Motherhood is full of contradictions. Just last night, I was counting down the minutes until my children went to bed so I could have some quiet time and a chance to be productive. But after breathing a sigh of relief at the sight of their sleeping faces, I suddenly felt bored in my way-too-quiet house. “Let’s wake up the kids,” I joked to my husband, missing their silliness.
Less than an hour later, my wish was granted. My infant son rolled onto his belly, popped his head up, and beamed at me like he was ready to party. Nooooo! I thought to myself. This cannot be happening! See, I live for spending time with my kids, yet I love when they’re asleep. Am I wrong to feel this way?
Popular blogger and mother of four, Liz Petrone says no way. In her recent Facebook post shared on Love What Matters that has since gone viral, Petrone beautifully captures the complexities of being a mom, a woman, and a person. She starts out by saying, “I am both.” Then, she gives an example:
“I’m both ‘I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT THIS SECOND’ and ‘I hope you don’t expect me to put that bra back on and go anywhere.’”
I know I can’t be the only mama who shook her head in agreement on that one. (Bras are the worst, but having a reason to wear one every now and again is pretty important, too).
But that’s only one of the many relatable truths Petrone shares. She goes on to say, “I am at once ‘why do my friends never invite me places anymore?’ and ‘oh great, how am I going to get out of this one?’”
Petrone tells Babble that she began thinking about this “idea of both” after her mother died when she was 37 weeks pregnant. “When my son was born a few weeks later, I really had to make space in my heart … [for] both death and birth, both grief and joy, both loss and new life. It was at once the worst time in my life and the greatest. That theme has stuck with me through the last couple of years and I’ve really started to explore it in my writing. What I’ve found is that in most ways, most of the time, we all have one foot on each side.”
In her widely shared post, Petrone touches on some of the challenges and insecurities we all face as moms, making it clear there’s nothing black and white about these feelings:
“I am ‘I’m so embarrassed my house is a disaster,’ and I’m ‘judge me, fedex guy, I freaking dare you.’
I’m together sucking it all in until the day I die and proud of the beautiful belly I’ve earned.”
Petrone tells Babble that she feels there is so much pressure in our society to “categorize a person or event or experience or feeling into one box or another, when really the truth is life is so much more nuanced than that.”
Through these down-to-earth confessions, Petrone not only demonstrates how conflicting our feelings can be, but how valid they are to coexist.
“I’m quinoa and bone broth and whole 30,” she writes, “and I’m chips and dip and caramel lattes and a too-big glass of chilled wine with ice on the front porch.”
That one cracked me up, because right?!
Through her eloquent words, Petrone normalizes the internal contradictions we experience every day, yet judge ourselves for too often. Through owning all of these opposing aspects of her identity, Petrone helps give her readers permission to do the same. Mothers don’t have to be “either, or” – they can be “both, and.” We can be both ready for our kids to go to sleep and not ready to be without them.
“I want people to know that it’s okay, it’s HUMAN, to be in both places at once,” Petrone says. “Nothing in life is one-dimensional, and how boring would it be if it was? There’s so much beauty in how complicated we are. It’s not a flaw.” Amen to that.
Petrone also points out that we can be mothers and individuals, stating, “It makes us better mothers if we remember ourselves as well.”
In closing, Petrone admits:
“I’m a mom, and I’m still me.
I’m afraid, and I’m still doing it.
I’m lonely, and I’m blessed.
And that’s enough right now.”
Petrone shares that she wrote this piece from a place of loneliness. “The words fell out in a rush in what was probably an attempt to connect,” she says. But she couldn’t have imagined just how strongly her words would resonate with so very many people. “I can say with absolute certainty now that even when you feel alone in the dichotomy of your own heart, you are not. We are all there.”