Way back when I was carefree and young, I thought I understood what mothering was going to be like, I just had not experienced it yet. Kids made sense to me. Their innocence and spark for life inspired me. Regularly I spent my time earning extra cash chasing children around. I thought, “Hey, mothering is tiring but seems fun! I bet it will be easier since I already love kids.” As I grew up, I made mental notes on the mothers around me. You know, the ones at church, in the stores, or in movies. Some scenes I watched in awe thinking, “She's so cool! She's an awesome mom! I want to be like that!” Others, I admit, I questioned. I didn't fully understand the tantrums, messy mom clothes, mismatched kids, and the overall "let go" appearance. I didn't mean to be prideful; I was attempting to learn. I thought that being a mom would be so satisfying that I would never want to work again. In this dreamland my house stayed clean, I never lost my temper, my baby was easy going and easily went to sleep at friend's houses, and I continued being a normal part of society. My kids of course would never watch shows before 2 years old (according to the studies), I cook all their food, they would hardly get sick, and I would love being with my kids 24/7. (If you’re laughing at me right now don't worry, I'm sitting here laughing right along with you!) I was busy creating what I thought motherhood was, building my own expectations.
St. Patrick’s Day 2015 my motherhood journey began with the most gorgeous, blue-eyed girl I'd ever seen. She was so petite, yet so strong. Her tiny hands held me as I held her, and we melted together with cuddles and love. Quickly after the days morphed into weeks, the sleep depravation zapped my ability to function fully as the adult I was. Nursing was the hardest thing I had ever done. Her tiny mouth struggled to latch, and I wrestled with myself to remain calm; a calm that felt as far away as the once perky me. We finally figured each other out, and made it through the dark tunnel. The mom's I used to see in public made this feeding thing seem like the most natural and effortless task. I understand now how much work goes into that future achievement. The bond comes, and the joy and ease replace the tears. For some, nursing is not even an option. I understand that now too. Many decisions are never as black and white as we wish. Real life choices happen amidst the exhaustion, family dynamics, and demands of life, in order to not just survive parenthood, but also bask in its blessings.
As the months continued forward, my little girl flourished, except in one area that I really wish she would have: sleep. The sleep depravation continued on like a cruel thief, stealing away what I had previously loved dearly. The comments and questions concerning this topic seemed to never cease. Offhanded remarks like, “she's still not sleeping? Oh next month she should be for sure!” were the worst. I felt the pride slowly drain from me as each passing month and each question about her sleeping habits caused me to question my abilities as a mom. I put up a strong front, but on the inside I kept thinking that I must have been doing something wrong, otherwise she would be like the other babies! Moreover she refused bottles, pacifiers and hated the car. This is not what I understood babies to be like. She was supposed to be like all the other kids I saw with pacifiers and bottles that were sleeping better past newborn, and were happily drifting off to sleep in the car. These may seem small or inconsequential, but each created confusion and frustration in me, and resulted in me having to give more. More nursing, more cuddling, more patience, which all meant, less sleep and less time to bounce back and regain the energy I was expending. I had no idea procreating meant there would be some days that you wanted just wanted to hide under a rock.
Honestly, I realized that part of my initial struggle was not only all my new tasks, but my need to let years of expectations go. I had all of these unrealistic expectations that kept me from embracing fully all that my specific mother/child dynamic demanded. I recognized, with the help of quiet reflection with the Lord and through the wisdom of my mom and older sister (who are two incredible mothers), that many of my frustrations with my daughter were the result of the dream I had built for us, rather then the reality we were living. Part of my understanding was learning that my daughter is not a robot. She is not programmable in order to meet my needs. I am here as her comforter and provider to meet her unique, individual needs. She is her own person. She has her likes and dislikes, and appreciating them and accepting her as she is has freed me to enjoy being her mom.
I understand now. Most moms I had deemed "let go" looked like my current twin. But they weren't letting them selves go, they were allowing the next generation to become. They were prioritizing the insignificant to uplift the significant. That is incredible! Videos in the car and packaged foods are just sometimes the way to make it through car rides, grocery trips and outings. I look at others now and think, “Ooh that's a good system! I have to try that!” Furthermore, moms don't drink coffee and quote about it because it's a hipster thing to do. Moms understand funny coffee quotes because the kids don’t always sleep and there is no such thing as sleeping in! I get that now. I used to think my old job was hard. I had weekends off and sleeping in was a viable option, not that hard. I was not forced into service by the demands of a baby wanting breakfast at the same time you are wanting to eat, preferably alone and slowly. I now have dreams of making it through a whole meal without food being thrown all around me. I get the messes and the need for babysitters, because restaurants with the babes are more tortuous than a treat, tired eyes, and tantrums. I have daydreams of not being touched by anyone. I get the obsession with pictures of the kids. They are the joy making the mundane worth it. Having other moms as friends isn't because I can't stand hanging out with anyone else, it's because they are less likely to judge my lack of showering and cranky kids. Most likely they brought their stinky mess right over to join in mine. Mom's uniting isn't a social clique it's a survival, sanity-saving sisterhood. I am beyond blessed to lay down many false expectations for this raw rigorous and incredible job of mothering. I have come to learn that within mothering, trying to be perfect is exhausting!
So, please forgive me mothers, for my misguided assumptions. Now I understand. With regained perspective, I look back on the past with admiration and respect for the mothers I encountered. I admire you for enduring the enviable tantrums, saying no for the greater good of your children, for making it out of the house in general (even if it’s yoga pants for the 500th time), and for loving lavishly those God entrusted to you. I pray with this newfound understanding, my words and actions would be actively seeking the encouragement of mothers around me, both strangers and friends alike. There is no other role quiet as sacrificial, powerful, and moving as that of mothers. I have a whole new outlook on this fulfilling calling entrusted to me. My daughter’s life has more deeply equipped my ability to embrace the imperfections in others and in myself and lovingly relate and encourage others.
I may have thought I knew what mothering was going to be like, but now I understand. Now I know what it is like, and my heart fills with compassion and with an all-familiar sense of peace whenever I see someone in a similar situation. It doesn’t matter how crazy life gets, or what you wear, or how well your child sleeps. Motherhood is about life and relationship. It’s about appreciating the gift that is the child God has given you. I may not have gotten it then, but now I understand.
Written by, Meg