Moms are constantly force-fed the message that they HAVE to enjoy every second. I can’t always be a happy mom – and it turns out that can be a good thing.
It starts when you announce that you’re expecting. It doesn’t matter if you’re suffering from all of the worst side-effects of pregnancy all at once; people seem to come out of the woodwork telling you that this is a precious time that they would give anything to have back, and you should enjoy it before it’s gone forever.
Sure, they may be telling you this as you vomit in a public restroom’s unsightly toilet. You might have an older woman encouraging you to cherish every minute even as you’re gagging at the scent of her perfume and praying that she walks away quickly because you’re trying to hide the unrelenting gas-bloat you’ve had for three weeks. You’re also hoping she doesn’t say anything that’ll make you start crying (because you cry 15 times a day), which might smear the thick layer of makeup hiding your severely broken-out skin. Also, you have to pee. Always. Somehow, all these women that corner you at church or in the supermarket claiming that they stay awake at night lamenting the emptiness of their wombs now that their children are in college have forgotten that pregnant women always have to pee. Long conversations that you can’t pause for a bathroom break just shouldn’t happen.
The guilt only increases when your baby is born. You might not have slept more than three hours (not even contiguously) in the last three days; you might have a bra-ful of painful, bleeding nursers; you might have just spent the last five hours pacing the floor in a zombie-like state, singing every song you can think of until your voice threatens to give out, only to have your fussing baby suddenly puke on your shoulder and poop on your shirt simultaneously – and still, someone will look you right in your swollen, red-rimmed eyes and tell you that the newborn stage goes by too quickly and you’ll regret it forever unless you are soaking in the miracle.
Does being drenched in another human being’s pee count as “soaking in a miracle”? Because, if so, consider me soaked.
And, of course, just when your day is the worst – just when you feel like you want to scream and cry and break something and then sit in a hot bath eating frosting out of a can – you’re reminded of all the women who struggle with fertility. Your stress is now compounded with guilt. You’re one of the lucky ones – one of the women blessed with a gift that other women would give their lives for. How dare you not appreciate every nano-second of that blessing? How dare you?
The funny thing about guilt trips is how rarely they take you to the desired destination. If the purpose of telling an exhausted, stressed-out mother of young children that she’s lucky to have kids at all because others struggle with infertility is to make her appreciate her situation, it’s not a very good plan.
There’s so much pressure to love every minute. There’s a prevalent (and false) idea out there that if you dare let a moment of your child’s youth slip away unappreciated, you’re somehow spitting in the face of every woman who’s wanted a child, but been unable to have one.
I’m not advocating for complaining about our kids. As much as I sometimes want to vent, I try to be sensitive to the situations of my friends and keep any negative expressions under wraps around them. But honestly, it would be nice, once in awhile, to just be able to say “THIS IS REALLY HARD, AND RIGHT NOW, IT’S NOT ANY FUN AT ALL” without fear of judgment.
Seriously, there are things that are just not fun – not under any circumstances. I don’t care who you are and what you’ve been through – nothing, but nothing, is fun about having a child shoot poop (yes, *shoot* poop) out of their derriere and all over their car seat *just* as you and your hubby were getting in the car.
Yes, that really happened to us – and no, we didn’t quite make it to church that morning. It was going to be the first time I’d gone anywhere in weeks, and I was looking forward to it. Instead, the car seat had to be unhooked, brought into the house, disassembled, the fabric pieces laundered and the plastic pieces disinfected. Of course, the baby had to be cleaned and changed, too. But babies don’t cooperate with stuff like that, so the wriggling poopy person in your arms manages to also poopify you and your entire bathroom. You’ll need a shower and a change of clothes, but first, you get to do some scrubbing.
In that moment -which was actually several hours – I wasn’t a happy mom.
The other day, I was in a fairly contemplative mood, and I posted the following on my personal Facebook page:
“Sometimes, I see little flashes of personalities or quick expressions from the kids, and, just for a moment, I see into the future. I see a fearless, know-it-all teen boy who makes me laugh when I’m desperately trying to stay mad at him. I see a passionate beauty who scares away spineless men with her intensity. I realize that my time as “mommy” is so short, and these baby birds will grow up to scare the living hell out of me on a daily basis, just before they fly away from me to be whatever they will be as adults.
It chokes me up.
But, inevitably, someone fills a diaper *with something unholy,* and I slip back into feeling like I will be changing diapers and finding dried snot on my sweater *after* going out in public for the rest of my life.
Thank God for the poop and the boogers. If it weren’t for them, I’d never do anything at the end of the day but cry because I was one day closer to the day they’d be “grown.”
I made myself cry while I wrote it. Granted, it’s not that hard to make me cry – but still, I realized just how raw the idea of the future can be. Especially on the best days we have together, I can’t think about the kids growing up without crying.
It’s too fast. It’s just too darn fast. They’re getting so big, and they’ll be gone so soon.
I can hardly endure the idea.
I never understood the losses and vulnerability that are built inherently into motherhood until I became a mother. I had a comfortable assumption that motherhood would just be like loving my friends, my family, or my husband. Loving relationships all pretty much work the same way, right?
But they don’t. Not because the love is any bigger, necessarily – but because other relationships can be sustained, whereas motherhood will inevitably change.
If we work on our relationship, my hubby and I will always love each other in roughly the same way. The emotional aspects may come and go, but the potential is there for us to always enjoy each other as we do now – as companions, as equals, as each other’s “second self” (if you get the reference, I like you).
The same is more or less true of every other friendship or relationship in my life. As long as I’m interested in maintaining the relationship, and the other person is, too, we can stay friends, just like always.
But not so with motherhood. I can work on the relationship all I want, and things will still change. Both my children were born needing me constantly. They needed me to feed them. They needed me to change them. They needed my cuddles to help them thrive. And, since we were bonded to each other, they needed my voice, my scent, my heartbeat.
It’s already changed so much, and it’s only been a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them years. Baby A is still somewhat dependent on me – but K, who is almost three years old, doesn’t need me as much as she once did. In fact, she wants to need me even less. Every day she tries to gain more independence, from putting on her own shoes to picking out her own pajamas. She can open a banana by herself. She can get water from the sink. She can use the potty. She can sleep all night alone. She can spend weekends at Grandma’s.
Our relationship has changed – and it will change more, and more, and more.
When they were born, I couldn’t have imagined being away from my babies for more than an hour or two. Now, they can be away for a whole day without anyone freaking out. Someday, for college, or a job, or because they’re in love, they might be gone for months – or years. My babies will be “flown,” and there will be nothing I will be able to do (and nothing I should do) to make them come back to the nest.
The thought makes me want to go wake Baby A up so I can squish his little fat thighs and smell his hair. I could also go and just hold my sweet K and rock her – but she’s already too grown up for the other things. She’s thinned out, and her hair just smells like shampoo. She’s not a baby anymore.
She’ll never be a baby again.
That part already happened. She was born, and for a few years, she was a baby. I loved it. But it’s over now.
Today, she sassed me. She’s got a good vocabulary, and for some reason, she woke up wanting to only use her “mean words.” We had a long day in which I tried to keep my patience and my temper in check, and she tried every tactic she knew to make me lose it.
And for that, I thank God.
Truthfully, I’m glad that today was a bad day. K was in a bad mood and never snapped out of it - which was awesome, because I got to spend almost an entire day not thinking about how much I’ll miss her when she leaves me.
I need days like that. I need to have the kids push my buttons. I need them to have ridiculously disgusting bodily functions, and I need them to throw dramatic screaming tantrums on occasion.
I need these things, because I need things that I know I won’t miss. The things that make me want to scream are, in a strange way, the reprieve that I need in order to enjoy the other moments – the wonderful ones.
I don’t want my kids to stay little forever. I hope to someday sleep through the night again, and to go a whole day without touching someone else’s bottom. I hope to someday eat with my children without having to pick food off the floor afterwards, and to have conversations with them that don’t involve being gentle with our hands. I’m glad that I’m stressed out and exhausted in this phase, because it won’t be quite as hard to leave it behind.
These blessed, horrible, wonderful days are flying by – thank God I don’t love them all.
I’d never survive losing them if I did.