The Secret Side of Motherhood
I told a friend recently that once survival mode passes, you have to learn how to live again. That's something no one tells you about having a "bundle of joy." I'm sure that some parents seamlessly invite a new baby into their home and don't skip a beat, but they live in Narnia and rely on lions for parenting advice. Without exception, every mother I talk to struggles. Not all the time. Not every day. But sometimes. Maybe a lot of the time. Yet we are the only ones who think we struggle. Why?
You've probably heard the saying, "Motherhood is the best kept secret" - I hadn't - but I wish as fuck I HAD BEFORE HAVING A KID so I coulda freaked out and demanded that everyone spill the secret before I squirted amniotic fluid on them (which I couldn't have done but I feel like it's a pretty solid threat coming from a bulgy pregnant woman). At least this kind of behaviour might have tipped someone off to the impending time of postpartum doom that I was to experience, now affectionately known the Pit of Despair (if you get that reference, you win 100,000 Jackie Points which can be redeemed for hugs both real or virtual at any time). The really annoying thing is: Why is motherhood it such a secret?
I was having coffee with a friend and she is fascinated by this question. Why do we all go through hell and act like we don't? It's weird, no? I mean, I'm not the first to discover the insanity of motherhood - although when you do discover it you feel like you've found the Holy Grail and then you're like, if everybody has the Holy Grail and nobody's talking about it, is it because it's a bad thing? And yes - while the Holy Grail is not a bad thing - as we all know from Monty Python - the secret side of motherhood is such a "bad" thing that we are shamed into silence.
I don't want to retread the same path here, and I also don't want to write one of those obnoxious posts about how all the sacrifices are worth it because your kids are the jewels around you neck - blah, blah, blah. I'm not saying that this isn't (arguably) true, just that when I was in the Pit of Despair - and every mother has one - these kinds of posts didn't really help. Because when you are in it, you are really IN IT. You can't see the forest for the trees. And I'm not talking postpartum here. I'm talking about those exhausting days when there is one more tantrum, one more piece of cucumber spit out onto the floor, one more fill-in-the-blank that makes you light-headed and wanting to reach for the box of wine. Like I said, every mother has a Pit of Despair. Some are just deeper than others. (Not to brag, but mine was pretty deep AND full of ROUSes. Wait - that was Fire Swamp. In any case, it was ugly).
Instead of an "it all gets better" post, I figure I'll just share some of the things that get me through.
Even though you think your child will forever take and never give anything back except poopy diapers and the occasional gas-induced smile, they spontaneously say "I love you" (mind you, you have to wait until they are about two) and your heart will literally explode and squirt blood EVERYWHERE and cover all the walls of your house.
You will see a mother you know and respect walking out in the world exercising and you will think to yourself - I will be able to exercise on my own again! In the world! Mind you, this mother has a teenage daughter - BUT STILL.
You will realize that you contribute something to your parents lives - even if that is mainly reproducing yourself - and so you have that to look forward to.
You begin to see a light at the end of the baby tunnel and it is SO BRIGHT that it hurts your eyes. You buy shades for yourself and your growing Noodle because you know that despite the difficulty, there are better things to come. Mostly because, THERE HAS TO BE!!!
Having a child gets progressively less boring. Let's face it, babies are kinda boring. Maybe more like, really boring. Little kids equal excitement. Exhausting, sometimes whiny excitement - again, BUT STILL.
You have the privilege of giving someone a childhood. Not that you didn't have, but that they need, and that will make them good, kind humans. You hope.
You can help others moms and give them the biggest gift by telling them what your Pit of Despair looks like. I recommend drinking wine while you swap stories about your respectively Pits of Despair. Unless your friend is one of those girls who always cries at parties. Then don't. Just don't.
You will go on trips with this tiny creature and they will bring a spirit of joy and adventure with them because they are kids. And kids are magical.
They will one day wipe their own butt and feed themselves without using the cat as a napkin. I think.
I've been waiting a long time for a mother with more age and experience than me to tell me that gets SO MUCH BETTER. I think they have and maybe I haven't been able to hear them and/or they don't know what to say to me because they can tell from this blog that I am both sensitive and angry *insert winky tongue-sticking-out emoji here*. Yesterday a mom with more age and experience said to me, "This is it until the day I die" speaking to how she will always be her children's mother, even though they are now grown. It's what she signed up for, she said, unless she doesn't want to be a mom anymore.
The best part of that conversation was that it didn't scare me. It simply felt like the truth. My truth as well as hers. Motherhood, as I've mentioned before, is a life sentence.
I might be tired, and I might get all fragile and anxious at times, but I'm not afraid - or as afraid - as I once was. That feels like a victory. But the only way I've found out of the fear is to talk about it. To make motherhood less of a secret. Because everyone suffers under the weight of a secret. And most of us, most of the time, find freedom in the truth.
One of the bravest things we can do is speak our truths as mothers - not just because it will set us free - but because it sets others free to be the kind of mothers they want to be.
Pits of Despair and all.