Motherhood is a celebration they say. An honor. It is (sometimes) acknowledged that the struggle to balance the perils and joys of motherhood against that of our professions and innermost desires is completely justifiable. It is often proposed that if we carve out time for self-care, rest, and rejuvenation, that perhaps we would be making the best of our motherhood journey.
There are experts, tip-givers, and list-makers telling us how we can achieve such stress-free ideals … so much so that the expectation isn’t focused on how we parent, but rather how we look while doing it. The constant strive to being stress-free becomes the biggest stress builder of all.
Am I smiling in the school car-line drop-off, un-rushed and free of distractions? Do I hold grace in the grocery store when my child is drop-kicking my shin as they wail the blues? Sometimes. Sometimes not.
I used to think that I needed to be that constantly calm, sweet and serene image of blissful motherhood. If that wasn’t who I saw in the mirror then I was failing. I got stuck in the fine lined crack between growing as a mother and self-improvement (which I’m all for) versus someone else’s idea of perfection. I care not who started it all. Was it man? (Men?) Religion? Politics? Other women? Other mothers?
It’s been all of that and more. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. My kids don’t know about those histrionics, they know about me. At their young age, I’m pretty much their whole world right now and they see and understand way more than most of us give them and their peers credit for. So I’m watching out for the real me, the version of me that they see; uncensored, every single day. The mom that they will remember years from now, when they’re hitting their stride without me by their side.
Us moms? We know how to stress. Personally, it has not been the yoga, the date nights, or the mani/pedis that have gotten me through to seeing myself again, feeling whole as a mother and a woman, with recognizable remnants of who I was BC (before children). It’s been my celebration of self. My investment in myself and accepting me for me; glitches, quirks, weaknesses, and all.
Motherhood is a blessing in disguise. One that wears no mask and suffers only adult enemies, yet takes the toll of a thousand dead-ringer meltdown parades. It is my favorite, most well-loved “costume” of my day, the one that I feel most natural in and that which I also cannot wait to shed at any given moment … usually around bedtime.
Mothering will always be stressful. It’s all in how you ride and weather it. How you find joy in the everyday and favor play over tidy, mess over magazine-worthy. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy and I’ve decided to stop buying into the graceful, cheerful, and enchanted state of martyrdom that we’ve historically been told to emit.
I’ll take time for me when I can and I make it a fairly high mission not to forget about doing so. I don’t do it to be a better mother, I take care of myself because that’s what we as humans are supposed to do; to be fitter, happier, more productive, healthy humans. I take care of myself because I deserve it. We all do; man or woman, father or mother.
Don’t tell me about no “mommy play-dates,” because I don’t need to give my adult social time a childlike monicker (for starters), nor does it have anything to do with being a mom. I’m just going to hang out with a friend. End of story. I’ve been called selfish by many for saying this and those judgements are bang-on. I’m a selfish mom, a selfish woman … who is finally learning to take care of herself (almost) as much as she does those who she holds near and dear: my kids and my husband.
I’m never going to have stellar time-management skills, which means I’m probably going to find myself working erratic hours. Patience will always be something I work very hard at in the face of physically and mentally demanding adversity (motherhood!) for all the normal reasons and a couple more that I’m not ashamed to fess-up to. Of Dark Passengers, I have a few. The acknowledgement of my own childhood trauma comes with it’s own set of hefty triggers as a parent. I have to voice and be okay with these things. Accept myself out loud, in public … before I truly can on the inside. That’s what really matters when it comes to my journey as a mother.
If there is anything that I would caution new moms against, it would be to avoid buying into the idea that motherhood should be stress-free and that there are ways to attain such glory. Motherhood is a matrix. It is a very special gift, one that will constantly reshape and define who we are and how we manage in the day-to-day as our children grow and evolve. (And thus, as we do right along with them.) It’s one of the darkest and brightest beauties I’ve known. Motherhood in it’s organic state, is full of highs and lows, frustration and anger, yet outstanding in it’s sense of life fulfillment and joy. I wish this pendulum of truth was more widely accepted and nurtured.
In fact, it is highly plausible that motherhood is what’s caused me to truly love myself. So really … why would I want to take all of that glorious self-actualization away?
Image courtesy of Selena Burgess