broader perspective.”

It was the helplessness, though, that made me want to tear myself apart. I felt trapped at times, limited, not connected to myself, but only to him. I resented not being able to do the things I once had time for, simple things, like cooking or answering the phone, reading, and thinking. My mind was dull from lack of sleep and excessive noise, and at times would narrow my feelings into a simple phrase or word that became a valuable coping strategy for me in those weary days.
He wakes up just as I’m sitting down to rest. I pick him up and open the book he likes. This is what I’m doing. 

I’m so tired, but he won’t sleep unless he is nose to nose with me in bed. I snuggle close. This is what I’m doing.

Guests are on their way, and I have a hundred things to do. He is crawling after me wherever I go. I pick him up and take him with me from room to room, tickling him in between chores. This is what I’m doing. 

I’ve been with the little ones all day, and just want some quiet. He comes home from school and wants to talk about Spiderman and cheetahs. I sit close and look him in the eyes. This is what I’m doing.
This is what I’m doing, and it’s sometimes at the expense of cleanliness, of rest, of feeling prepared and in control. It means there’s more work to do later; I’ll sleep when I’m dead. It’s an exercise in stillness requiring some strength.
The mantra I’ll keep, I guess, until the day I don’t have to tell myself to see what is in front of me.

I know what the little years mean, after all. I know they fly unaffected, heedless of being so closely observed. Wisdom hasn’t weighed in, weighed down, worked her illuminating magic. The little years are short and full, and time is a glutton, gobbling up minutes with terrific steadfastness.

I want to be near when little lips find their voice, but more than a physical presence, I hope they see my heart leaning in for connection. I want them to know where value is found, in relationship, and relationship hovers above all, drawing us out of the fray.

This mantra reminds me of my priorities and gives me permission to elevate the small moments as life-giving.


  1. Christin…this may be my favorite piece yet. Particularly since I’m in the thick of it. Thank you for these beautiful words of blessed wisdom.

  2. I may not be a young mother anymore, but so very much enjoyed reading your blog today. it brought back poignant, sweet memories of when I was raising my three sons many years ago. Connecting with, and remembering the sheer exhaustion of some days and so often, the self questioning – am I doing this right? Is there a “right?”

    Love the way you write. You are so talented.


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