I have a confession.
It is not what mothers are supposed to say. It is “wrong.”
But I believe in living an authentic life, and so, with that, comes revealing things that you normally would not in order to maintain a shiny veneer for your family, Facebook friends, and colleagues.
My big, dirty secret is that I am a working mother, and I would not have it any other way. Well, unless it meant I could keep my kids in daycare and not work—in that case, sign me up.
See, doesn’t that come across as backward, mean, and lazy? I imagine readers thinking: Why would she even have kids if she was not going to raise them herself? What is the point? I would have seen it that way too…before I had children.
Now I know what mothers have known for a long time, but perhaps never really talked about because there was simply no advantage to revealing weakness, especially if it did not change your circumstances.
But I can freely say, with absolutely zero reservation, that being a mom is hard. Not the love part. Loving your children is the easiest, most natural inclination there is (thanks mother nature). I loved my two the moment I found out I was pregnant, and meeting them at the birth only confirmed my adoration for these little souls.
However, I am not talking about maternal love. I am speaking instead about the day-to-day grind of being a mother. It is an entirely different and savage animal. It takes patience (something I am self-aware enough to know that I intrinsically lack), fortitude, physical strength, mental and emotional balance in the face of obstacles—and of course, sheer willpower to do what needs to be done even though it may be the last thing you want to do at that moment.
For example, last night my oldest son, Nash, did not want to go to bed. I was exhausted after my reveille at 4 a.m. with his younger brother. Nash sensed my weakness and instead of complying with my firm, (yet obviously not convincing enough) demands that he go brush his teeth, use the potty, and go to bed, he happily said, “No mommy.”
Mommy looks tired. The iPad could be mine all night, teeth brushing be damned, I imagined he said to himself.
And it could have turned out that way, I was that tired. But then I would’ve felt like I was failing, and he is only four for God’s sake, and I needed to get it together and get him to listen to me. After a brief, albeit boisterous, back and forth, Nash did what I asked him to do and was asleep within minutes of laying down.
I use this mundane, everyday experience to illustrate my point. It is such an honor to be responsible for another life, but the long days of doing what has to be done in order to keep that life going, is incredibly tough.
I am so thankful that I have a full-time job to release me from that drudgery, at least temporarily. And in that space, I grant myself (through work completely unrelated to motherhood) room for reflection and growth. I believe that because it is absolutely true for me, a mother who creates space to nurture her selfish desires and curiosity about life brings so much more richness to her and her children’s lives. The result is that everyone benefits from it in the end.
I am incredibly happy to be a mother. Every day, I am challenged: I learn something new about humanity, become more empathetic and grounded, and release any remaining vestiges of my ego due to some embarrassing event at a store or restaurant.
I am a better person because I am so tightly bonded to these other humans, but I am not ashamed to admit that, come Monday morning, after a long weekend with the kids, I am ready to drop them off at school with a kiss and get to work. There, I can think without distraction or take a sip of hot coffee without having to break up a fight.
Motherhood is a wild, ever-evolving time in the life of a woman. It comes with so many challenges, ones that no one can really prepare you for.
My little sister is thinking about having her first baby, and even though I feel like I’m constantly telling her about what new craziness I’m experiencing with my boys, I am so excited for her because I know her life is really about to begin.
She will be elevated to another dimension of stress, sleeplessness, and aggravation, but with that also comes the emergence of a love for another person that I know I had never experienced before having children myself.
It is truly indescribable, but also incredibly simple: You just love them completely. I tell my sister that it is this instinctive, powerful drive that keeps me going when motherhood gets tough.
But I also tell her not to quit her day job.
Author: Lizzie Carlile
Image: Tony Alter/ Flickr
Editor: Deb Jarrett