Mother's Day is upon us, and I find that this day always makes me think about the parts of motherhood that I didn't expect. There are good and bad sides to this. For some of us, our idea of motherhood before it happens it a shiny, idealized version, filled with warm cookies and snuggly babies, a utopian vision of having it all. For others, motherhood is the dark twisted version, filled with unfulfilled promises and insufficient love, a failed attempt at steadiness. No matter what your experience of motherhood is before you have kids, the reality, once we’re doing it, lies somewhere in the middle.
I love being a mother (most days) and I couldn’t imagine my life without kids (most days), but like most parts of life it’s not without its complexities. There have been a lot of facets of motherhood that I didn’t expect. It’s a complicated undertaking, this raising of humans business, and I suppose it’s hard to understand until you’re doing it. As much as it was explained to me, as much as I thought I got it… I didn’t. And I find myself surprised over and over again.
I didn’t expect to struggle so much. I thought I’d be so good at this—patient and loving, gentle but firm. Instead, I find myself losing my temper all too frequently. I yell. I point my finger. I guilt. These were not things I wanted to do, and I do them in spite of myself. I didn’t expect to feel like a failure so often. Failing my own expectations, my children’s expectations, society’s expectations—there’s a lot to live up to.
I didn’t expect every new phase throw me for a loop. The thing you learn quickly about parenting is that just as you think you have something figured out, your kid will go and change. Every time. Even with a 9 year old and a 7 year old, even as we’ve entered this wonderful phase of more independence, I still find myself baffled by each new challenge, each new stumbling block. I didn’t expect that even after nearly a decade of parenting, I still feel like a rookie.
I didn’t expect the profound loneliness that comes with becoming a mother. I imagined I was joining this great sisterhood—a place in which we could all band together and support each other without judgement. And while I have been lucky enough to find my own little sisterhood to help support me and buoy me and remind me that I can do this while I do the same for them, we’re still alone in this so much of the time. I hadn’t expected the weight of motherhood to leave me gasping as often as it has.
I didn’t expect the deep cellular fierceness with which I would love my kids and need to protect them. As cliché as it sounds, I didn’t truly understand love until I had my babies, and now my intense need to protect them is overwhelming. I didn’t expect to be so frightened for them all the time. I didn’t expect to feel so helpless as they grow older and I can’t fix everything for them.
I didn’t expect to be so grateful to have two of them. Both my Smartner and I are only children, and we weren’t totally sure about having more than one kid. When our little one came along and we saw the complete adoration between them, it was impossible to imagine life without both of them. Watching the joy and love and support and protection they bring each other is overwhelmingly beautiful, and I never expected to be so grateful that they have each other.
There’s a lot about motherhood, and parenthood in general, that’s impossible to expect. I find myself bowled over by the beauty and difficulties over and over again. And so, to honor the dark and the light, the surprises and unexpected parts, I wanted to do a series that reflects the complexities of motherhood as it really is. The next few posts at Smarty Mommies will reflect the unexpected, for better or worse, and how we navigate that.
I invite you to read, to share the parts of motherhood that you never expected, and to know that whether it was good or bad, joyous or difficult, lonely or fulfilling, you’re not alone. We see you, Mama, and we’re with you.