I spent the first year of motherhood muttering the same phrase to myself, over and over: Why didn’t anyone warn me?!
How did I walk into a c-section, into exclusive pumping, into a baby who didn’t sleep through the night for 10 whole months … knowing nothing? And I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that way; I think we all feel like we picked up this mantle called motherhood without knowing the true weight of it. And so we feel compelled to share the knowledge we’ve gleaned with others, so that the next mama to come along won’t walk in our shoes and grumble about how no one warned her that newborns can shoot poo clear across the room if you’re not fast enough with the diaper or how that three month growth spurt is perfectly timed with the week you start back to work at the end of your maternity leave.
But some days, I think perhaps we’ve overshot our noble goal a bit. Because as important as it is to feel like we’re sharing the same struggles and as comforting it is to know that someone else, too, has stayed up all night worrying about the same thing you are, it’s also a little … scary. I remember reading a mom blog or two back when I was pregnant with my first, and I was more than a little terrified. My God this sounds awful, I thought. What have I done?
It’s been said that misery loves company, so it’s always easy to find a grumble group that fits your parenting struggles. Moms of tantruming two year olds over here, moms of colicky newborns over there. And the especially traumatized souls who fall in both groups … well, they’re tucked over there in the corner receiving emergency transfusions of wine, high-quality chocolate and prayers.
Yes, parenting is hard. Bone-crushingly hard sometimes, with fatigue and worry that you never knew possible. But there’s good stuff, too. Things like holding a fresh-from-the-bath, sleepy toddler who takes a break from her normal chaotic activities and rests her head against your neck, giving you a few precious moments to breathe in that heady, clean scent and snuggle her close. Thing like teaching your son how to do a backflip on the trampoline and that the big couch cushions make the best forts. Things like the smiles that light up their whole faces when you arrive to pick them up from preschool and the enthusiastic way they wrap their arms around your neck when they give you a hug.
There are the bigger, deeper things too that are still just as good. Like learning to love the things you once liked least about yourself, because God is clever. He knew that you’d find those knobbly knees you’ve always hidden under pants and long skirts downright adorable when sported by your son. And He knew that as you dig deep each day to find the grace needed for their mistakes, you’d find enough there to cover your own mistakes, too.
I’ve never worried more or slept less than I have since I became a mother. But oh, friend, I’ve never known such joy, either. Every single day has a hidden gem or two of perfection in it. Sometimes it’s hiding between too many episodes of Paw Patrol and pancakes for supper (the unfailing sign in the Batchelor house that Mom has given up for the day), but it’s there.
We all know that this work is hard, and that the particular brand of hard varies from family to family. But celebrating the good that’s hidden in the hard is my new goal, I think. Sometimes babies don’t sleep and toddlers won’t eat and preschoolers won’t wear clothes. But sometimes, too, babies laugh a deep belly laugh that nearly knocks them over. And toddlers surprise you with a big wet kiss right on the mouth. And preschoolers bring home a picture they drew just for you.
And there’s nothing better than that.