In a recent video of Jada Pinket-Smith talking about motherhood that’s been floating around, which you can watch below, her daughter Willow poses the question:
How hard is it being a wife and a mother?
Watching the video, I thought, well this ought to be good. Here’s a woman with more resources at her disposal in a day than I could imagine in a lifetime, with two kids well past the diapering ages. She’s a highly successful career woman in her own right and has a famously rock-solid marriage to a man who has saved the world many times over.
But as skeptical as I was in watching it, her words really struck me with her honesty about what it actually means to be a wife and a mother. And not in the clichéd, oh it’s hard sometimes, and when’s the last time I showered, and pass the wine, tee-hee kind of way, but in a raw, stark, and real way.
“It’s a paradox … Being a wife and a mother has been of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. But at the same time, it’s been very difficult to balance doing the things that I want to do and have the freedoms that I want to have and also being responsible for you and your brothers and your father.”
I felt her description of that tug, from what I want to do and — oh my gosh — the freedom to just do what I want, in sharp, blaring contrast to the reality that my life is not mine to lead, right in my gut. Or, as the cool kids of the Internet say, her words gave me “all the feels.”
From the moment I wake up in the morning to well, really all night long, I feel like I am holding my breath, anxious and just waiting for a disaster, in the form of a small child, to hit. There is no assurance that I will have 10 minutes, five minutes, or even five seconds to do anything I want (or hell, need) to do. I can’t brush my teeth, get dressed, or fix my own plate of food without first considering what everyone else in the family needs from me.
Will my husband be able to get the girls ready for school if I actually get dressed? Will the toddler not poop long enough for me to make an egg for breakfast? (Answer: no) Will the 3-year-old stop torturing his sister long enough for me to answer an email? (Answer: again, no.)
Sometimes, it almost seems laughable how ridiculous my life can be. Like, it shouldn’t be this difficult, really. Shouldn’t I have a say in how my days go? Shouldn’t I — the all-powerful mother — be the one in control here? Shouldn’t my life matter, too?
Needless to say, I’ve been struggling a lot lately because I feel the paradox of motherhood so much these days. I feel like there’s so much I want to do and accomplish, and yes, actually doing my hair would count as an accomplishment. And a big part of me feels like if I’m struggling against the demands that motherhood brings, then it means I am resisting motherhood itself. It’s like, if I feel like I’m having a hard time with motherhood, then I am failing at being a mother.
But in listening to Jada’s words, I realized that we all struggle with the ultimate paradox that is motherhood.
I realized that hating — and loving — motherhood at the same time, in a matter of minutes, in an hour, or day-by-day, month-by-month is kind of the point.
It doesn’t mean I’m a bad mother if I both love and resist all that motherhood entails.
It doesn’t mean I’m failing if I can both embrace the gifts of my children and feel trapped by the demands of caring for them.
It doesn’t mean I was never meant to be a mother if I struggle mightily with the weight of my babies’ world on my shoulders, while I balance a heart that can’t possibly contain my love for them.
Because for every time I have berated myself at the end of the day for not “enjoying” it enough, or for getting impatient with my children, or for wishing the 3-year-old would just stop asking ridiculous questions for five freaking minutes, there have been just as many times when I have held a child close, and kissed an invisible hurt away, and rocked in the moonlight. Because for every time I have beat myself up for falling and failing and stumbling my way through my days as a mother, there has been a time — however fleeting — when I thanked God for the chance to be in these little people’s lives, to be given the supreme grace and gift of simply knowing them and loving them.
Struggling with motherhood does not mean I am failing.
Because really, the fact that motherhood is both hard and beautiful?
Well, that’s been the whole point all along.