I know a woman of extraordinary talent, endurance, and potential.
She could be my mother, my grandmother, my sister or my friend. Maybe I write this for you.
Her first meeting of the day is with her Creator. Well before the sun makes an appearance, she sits on her prayer mat, prays, and asks for everything.
Her next meeting is with her toddler, who cries for her, asks for food. She tends to the child, changing him out of his diaper, making his crib, getting him ready.
She enters her kitchen, and moves from cupboard, to stove, to fridge, assembling breakfast. She does not drink coffee. She prefers to run on the laughter of her children, not the caffeine of mere mortals. Even through graduate school a decade ago, she avoided any stimulants.
Another cry breaks the dawn silence, as her second toddler appears in the kitchen. The mother tends to the older child now, greeting her, hugging her, and wiping away her tears. She gets her older child ready, picks out the clothes, and prepares her child for the day.
The mother is still not fully dressed.
She returns to the kitchen, where her youngest is in his high chair. He has managed to get some of the soft eggs in his mouth, while most of his breakfast has been scattered on her tile floor. She gives her daughter her breakfast of scrambled eggs, buttery croissant and hash browns. She has not eaten anything yet, but she makes sure her children are fed.
When her child asks, “Mommy, can you feed me?” she rushes over to the child, and helps her finish her plate. She hand-feeds her children. She clears the mess off the floors, and eats whatever scraps are left from their plates. She has set up work stations for the children to play in while she clears the kitchen.
While the kids are playing, a fight ensues, the crying begins, and she leaves her kitchen to tend to the screaming children. She sits down at eye level to talk to her child, as if the child could understand the gentle words of her mother.
By 9AM, the children are still in “breakfast mode” reading books, and being spoon-fed by their mother. The mother has no interest in eating, and moves from task to task. Her day continues, with her making calls for her business, or bill payments between playing with the kids, teaching them and cleaning up after her children. When nature calls, she keeps the door ajar so that she can keep an eye on her adventurous toddlers. At lunch, she makes her kids’ favorite dishes. At dinner, she eats the same things her kids eat.
The whole day she is “on.” She does not believe in giving the kids screens, and she is trapped in her own rules. She does not disengage with the kids for even a moment. After 12 hours, when her body aches and the kids need to go to bed, she practically begs the kids to go to sleep. She is fatigued by the constant tending to the needs of her children. After the children finally drift off to sleep, she gets up to clean up after all their little messes. She meets her Creator again, cries, and cries. She is both grateful and exhausted; both happy and disappointed. There is no one who comes to relieve her of her shift. She cannot check out from her lifetime appointment as Mother.
She has no neighbor who stops by for chai. She has no friends to see. She does not have a support system Monday to Friday, until her husband comes home from his work in a different city.
The mother is her own toughest critic. She believes she is not doing enough for her kids. She wants more and more for her children. She invests fully and completely in her children. She does almost nothing for herself. She believe that her happiness is linked to that of her children.
She gives her everything, and has no boundaries for herself. She wears herself down and still she keeps going like this, day after day. There is so little left of herself, she is hard to distinguish from furniture.
Her worldview — in which the children are the center of her priorities — ultimately wears her down. She slowly becomes invisible. I’ve forgotten her favorite color. I’ve forgotten her favorite dish, it has been so long since she has ordered something for herself. I’ve forgotten what makes her happy. I believe she has forgotten who she is apart from her children. While her faith propels her to achieve excellence in every facet of her life, she also sees her children as a trust. She pours everything she has left, except each day she has less and less to give. She runs on empty for months, for years maybe. She truthfully has not slept in years.
Seeing her now, I feel both admiration for her self-sacrifice, and a deep sadness, that she will always be disappointed.