Each of our kids have gone through rough seasons. Ones that made us question everything about ourselves and our parenting. There was the Pterodactyl scream, the hitting and biting, the not wanting to eat any food except butter and chocolate, and the tantrums that were (are) like having our very own fire breathing dragon.
We are still riding some of those waves, and I know we will hit other waves in the future.
We’ve gotten lots of well-intentioned advice along the way. Some of it was helpful, some of it was not. I believe in the “village” and I’m grateful we aren’t on our own when it comes to parenthood, however, I’ve learned that it shouldn’t come at the cost of my self confidence.
I see the tension in your eyes and your shoulders when you walk through the door from a job you don’t enjoy. You grab the kids and wrestle them as they gather around you like a gang of seagulls hungry for your attention. “Dad, dad, dad!” the little one says while the big one tells you a story neither of us can follow.
“Hey babe” I say, and we exchange an understanding glance. You are tired; you are discouraged; and you are wondering why you can’t seem to find “the thing” that makes you come alive. Since you were a boy you’ve dreamed of “the thing”; when you were in high school you were full of hope for “the thing”; in your twenties you wondered why you hadn’t found “the thing”. Now you’re in your thirties and you’re tired.
I went into motherhood with a heart full of idealism and crushing expectations (on myself). Almost immediately the mom guilt came in. First in whispers, then in overwhelming obsessive thoughts. You should love breastfeeding, good moms LOVE breastfeeding; they don’t count the days until it’s over. Why aren’t you cleaner and more organized? You should really be making your own baby food. Why don’t you know how to make your baby stop crying? You should know how to comfort him. Why don’t you want to do more “face time” with your baby? Good moms don’t get bored of playing with their kids. Why haven’t you finished those parenting books? YOU HAVEN’T TAKEN YOU THREE YEAR OLD TO THE DENTIST YET?? Why are you so overwhelmed? You don’t have anything to be overwhelmed about. You should have started that money management envelope system YESTERDAY. Look you made him cry; why are you so impatient? You shouldn’t feel mad, good moms don’t feel angry inside. Who gets angry at a kid? You look like a slob; wash your face forgodsakes. Pizza three times this week?? What are you trying to do, poison your kids?
I always wanted a daughter. After two babies never made it earth-side, I ached and longed and prayed and cried for you. Every dream I had paled in comparison to my dream of you; and then you came. You came quickly like a tornado on a wild night that I will remember for the rest of my life.
What I felt for you was something I’d never felt before. I became a mother to a daughter, and I was born all over again.
Someone shared this post from Autumn Benjamin with me and I fell in love with it immediately. This. Is. Motherhood.
This is beautiful, messy, scary-as-hell, incredible motherhood.
Sometimes I think we picture a “mother’s love” as evening snuggles on the couch with Goodnight Moon, or making cookies on a rainy day. When we don’t get to those things as often as we’d like, we feel we’ve failed. Those things are a mother’s love, but there are so many other ways that we “love” that goes unsung and unappreciated. I have friends who love their kids in the most heroic and the most ordinary ways, and their kids may never know or understand their depth of sacrifice.
Today I want to honor you and all the ways your love goes unseen.
My husband had a vasectomy. I was overwhelmed with four kids under six and I knew even though I’d keep having babies forever, it was time to be done. My anxiety was through the roof and I was hanging on by a thread. I didn’t think I’d be the best mom to my other four if I added more to the madness.
So we decided to do it and I was only a little sad. That moment of holding a new baby on my chest felt like nothing short of an encounter with Heaven, but I thought, my arms are full and so is my heart.
I thought it would be easy because I had four already; our family was complete.
Today I wish I could go back. I wish I could go back and hold you as an infant. I wish I could smell your skin and rock you just a little longer. I wish I could be still and feel that moment just one more time.
When I look at pictures of you in your toddler years with your round cheeks and pudgy hands, I smile. Inside my heart breaks a little bit because I wish I could squeeze you as you ask me a billion questions in your tiny voice, just one more time.
From the time I was a little girl, I had unrealistic expectations of myself. Part of it came from being a firstborn child, I think. I stressed about grades, my hair being just right, being “good”, and never ever disappointing anyone. Anything less than “perfect” was failing and torpedoed me into a shame-storm. It wasn’t “I messed up”; it was “I am messed up”.
I am a messy, scatterbrained, free spirit by nature, so I was constantly “failing” the so-called standards. Perfectionism was a merciless dictator in my life, and it manifested in stress, anxiety, isolation, depression, and eventually an eating disorder.
I wish you knew that sometimes when the house is dark and quiet, I come in and watch you breathe for a minute. I wonder there in the stillness if you know how much I love you. I think about the things I could have said differently, and I wonder if you let my mistakes roll off of you or if they stuck. I hope and pray there in the stillness that you would know how deeply and widely I love you.