Before having children, I had a very romanticized idea of motherhood. Sure, I knew it would be hard. But I visualized the beautiful moments ahead: cuddling in bed with my baby in the mornings, sharing favorite books at bedtime, exploring the seashore, and jumping in puddles. I thought I would feel competent and purposeful, and yes, love every moment.
What a reality check I was in for.
As a stay-at-home mom to a 3-year-old and a baby, those amazing moments felt few and far between. I felt utterly dragged down by the monotony of it all—not by the moments with my children but all the other work that comes with parenting. Preparing numerous snacks throughout the day, which were often discarded in disgust, making purees and then later dealing with the inevitable food explosion on the highchair, the floor, and the walls. Packing the bags and ordering groceries and keeping on top of the mountain of washing. Finding lost toys, returning the library books, scheduling appointments, and brushing teeth.
In the midst of all this, it often felt like there was no time just to be with my children.
Just constant doing that overwhelmed me, and I never ever felt on top of it all. Living this way left me feeling defeated by bedtime more often than not. I felt like my children were growing and blooming in front of my eyes, yet I was missing it all.
The sleep deprivation, constant noise, and their often conflicting needs left me feeling stretched in two directions and chasing my tail. It turns out there’s a lot of repetition in motherhood, so much behind-the-scenes work that I’d never considered before becoming a mother. The special bonding moments are just one small part of it.
For me, I needed a huge switch in mindset. First, the realization that this journey is often not enjoyable. I had to let go of the guilt of not always loving this life I so desperately wanted. And that is OK. It doesn’t mean I love my children any less.
It took me a long time to be able to acknowledge I wasn’t always going to enjoy my new life as a mom. And even longer to accept that this gig is hard. Really, really hard. Harder than anything else I have ever done. And that is OK. It doesn’t mean I’m failing, or I’m not cut out for this.
It’s just that hard.
I often come back to a quote from Glennon Doyle in her book Untamed, “Being human is not hard because you’re doing it wrong, it’s hard because you’re doing it right. You will never change the fact that being human is hard, so you must change your idea that it was ever supposed to be easy.”
This idea applies to motherhood too. So on those days when it all feels impossible, when I’m exhausted and touched out and feel like I’m about to crack open, I think to myself, It’s hard because I’m doing it right.
It’s in these challenging times that I grow the most. If this life was easy, I wouldn’t have been pulled apart and put back together again in an incredible process of transformation, expansion, and evolution. And on those days when I feel the waves of overwhelm crashing over me and I’m feeling constantly needed, needed, needed by my children, I take a breath. A really big, deep, lung-filling one. And I look for the beauty. It might be hard to find. I have to squint amongst the piles of dishes, the uneaten snacks so lovingly prepared, the paint smeared on the table, and bark scattered on the floor . . .
But there it is.
The cheeky smile my daughter flashes as I nurse her and she gazes deep into my eyes. The way my son tries to get his jacket on, persisting over and over until he gets there, face scrunched in frustration, and then a spark of accomplishment. The sound as he sings peacefully under his breath as he plays. Watching my daughter pull herself up on the side of the couch on wobbly, dimpled legs—pride beaming from her face.
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It would be easy to miss these moments, caught up in the endless tasks and drudgery of the everyday. But I need these moments to keep me going. So I remind myself to stop, to look, to feel, to be.
When I do, the beauty of this life of mine takes my breath away. And the magic in these moments makes all the hard ones worth it.