As told to Hannah Hickok by Addie Morizio
I dreamed of being someone’s mother for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, there was something so exciting, so wonderful, and so sweet about thinking about raising children. I just didn’t realize what an honor and privilege it would actually be to be someone’s mom—even if the amount of work and worry that goes into it seems unsurmountable sometimes. I never had an exact image of what my family would look like, or how many children I’d have. I just celebrated my 30th birthday, and now have four children under the age of four (and I know my husband, Matt, would love to know what exactly he signed up for).
Matt, who’s 32, used to be a professional baseball player, and we were, crazily enough, set up by our parents. Being in my “fresh out of college, first job, Miss Independent” stage, I wanted nothing to do with it—until I met him, and I was instantly brought back to my giddy, hearts-over-the-I’s middle school crush days. He was living in California for his off season, and was home in Massachusetts for two weeks over the holidays. We had our first date the day after Christmas, and spent as much time as possible together after that—he visited me during school vacations (I was teaching middle school at the time), and I visited him on breaks. Over Memorial Day weekend the spring after we met, Matt surprised me by proposing as the sun was setting at the airport in Phoenix. Five months later, we were married, and six months after that, I found out I was pregnant with our first son, Joseph.
The transition from having no children to having Joseph when I was 25 was really hard for me. To have this little person that my husband and I created together and bring home was not only a thrilling, but also a terrifying realization. I was completely overwhelmed by motherhood and the lack of sleep. Joseph—who’s now four—had his days and nights switched, so I felt as if I would never sleep again. I had to figure out how to take care of this little baby, who I was completely enamored with, while also remembering to love and put my husband first. I had to remember that Matt was also learning how to be a first-time parent, and to give him the grace and respect as he was trying to figure out his new role.
But what surprised me the most about becoming a mother was how unnatural this supposedly natural act was for me. I always thought nursing was an easy and innate experience shared between mom and baby. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For months, I awkwardly tried to make our nursing experience be what I witnessed thousands of other woman have, and we never got there. There were times when he would cry and I had no idea why. He had a cry for when he was hungry, tired, bored, overstimulated, cold, when he wanted to be held, if his diaper was dirty, or simply because he was an infant. The list for caring for this little boy seemed endless. How was I supposed to do everything he needed, all while sleep-deprived and healing from giving birth?
Each new child brought their own hurdles. With the birth of Eleanor (who we call Nora and is now almost three) I dealt with the initial guilt of wondering, I am forever changing Joseph’s life by bringing in a sibling, and am I making a mistake? I had to learn to multi-task on a whole new level. 19 months ago, I gave birth to two twin boys, Angelo and Phillip. When they came along, I had to navigate new waters as a parent of preemies who brought completely unique obstacles.
When the twins both cried because they were hungry, I had to choose which one I was going to feed or soothe first. I had to learn not just to view Matt as a person I could tag in when I felt too beat up in the ring, but rather as a partner who I supported as well. I had to muster up energy to put into our relationship after long days and even longer nights with four children who hung, pooped, peed, and climbed on me all day long. And even after all of this, when someone asks me if I’m done having kids, I cannot confidently say no. I already have stretch marks, full arms, and tired eyes. So what are a few more stretch marks if it leads to fuller arms and and an even fuller heart? But right now, I’m just trying to make it to naptime.
An average day in our house is total chaos. My husband is usually out the door by 5:15 in the morning, and not home before 6:45 at night. That leaves me on my own with the four kids all day Monday through Friday. I’m not a morning person, and I really love my sleep, so my children have learned to stay in bed and not wake me up until 7, which they’re completely fine with. It’s one of the perks of having four kids: They happily play with and entertain one another. After breakfast, Joseph, Nora and I let out and feed our chickens, goats, and ducks. I’m homeschooling Joseph and Nora, so after getting dressed, we begin each morning with a lesson. Three days a week we get out of the house to do an activity or outing, whether it’s gymnastics, a mother’s group, children’s museum, or a field trip.
After lunch, the three youngest go down for a nap, and Joseph and I have one-on-one time, working on our garden or playing outside. (I’m a firm believer in having my children outdoors as much as possible and allowing them the opportunity to play and explore.) Joseph has quiet time in the afternoon, during which he can read, watch a movie, or help me bake, which is one of his favorite things. Everyone is up from their nap by 4, after which we play outside, the kids eat dinner, have tubs, get into the PJs, and watch a show to calm down before bed. Matt is sometimes home to say goodnight and usually helps with the end of the bedtime routine. The twins go down by 7; Joseph and Nora play with Matt and are in bed by 8. We don’t eat dinner until after all that—post-nap until bedtime often feels like an overwhelming blur.
Alone time for Matt and me can be scarce these days. It’s not unheard of for us to get into bed, completely exhausted, having forgotten to even share a kiss that day. The days of cinematic surprise dates are the thing of the past, but I know they’ll come back one day (at least they better!). Bouquets of flowers have been replaced with gallons of milk, a favorite bottle of wine, and a family-sized box of diapers, but they’re no less appreciated. In fact, they may even be better received.
While Matt and I have learned to be extremely intentional about our time together, it hasn’t negatively impacted our relationship. If anything, it has forced us to savor those moments with one another. It has taught us to communicate, openly share our needs, and cherish each moment alone. We’ve learned to weave tiny threads of joy into our very full days. We sneak hugs and a quick dance while doing the dishes. We’ve started getting up at 5 in the morning on Tuesdays so that we have a little time together before he leaves for work. Those coffee in bed dates have become something I really look forward to.
On Saturday afternoons, Matt usually makes me go out for a few hours on my own. I don’t care what it is. It can be grocery shopping, getting a coffee and aimlessly walking the aisles of T.J. Maxx, or going to the gym. That time is critical to my sanity. Another outlet is gardening and decorating. I love interior design, and am constantly starting different projects around the house. When I get really stressed, I rearrange furniture. Being creative and using my head for something other than changing diapers helps me make it through long days.
About two years ago, I took my love of photography and began transitioning that into an actual career. (Although with four kids under three, I’ll admit that at times the transition has moved at a snail’s pace.) Photography works well with our schedules because Matt can be with the kids on weekends. If I don’t have anything to shoot on the weekend, I love and need to go out, all six of us, to do something as a family. Often, during the week, I feel so completely overwhelmed, exhausted, or like I failed my kids—that I should have done more, or not lost my patience so quickly. Matt is an incredible source of peace to me, and with his support, I can recharge and to refuel for the next week.
Another key source of support for me has been other women. I have a few friends my age, a few who are in their late 30s and 40s, and I even have friendships with women whose children are in college. Having women in so many different life stages has been a unique and amazing gift. The wisdom and support of my friends has been crucial to my approach to motherhood. After having the twins, I felt like I was drowning in diapers and tears. It was these women who rallied around me, picking different days each week to bring a meal, do a load of laundry, or sweep my kitchen floor. Some would just come hold a baby and hold a simple adult conversation with me, something I desperately craved. These women showing up at my door was the most amazing act of friendship this hormonal postpartum mama could have been given. Those women, my husband, and my family are the ones who carried me out of that dense twin newborn fog alive.
When it comes to the topic of motherhood, everyone has an opinion. And some people feel like it’s OK to share that opinion, anywhere and at anytime. That can be hard. I’ve heard from complete strangers—some who have children and some who don’t—who are naive and well-rested enough to think it’s helpful to provide their personal advice. I’ve had to learn to eat the apple but spit out the seeds when it comes to the abundance of free advice I get. Also, wine helps. A lot.
Motherhood is by far the hardest and most constant job I’ve ever had, but it’s also the most rewarding, and I know I’m lucky to be able to do it. The thought of my kids growing up and being out in the world, making choices on their own and being influenced by others, is so scary to me. But my wish for each of them is that Matt and I instill enough sense, love, compassion, and strength in them to be able to know how to confront those hard choices. I hope that the tedious building blocks we’re laying down for them now transfer over to how they approach each of their own worlds.
I want my four children to have a deep love and respect for everyone, but also know when something is amiss. And when my children do mess up, which they will, I want them to have been given enough grace, common sense and courage to know how to pick up the pieces and begin to make it right. I honestly don’t care what my children do when they’re older as long as it’s something they’re passionate about, that they pursue whole-heartedly, and that they do with love.
Follow Addie Morizio on Instagram: @moriziobrood.