This whole mothering gig is hard work.
I’d heard that many times before I had children of my own, and I guess on some level I knew it was true, I just didn’t realize HOW HARD. When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I had many people tell us, “You have no idea. You just have no idea.” Helpful, right? These people used to drive us nuts with their “I know something you don’t know attitude.” And then we had kids. And holy moly, we had no idea. I’d never considered myself a self-centered person until literally nothing in my life was about me anymore. When I went to bed, when I woke up, what I did when I walked in the door after work, what I did with my weekend. There’s no such thing as off-duty when you have kids, even if you don’t actually have your kids with you. They’re always in the back of your mind, hovering around the edges of everything else. And as maddening as this can sometimes be, it’s one of the truths of motherhood.
One of the things I hadn’t realized was how hard it would be to maintain my temperament once I became a mother. Most days, I know that objectively I’m a good mom, but man oh man, there are lots of moments throughout each day that I don’t always feel like one.
I’d normally considered myself to be a fairly even-keeled person. As a teacher, I was used to being patient during frustrating circumstances. I didn’t realize how the 24-7, day-in-day-out nature of life with kids can drive you batty, leading to adult temper tantrums, nonstop exasperated sighing, and a brain that feels cluttered with competing obligations and endless chatter (“Mommy, come here. Mommy, look at this! Mommy, can I have more milk, ice cream, vitamins, shampoo, water, fill in the blank.”). I wasn’t prepared for the self-doubt, the inability to curb my frustration, and the resentment of always having to put everyone else first. And I wasn’t prepared for the noise. My God, how I crave quiet some days. But I couldn’t imagine it any other way, and despite the challenges my kiddos have brought with them, I wouldn’t trade a single minute of it.
I pretty much hit the jackpot when it comes to mothers. My mom is kind, patient, nonjudgmental, giving, and easy to be around. We never really went through the “I hate you, you suck” stage. When I was a kid, she was always there, a steady presence in our lives from the moment we woke up to the moment we went to bed. I’m sure she didn’t always feel patient, and I’m sure there are plenty of times she yelled at me and my brothers, but when I think back on my childhood, those aren’t the times I remember. Those aren’t the feelings I remember. Instead I recall knowing I was loved and knowing that my mother (and my father too, but sorry Dad, this one’s for Mom) would always be there if I needed help. Even as an adult, I know this is true. My mother is still only a phone call or a few hours’ drive away, and I know how lucky I am that I can still turn to her, even if I need her in a different way than I once did. I try to remember this in my frazzled and less than stellar moments. If I can impart upon my children the absolute certainty that they are loved and the knowledge that I am always here if they need me, then I’ve done my job well.
To my own mom, thank you for not only being a wonderful mother to me, but thank you for showing me how to be a good mother to my own girls. And to all you moms out there who are doing your best to keep your head above water, don’t worry about the clean house or the chore wheel or whether all of the broccoli gets eaten before ice cream. It’s not what will be remembered. Happy Mother’s Day to all.