Moms deserve medals — we really do. When we lay down our weary heads at night, there should be a gold medal stretched out on our pillow for crawling across the finish line, because make no mistake, motherhood is a marathon moms run every day with our kids on our backs.

Between waking my children (my youngest is up with the sun, but the other two are vampires), making the family breakfast, packing lunches, and dog-proofing my home, mornings are rough. This is the first leg of every mother’s run. It’s called “getting out of the house,” and it takes every ounce of coffee and empty carbohydrates you consume to achieve it.

“Who needs a snack?”

“Who has to brush their teeth?”

“Who hasn’t showered since last week?”

“Whose turn is it to feed the dog?”

“Can somebody tell me where your father is?”

I don’t know about you, but I could pre-record my voice and hit play at the same time every morning. When things get truly crazy — when my kids pour juice into their cereal bowls because we’re all out of milk, and we’ve only got one slice of bread left and it’s the heel, so it doesn’t really count — I try to remind myself to “keep calm and mom on.” But my dog is pawing through the trash, my husband has slept through his third alarm and I just can’t fathom why the world needs to start at 8 a.m. everyday.

Why, sweet baby Jesus, why?

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Then we’re off like a dirty shirt, and the next leg of the day is a breeze. Sure, teaching isn’t always smooth sailing, but when you compare talking to teens to doing dishes, folding laundry, going shopping, cleaning my house, chauffeuring kids, scheduling appointments, cooking food and performing miscellaneous mom tasks, work is a long rest stop and an awesome hydration station.

Or, if your vocation is different than mine and your day job is taking care of children, home and hearth, then bless you, bless you, bless you. You deserve two gold medals, mother-friend.

When it’s quitting time for me, the real work begins. This is when I figure out who’s getting who and who’s got something to do. Two kids have track, the other’s a walker, and I need to squeeze in a real run before I get groceries, make dinner, help at least one child with their homework, put the food away, do one load of dishes and one load of laundry, take the dog for a walk, finish my school work, bathe, then dig deep for the last mile.

Every mother knows the last mile is what this race is all about. This is the homestretch. This is the good stuff. This is cuddle time, talk time, curl up and watch-a-movie-together time. It’s laughter and hugs and “show me that music video that you like again” time. It’s everything you ever dreamed about when you were a little girl, curled up beside your mother while she read to you from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie.”

You hear her voice in your head as you read to your children. You remember that extra glass of water she brought you when you were supposed to be going to bed, and you say the prayers she taught you while you drift off to sleep. You understand that the love she gave you and these sweet children you’re sharing it with is the most amazing gift you’ve ever been given.

Maybe you don’t need that medal after all.

This column by Emily Morrison was originally published in Bangor Metro’s May 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.