Saturday, May 11, 2013
Tomorrow is Mother's Day, and being the writer of this here parenting blog, documenting my life as a mother, I've been thinking about what it all means. People say mothering is the hardest job you will ever do. That it is the most important job you will ever do. That is the thing in your life that will likely bring you your greatest joy. That you will never love anyone or anything as much as your children. In my experience these things are all true.
On my blog, I try to focus on the positive parts of our days, partially because that's the stuff I want to remember years from now, and also for my own sanity, so that I don't get caught in a downward spiral of negativity--sharing the positive parts of our days makes me see the good in what we do have together now. Make no mistake though...I have plenty of days where I am at my wits end, where I feel resentful and like I've given up chasing down other dreams to wipe bums and clean up the same toys over and over and over again only to have my work undone 5 minutes later. It can feel like I'm continuously living the same day on repeat, and being home with the kids can be socially isolating.
Then there's our societal view on motherhood. Many women today feel the expectation to do it all...college, a career, having a family, and then being supermom while juggling work, household chores, somehow finding time to keep fit, healthy, sexy, and somehow maintaining a meaningful relationship with their partner. This is of course ridiculous, and tall order. As a result, I think most mothers constantly struggle with feelings of guilt. You are almost always needed by someone in some capacity. If you decide to take time for yourself you might find yourself pulling out of the driveway while your kids are crying and pleading with you not to leave, and then when you return from your all-too-short break, you might come home to more screaming, making you wonder if it was really worth it and maybe a little selfish for you to put everyone out like that in the first place. If you are a stay at home mother you worry whether you're somehow damaging your career or hurting your finances/ retirement, or if you'll be able to re-enter the workforce someday without starting at square one all over again. If you work part or full-time as a mom, you struggle with trying to balance work and mothering and childcare for your kids and everything else life throws at you and it can be so overwhelming that figuring out how to get it all done seems like an impossible equation...unless you can figure out how to clone yourself. Basically you feel like you're half-assing everything, even though you're working harder than you ever have before. Oh, and if you watch TV or read magazines you're going to get bombarded with the message that you are supposed to look like a hot 17 year old even though you're 33 and you are exhausted and you have humans literally hanging off of you or requiring something of you for nearly every hour of the day. And yet, despite the superhero level of multi-tasking ability that is required of mothers, mothering is still not revered in our society as the highly important job that it truly is. There is no guarantee that you'll get much of a maternity leave when you have a baby, let alone a paid one, whereas in some other countries, you are automatically given a year off paid with a nanny and your job held for you. WTF America, seriously...can't you copy Sweden on this one?!
Yesterday when I went to a doctor appointment the receptionist was reviewing my information to make sure it was up to date and she asked if my work number was the same. I said, "No, I don't work at that job any more, I'm just staying home with my kids." JUST staying home with my kids? I heard myself say that, and I wanted to rewind time and have a re-do on my sentence. I wanted to say that I am lucky enough to be staying home with my kids, but that there is also no JUST about it--it is the hardest thing I've ever done. I've never been more exhausted, been more stressed about money, done so much heavy lifting, or taken so few breaks. I can't think of any other time in my life when just getting to go to the bathroom alone feels like a vacation, and if there happens to be a magazine in said bathroom, well, that's just plain luxurious. I mean really, when you are begging your husband to be the one to go out to Walgreens to buy the Tylenol for your teething screaming baby just so that you can have 5 minutes in the car to ________ (fill in blank with either: relish sweet sounds of silence, blare loud hip hop and pretend your 19 and at a party again, or just flat out scream and shout profanities for the fun of it and the release) then you know you are in kind of a bad way and you've sacrificed a lot.
BUT, to know that you've sacrificed these things for an amazing little person who is the combination of you and your partner, to know that you freaking made their brain, their heart, their beautiful eyes, all while you were probably watching a movie or sleeping or working, that is just awesome and a pretty empowering thought as a woman. Being a mother seems to me to be the most ordinary and yet also extraordinary thing. In some ways it's like, oh wow, well a lot of people have kids--it's not like being the first man on the moon or winning the Nobel Prize. And yet. It is such an amazing miracle--to create another life, to grow it inside your body, to push that creation out into this world and then to watch it grow, change, discover, learn, and navigate the world as it's own free thinking individual self...it is so special and there's nothing simple or ordinary or easy about that. Whether you are a mother, or you are just thinking of your mother, I think we all need to spread the Mama Love in a major way tomorrow.
I have been lucky to have a close and loving relationship with my mother, and now that I've had children of my own, my appreciation of her (and my dad! I don' t mean to ignore the importance of dads here, it's just that it's Mother's Day) has increased tenfold. It's like, "Oh my God. Now I get what it was like for them when I was a kid.They did all this for me?!" Now I get why they left us with our grandparents for a week to go to St. Lucia instead of bringing us along. But I also now get why my mom pinned a return address label to my dress on my first day of kindergarten when she had to put me on that school bus for the first time, or why to this day she wants to check in and know how I'm doing on a regular basis and find out what's happening in my life. That is LOVE. My mom used to tell me that having kids is like having a part of yourself walking out there in the world separate from you, and that is exactly how I feel about my girls. It's like having an organ that exists outside your body but in close proximity to you, but you just know that if anything happened to it, you might not be able to bear it and survive either. A day of motherhood can be downright shitty (both literally and figuratively)..you might feel like there's nothing left of you at the end of the day, that you've been used up in every way possible and you look around at the wreckage and debris from the day and can't believe that you are living in this crap-hole, AND YET, in an instant it can all melt away when a little hand strokes your cheek and a sweet little voice let's you know that nothing in their world means more to them than you. Then you know it's worth it, that you would do it ten times over, because this love. This mother-child love, is the kind of stuff that is REAL, not the kind you have to question the validity of. It's Mama-Bear-rip-your-face-off-if-you-get-near-my-cub-love, and I know deep down that it is the best and the most important thing I will feel in my life. So for God Sakes, show a mutha' some love tomorrow because trust me, whether you are a mom, or you're celebrating your mom or grandmother or a surrogate mother figure, someone out there has helped you become you, and at the very least as my mother always likes to remind me, "She gave you life." And that's no small thing. It's worthy of a national holiday.