It’s 9pm and by the light of the moon I remove the baler twine with a tug, and toss a square bale of hay over the fence to feed our cows. Shove, shove, munch, munch, I listen as our female asserts her dominance over her two sons who wait patiently by her side for their piece. They otherwise risk the jab of her horns.
I approach the chicken coop and wish the hens a good night, snuggled one to the next on their roosts, with Gareth the rooster keeping a steady watch. June, our black hen, assumes I’m feeding, but I close their door behind me shutting her in.
No, birdbrain, it’s time for rest.
I’ve just gotten home from a meeting in the city. I grab the diaper bag and Wren’s backpack from the car and place it inside the house.
Scrunch, crinkle, crinkle. I quickly ball up newspaper for the fire and place it in the middle of the barren woodstove, adding the four remaining pieces of kindling from the pile. There’s a mouldy log to my left – the last pick of the litter – and I place it on top of the crackling glow, crossing my fingers it’s not too wet to ignite.
As I wait, I remove Wren’s lunchbox from her bag, emptying the uneaten contents into the compost pile, and replenishing it for the next day. By this point in the week it’s slim pickings, and I will try for the third time in a row to have her consume that browning banana, amongst less than favourable crackers and cheese and vanilla yogurt. I zip the lunchbox shut, place it in the fridge and then close the woodstove door to return outside.
Except for the rising smoke from the neighbour’s chimney and the sound from a single car passing by – the night is still.
God, I love quiet, but yet the transfer game must begin.
The girls, for the moment, are each sleeping soundly in the backseat, lulled into slumber by the hum of the idling engine and to Adele, whom we’ve heard three times in the past hour.
Wren’s head is cocked to one side, and Mill’s chin rests crammed down on her chest, their middles each covered in a blanket.
I can only trick the younger one back into a slumber with my boob, so I take on Wren first, unbuckling the clips and lifting her warm little hands through the harness. Her 42 lbs translate into 80 when deadweight, but I manage to toss her carcass over my shoulder and up the stairs to the house.
Maybe she’s just seriously zonked or she’s taken pity on me for my solo parenting venture tonight, but she legit stays asleep for maybe the second time in her entire life when I plunk her down on my bed and I exhale, covering her in our duvet.
I return to the car and turn back the key, silencing the yard. Millie stirs and I scurry her into the house like a little Buddha, bundled four times around in a tattered cotton quilt sewn lovingly by a friend when Wren was born.
With Wren asleep on my right and Millie latched and dozing again at my breast, I lean back on the headboard and set my alarm.
My day is done.
I’m still in my clothes and the light is still on in the living room, but I’m surrendering on this note – an accomplished one.
And because I know the start of my night is always just that, a beginning.
I am happy to be in bed by 10pm.
The rest of the night was quite typical, except for my hubby’s absense. It included a wardrobe change, a desire to be on the left and not right side of the bed followed by a standing political debate on the matter and a bathroom break on Wren’s part. There were three night feedings from the wee one in and the need for the mice to munch on the bathroom garbage and keep me awake for an hour in the midst.
But instead of focusing on how much my eyes hurt or how thin my patience was or how alone I was in dealing with it all, instead I tried to focus on how warm and good the morning’s coffee would taste. How happy I was that Justin was spending a night with his mom on her birthday because I hope my kids will still like me when they’re older, and how Wren will be happy to have her favourite pants clean to wear the next morning.
And I was drawn to thinking about all the other mothers around the world sacrificing their night too, thinking mundane thoughts about their own families, and accommodating both the rational and irrational requests of their children at 2, 3 and then 4am.
The hardest and most humbling moments of motherhood are all about the moments that go unseen.
Earlier this week my husband made a nearly fatal error by coming home after a particularly challenging day and asking me ‘What did you even do all day?’
Whenever he does this again, if he has some insatiable desire to be decapitated, I’ll remind him to listen to what I also did all night.
What we all did last night.
Because we mothers work fucking hard for our kids. Around the clock. So those dishes can just suck it and keep the counter company awhile longer.
Whether you’re a mom who is at home through the day, or you’re at work, you are making sacrifices for your kids. Then we sacrifice our night, sometimes all night, to get ready to do it all over again.
If you’re otherwise blessed in your lives to have a partner to share the parenting role with, or not, we all struggle as moms to do our very best no matter the time the clock reads. But we are so capable.
So I was alone last night, but I wasn’t. We survived it and will survive it again.
Thank you ladies.