The Mother Smother

I don’t enjoy every moment of motherhood. In fact, some days it threatens to swallow me whole, wringing every last bit of my patience, my gentleness and my creativity from my bones. It can destroy my confidence, my self-esteem, my very sense of self, with a well-timed tantrum or day of all-consuming neediness.

Don’t think I don’t appreciate the irony. My whole life, all I wanted was to be a mother. And yet, here I sit with everything I ever wanted, and some days I can’t catch my breath because the tears of feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped are falling so fast and so hard. Other mothers are better at this than me, I think.

Maybe it’s because the introduction to motherhood is so harsh, like being dropped into the deep end of an icy cold pool and commanded to tread water indefinitely. The second time around, it’s the same thing all over again, except with a toddler strapped to your back. It’s suffocating and exhausting and your whole body aches from the effort you’re extending. And despite giving it everything you’ve got, you don’t appear to be going anywhere. You’re working harder than you ever have in your whole life, and all you have to show for it is a head that’s barely above water.

And, in my experience at least, it’s right at that moment when you feel like you’re about to slip under completely that some well-meaning soul strolls by and tells you, “Ohhhh, what a blessing. This time just flies by; I hope you are enjoying every single minute with these precious little ones.”

Telling someone who is raising small children to enjoy every moment is a lot like telling someone who’s drowning to enjoy their vacation at the beach because it will be over soon. The sentiment is of little help when you feel like you can’t breathe.

It was so easy to lose myself; I see that now. I expected to love every part of being a mother. Everyone else seemed to expect me to love every part of being a mother. I’d quit my job to immerse myself more fully in this role as mother. I was all in. And so, dammit, I was going to figure out how to love it all, every last minute of it.

It sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? I know that now. That no one can possibly love all the moments. That, if you’re lucky, some days you find a moment or two to hold onto in your mama heart forever, and then you let the rest go – slipping through your fingers like fine grains of sand.

But it’s hard to see that, when you’re lost. When the mantle called “mother” threatens to smother you, once and for all.

For all the mamas who feel a little lost right now, who’ve gotten so wrapped up in tending to the needs of tiny people who depend on you for everything that they’ve become your identity, hang in there. Forget the admonishment to “enjoy every moment.” Instead, hold tightly to the good moments and let the bad ones go. Memorize the weight of her head on your shoulder. Forget forever the burn of your cheeks as you carried a perfectly-planking, fully-melted-down two-year-old out of Target … or at least know you’ll laugh someday. Fight the pull to let all that is “mother” swallow you alive.

And for all the mamas who’ve found themselves again but remember that lost feeling all too well, give freely of your helping hands, your understanding smile and your grace. For the longer I do this mothering thing, the more I’m convinced that we’re all the same inside. The same insecurities, the same doubts. Whether we’re lost or found is just a matter of timing.