“More than in any other human relationship, overwhelmingly more, motherhood means being instantly interruptible, responsive and responsible.” -Tillie Olsen
Motherhood is a HUGE word. It means a lot. No, like, a WHOLE LOT! It’s more than carrying a human being in your uterus for 10 months, not 9 (40 weeks/4= 10). Motherhood is inarguably the epitome of womanhood for most women. While one can attempt to prepare for all things that come with motherhood, a mother is truly never fully prepared for what lies ahead on the journey of mothership. Mothers, new and not so new, encounter a vast array of experiences, situations, scenarios. Motherhood is not one of those things that is exactly the same across the board. Even in the same family, mothering one child can be completely different from mothering the next. While mothers are prepared for and can expect the cuddles, late night feedings and stinky diaper changes, the discussion on how to maintain you individuality is not frequently discussed.
A few months ago I listened to a Dear Sugar podcast entitled "Moms Who Hate Motherhood". The title alone made me uneasy yet intrigued. How can anyone hate being a mother? Women wrote in expressing their disdain for mothering their children. The letters described the typical busy, working mom life, ending in how much the mother would rather be on an island alone, no kids, forever. It was evident that these women conjured up unrealistic expectations of what motherhood would be for them. Although I don't ever think I can even fathom hating motherhood (because hate is such a strong word), I can see how those mothers came to such despisement.
I became a mother, for the very first time, the day after Christmas in 2014. I wasn't sure what to expect so I didn't expect anything. My son became my pride and joy from the moment I laid eyes on him. I didn't know what kind of mother I would become but I knew I wanted to do right by him. I still do. With only 3 months of maternity leave there was an overwhelming feeling of pressure that hung over my head on the daily basis. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything right; perfectly. Am I going to keep trying to nurse? Is he getting enough milk? Which wipes and diapers to use? Am I bonding with him enough? Not to mention the pressures of trying not to neglect my husband.
It wasn't until my son was 5 months that I noticed I neglected one major person in my life... Me. That's selfish. Actually it isn't. Somewhere in the midst of all fun and not so fun instances that came with monumental life changing events, I lost sight of me. The me that was before all of the hoopla. Is that possible? I believe so. I was completely wrapped up in motherhood that I forgot to take care of me, mentally and emotionally, which is essential. Before the birth of my son, prior to my pregnancy, before getting married, I had no significant obligations other than the normal pay your bills type stuff. I was not responsible for anyone other than myself. Beyond the surface, I was a woman who was passionate about particular things and societal issues. I took time to invest in those things. I was a worship leader, writer, an activist, a mentor, a dreamer. Prior to becoming a wife and a mother I had a sense of self, individuality.
Have those other things completely dissipated now that I am a mother? Am I no longer a writer, activist or dreamer? Can all those things that I was exist with what requires my attention at this very moment? Absolutely, they can. In what capacity? I'm still discovering. But it is definitely possible.
What I am learning is, motherhood does not change whom I have grown to be. It doesn't take away from who I was before becoming a mother. It actually adds to who I am already am. Yes, I want to be the “Best Mom Ever but I also want my children to be able to learn who I am and what I am about by watching me do what I love to do. How is my son going to be able to know it is ok to dream if he can’t see mommy go after her dreams and aspirations? We teach our children how to be through our being.
What I know for sure: my happiness is asserted based on my eagerness to appraise my needs frequently. That means that if I need to write, or read or worship I should take time to do so without feeling guilty. I am now developing the habit of making space for myself in my life. If I don't then I am no good to anyone, my son, my husband, my extended family, not even myself. Motherhood is not a death sentence for my dreams and aspirations. They all can coexist. In fact, they all influence each other. And that's the way it should be.
"When the walls of self-sacrifice begin to close in on you and the weight of the false image of motherhood begins to break your backbone, remember this : God gave us the privilege of discovering ourselves...nothing should ever die when we find real love." -Crystal Irby