Moms are the ultimate carriers for their kids

Woman walking down country road with kid on her back

By Laurie Sunderland

Moms are carriers. Plain and simple. I suppose it was my restricted carrying the past month due to a shoulder injury that has me thinking along these lines. 

For nine months, we carry in our expanding belly an expectation of something we can’t possibly begin to understand until we’re able to hold it in our arms for the first time and then we don’t want to let go. 

We carry babies until they’re toddlers and when they discover their independence and no longer want to be carried, we carry their things. 

We carry toys that should have been left at home in the first place and mutter “I told you so” under our breath while more unwanted “had to bring it” things are piled onto our already full arms.

When my middle child Grant was born, he spent the first four months of his life unhappy—unless he was being carried. The words, “Can you carry Grant?” were heard so often during those first four months that Grant’s other name became “Carry” Grant by default. Anyone slightly younger than me had no idea why we found his name to be so clever. And carry him, I/we did…. in a front pack, on a hip, over a shoulder or in the crook of an arm.

That same baby, many years later, while playing competitive baseball in middle school, had a coach who would tell the team as they were gathering up the equipment post game, “Catchers don’t carry.”

I loved that sliver of recognition that the catcher would get for having spent the past few hours in a squatted position looking through a hot mask. He should get a pass. In fact, more than once I felt like the team should not only carry the equipment, but the catcher as well.

A few times, when I’ve been in a situation with my son, when I didn’t feel like I should have to carry something, we’ve locked glances and he’s taken the words right out of my mouth before I even have a chance to utter them myself.

“Catchers don’t carry.”

He gets it. My child who wanted to be carried for a solid four months can appreciate that sometimes the person who’s expected to shoulder the heavy load, simply needs a break.

All of the carrying becomes normal and any mother of young children will tell you that when their arms aren’t overflowing with babies, car seats, strollers or stuffed lovies, something feels wrong… almost like you have forgotten to put your second shoe on. I marvel now at the strength and balance I had when I was able to remove and open a heavy double stroller from the back of the car with one hand, while holding a crying baby and trying to keep a physical touch on his rambunctious older brother with any part of my body that was available.  

As much as I juggled, schlepped and complained, the day eventually came when I realized that my arms were swinging back and forth as I walked…back and forth and strangely empty. It felt surprisingly freeing, yet not normal and with a lingering sense of having forgotten something.

Once the babies, the toddlers, the crying children and the armloads of stuff no longer needed to be carried was when the real heavy lifting began. This was the part when my arms set down the physical loads and my heart stepped in to carry the emotional load.

In our ever-expanding hearts, we hold the hopes, the tears, the joys, the fears, the desires and the memories, both the good ones and the not so good ones of our children. I’ve come to realize, after so many times of saying goodbye to my now adult children, to honor, respect and hold tight to what I no longer can carry in my arms.

I’ve been reminded twice in the past month, while lugging the boxed belongings of my kids and their spouses, that the carrying doesn’t ever truly end for parents. It just changes over time.

Laurie Sunderland lives in Boulder, CO, where she enjoys anything outdoors and finds her inspiration on hikes, neighborhood walks and getting dirty in the garden. She’s graduated from carrying her kids things to now carrying her grandkids things. Read more from her blog,

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