I have a confession to make: I do not always enjoy motherhood.
My 4-year-old has developed an unfounded fear of going to the bathroom alone. I don’t enjoy that. Just this morning, my baby pulled out a small clump of my hair by grabbing it fiercely between her fingers. I don’t enjoy that. Like many of you, I know the excruciating pain of childbirth, breastfeeding, and stepping on Legos left out in a darkened room.
I don’t enjoy those moments either.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t love my daughters, because I do. I love them with a kind of love I did not know existed before I held them. And yet, the mothering of them – the diapering and feeding, the chauffeuring and negotiating, the debt, the physical pain, the mental and emotional toll… I don’t enjoy that.
At this point in my life, I understand that most experiences are double-sided. We take the good with the bad. The bad makes us grateful for the good. But the culture of motherhood seems to insist on pushing one party line only: savor every moment with your children, it says.
In the blink of an eye they’ll be grown and gone.
Certainly, I’m not immune to feeding into this guilt. After all, I tended to my first baby under the watchful eye of a cross-stitched mother bearing the words I’m holding my baby and babies don’t keep. Like this threaded woman, I fell in line – well, tried to, at least – doing my best to hold off on phone calls, mindless internet scrolling, dishes, and the like, all in a desperate attempt to enjoy every fleeting moment of babyhood. Did I manage to slow down time? Do I look back now, four years later, and feel at peace with my little one growing up and away from me?
But I can look back at those days and feel the intense pressure I put on myself, along with the shame I felt when I simply couldn’t embody the gratitude and sense of presence I felt I should.
Now, look. I won’t pretend like I’m illuminating anyone here with the idea that motherhood is damn hard. We know this. We talk about this. This is old news.
But when can we begin a new conversation? The one where we look at one another and acknowledge that the moments we’re in might just plain suck? The one where we can admit that there’s not a shred of redemption in a toddler tantrum or colicky scream-fest? The one where we don’t judge a woman for admitting she wants to run for the proverbial hills – or, at least, check out mentally on her phone while pushing a stroller?
By nature, I am a glass-half-empty kind of woman (are you surprised?). And motherhood is indeed teaching me to find beauty in the small things – a tiny fist curled around my finger, my preschooler’s little potbelly pressed against me in bed. I am grateful, beyond measure, for the chance to raise these beautiful creatures. I’m thankful for their health and well-being, and that they’re even here with me in the first place.
And yet, my gratitude for them finds its balance because I am, after all, human. There are days when I watch the clock, desperate for their dad to come home. There are moments when I wish my oldest would just. stop. talking. Like any mother, my heart drops at the wail that signals the end of nap time.
There is monotony and boredom in seemingly endless supply.
But if I can step back and reassure myself that my feelings are normal, I feel a sense of peace with my mothering. I love my kids. I’m in awe of them – their beauty, their brilliance, the way they are discovering the world as they grow into it. But savoring it all?
I’m done with that.
Let’s change the conversation on motherhood together. Let’s do away with the pressure of trying to grasp moments that are meant to be fleeting. If we miss them, so what? We’re adults, after all. We’re the grown-ups and we can be trusted to do this right, or at least do it in a way that feels right for us and our families. We can be trusted to enjoy our children, to love them fiercely and encourage them to grow into good, strong people while also remaining honest with ourselves.
So, let’s stop telling each other to savor every moment. Because let’s face it – sometimes the moment just sucks.