Mother’s Day is not my favorite holiday. Now you know. It always feels forced. I never feel like I measure up to the ideal mother – patient, unconditionally loving, cheerleader, kind, selfless, thrifty, loyal, brave, reverent…oops. Got the Boy Scout oath mixed up in there.
Our culture has painted motherhood into a saintly corner. Mothers, on the eve of this most holy of maternal days, have the sun shining out of every orifice. They can do no wrong. They receive misshapen clay pots to honor exercising their ability to procreate. Mothers accept homage in the form of flowers also, either cut or potted, perhaps as a symbol of their erstwhile fertility. Hallmark dedicated an entire industry to this day to acknowledge the one who carried us in their abdomen for 9 months and then pushed us out of their hoo-hoos.
Something should be done. But I don’t relate to the Hallmark version of becoming a mother. I find it too idealized and remote. Let’s start with this: Motherhood does wonky stuff to your body. Stretch marks. Saggy mammaries. Widened hips and bigger feet, to name a few. It’s like an evil fairy godmother waved her twig of mortification and said, Dignity be gone! It’d be comical if it happened to someone else. The first six months with a newborn go by in a sleepless blur of feedings, changing diapers and changing your own urped-on clothes over and over. Getting to bathe becomes a luxury. Your short-term memory evaporates. Taking off the last
20 30 lbs can be a struggle.
Motherhood also messes with your heart. Where you once were only two, now there are three to account for. The little one’s needs take center stage. As you care for your swaddled bundle of joy, you become attached. Somewhere in the midst of the relentless crazy of night turned day and day turned night, you find yourself cooing made-up lullabies while your baby nods off, smiling in their moonlit crib. Your own wants and needs fade into the background until one day you realize you’ve forgotten who you are. You freak out a bit, casting about for your old self. Where did she go?
In truth, you haven’t forgotten. You didn’t lose yourself. You merely set it aside for a time. You claimed girl, daughter, possibly sister, maybe wife and now mother. You’ve now added another layer. You’ve changed forever, inside and out. Your heart expanded to connect another chamber. You can expect more sleepless nights, thou lover of coffee. But you also receive hugs and kisses from someone you helped bring into the world, at least before they hit their teens. Amazing.
I applaud the opportunity to mother. This Hallmark version of mothering, however, I do not recognize. My kids and I don’t behave perfectly. I get impatient. They get mad. I mess up. We all learn to extend forgiveness to ourselves and to each other. Love covers. And I have nothing against women who choose not to have babies or who can’t for whatever reason. They have their own magical journey, paths I won’t be able to explore. But motherhood is my road. I’m following it home.