It has been a hard day. Scratch that, a hard week. No, you know what, this year has been the most challenging year of my life. I’ve got to break it down here for you, you’re reading a mom blog written by a woman who isn’t even sure she’s cut out to be a mom. So I guess we are both in a weird place, eh?
So here I am confessing the thing that we are not supposed to say: motherhood totally sucks. And I’m worried that it’s just me that feels this way, like I’m missing that part of my DNA that makes this whole thing fulfilling. In this world of social media where people only seem to post the most beautiful parts of motherhood (myself included), it’s really hard to feel like anyone else is in the same boat as you.
I am in this boat. And it feels like the boat is slowing sinking. I spend an entire day bailing out water only for it to refill when I sleep at night and it’s more water than I bailed out the entire day before. And I’m not even doing this alone, which makes me feel even more guilty about how I’m feeling. There are women out there parenting alone. There are people out there with children that have special needs or are just challenging in general. But here I am bailing water in a boat with a million holes and, in a month, I’m upgrading to two boats.
They tell you motherhood is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but also the most rewarding. So far, I’ve seen the first part. It comes in waves. You feel like you might have a handle on what is happening, you’ve dealt with one hole that’s been causing you problems, but another leak springs and you’re back to where you started, or it’s even worse. But at this point, I’m struggling to see the reward.
They’ve lied to us. Don’t ask who “they” are, but it’s true. We are told how love is supposed to feel, that rush of emotions that fill you with bittersweet butterflies. They tell us when we are children about romantic love and love at first sight and how it’s all about feeling. It is not about feeling. I learned as a teen that love sometimes has feelings involved, but mostly, it’s a decision. Motherhood love is the same. It’s the decision every day to put this little person ahead of your needs, with no way of it being reciprocated. With romantic love, you are supposed to take care of each other and that magical “us.” There is no “us” between mother and baby. It is always baby, baby, baby, baby.
So the things I used to define myself by are gone. My days are filled with little to no adult conversation. My vocabulary is reduced to single syllable words, the most used being “no.” My house is always messy, not cluttered, but downright disgusting. I’ve put on weight (and not just because of the pregnancy). I don’t do the things that I used to love. The film buff has become unable to focus on anything that lasts longer than fifteen minutes. The video game geek plays Pokemon Mystery Dungeon because the game can be paused at any second. The voracious reader has read 10 books this year, when she used to be able to do that in a summer. The socialite has seen one person in person this week. The pianist hasn’t touched the piano in a year because Monkey doesn’t like how loud it is. The writer writes maybe 1500 words per week if naps are going okay and there’s not so much water in the boat that she’s drowning.
My energy is gone, but I have no idea where it went. At the end of the day, I’ve accomplished nothing. My house is no cleaner than it was the day before. My book is no more finished. My marriage is no more healthy, in fact it’s probably the opposite.
And I’m asked “Can you imagine life without Monkey?”
Of course I can. I remember the messy house that I could spend a whole day cleaning uninterrupted. I remember the excess time where I could focus on things I loved to do. I remember that stress was about getting all my schoolwork done or why somebody at work was being a jerk. Now my stress revolves around keeping another human being alive while not going crazy myself.
But I make the decision every day to be Monkey’s mom, not just biologically, but emotionally too. I make the decision when I’m crying because I’ve not slept enough, when he’s broken something dear to my heart, when I can’t stand the mess in my house, but I have no ability to fix it. And sometimes I make the decision because I know that I don’t really have any other choice. Not because I couldn’t live any other way, but because I’d have to live without everything else–my family, friends, husband. And I hate myself for saying that. My little ones deserve a mom who would choose them every time and every day because she needs them more than they need her.
But that’s not our reality. Our reality is that I would go back and tell myself to wait a year, two years before attempting to be a mother. But I guess there is hope in that I know I would never go back to tell myself not to do it at all. There’s also hope in that it physically pains me to think about Monkey hurting. That my biggest failure would be for him not to feel loved, no matter how hard it was for me that day.
So I guess what I’m saying is that the reward that motherhood promises us isn’t that rush of emotions. Because, for the most part, you are so exhausted that you can’t feel anything. Yes, Monkey is starting to figure out how to walk. Yes, this new baby kicks every time it hears Monkey giggle. Yes, Monkey tries to cuddle with the dog (even though they both have never been cuddlers). But the Hallmark moments with the inspiring music and the soft glow do not exist. You don’t get to enjoy them from the comfy spot on the couch with a cup of something warm in your hands. You watch them unfold part way through dishes or when you are trying to stuff something in your mouth because you haven’t eaten at all that day and it’s 3 pm or when your kid was supposed to be sleeping two hours ago and you need that nap just as badly as they do.
The reward, at least when they’re small, is the dreaded character building that hard times afford you. I know with all certainty that most of what I did today was done unselfishly and that makes me feel a little better. I know that Monkey isn’t going to remember the sacrifices I made and, in time, I hope I won’t either. The reward now is knowing that each act of unselfishness I do now will hopefully result in a caring, compassionate human being. I’m working towards the long term reward.
If you’re feeling the way I am feeling, I want you to know you’re not alone in feeling it. I’ve got no advice or assurances for you because I’m not convinced I’m the best person for this job. But just know that I am in the trenches with you. I’m bailing beside you. And I’m not judging whatever it is that you’re doing because I can imagine what your day has been like today. And I’m proud of you for making the decision to be a mom.