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When I first set out to be a mother, I had grand ideas. I was ambitious. I jumped into motherhood with both feet and approached it with a cheerful smile. Oh, what a mother I thought I was going to be!
I know women come into motherhood in completely different ways. Some are hesitant; some are reluctant; and some are surprised to find how much they love it. Some are relaxed; some are along for the ride; and some are in full-on survival mode. I think at times I have felt all of these attitudes during my years as a mother. But in the beginning, I was just excited to get started. I couldn’t wait for bedtime stories, after-school snacks, outdoor adventures, piano lessons, sports practices, and lots of love.
About three days into my motherhood adventure, I sat on my old couch in my dark apartment, so full of milk I thought I would burst, and a baby fussing to be fed. My eyes were a bit glazed over from a lack of sleep, but I could sort of see my own loving mother handing me a freshly-washed breast pump while she cradled my brand-new baby in her other arm. I sat there like a wet, exhausted lump of dough. I felt a panic creeping up into my throat. Is this motherhood? I thought, frantically.
My mother held my hand and walked me through those frightening days. Her soothing ways helped me to believe that there was a light on the other side. And although I was tired and emotional and terrified, I was normal. And I would get through this. She would teach me how, but best of all, she filled me with her faith and optimism for better days ahead.
I’ve decided that the lessons my mother taught me during that week have served me well for all these years I’ve been a mother. That moment on the couch is burned into my mind forever. I distinctly remember thinking that this is it. This is motherhood. This moment is all-encompassing. And I just can’t do this.
Mom sat up with me in the night as I fed my newborn. She knelt on the floor next to my feet, ready to hand me anything I might need. And she made me laugh. My mom is a lovely soul in the middle of the night. She has this laugh that takes over her whole body, and she tries to plug her nose to hold it in. I adore that. I remember giggling our heads off together, and when the milk sprayed my baby’s face, we completely lost it. I cherish that memory, even amidst a difficult day in my life. When my baby was done eating, Mom took her gently from my arms and shooed me back to my bed. I was over-the-top exhausted, but I remember wishing I could stay there by my mom’s side, laughing and talking and basking in her love.
Mom kept telling me that it would all be okay. She kept telling me to give it two weeks. That’s her famous line: Just give it two weeks. It will be better. Whenever I’ve wanted to quit anything that’s really worth doing, I’ve heard those words play over and over in my mind. Just give it two weeks. It will be better. Mom helped me to see that this right here isn’t motherhood. It is so much more.
So, now when potty training threatens to overwhelm me, or the sleepless nights run together, or my relationship with my husband seems difficult to maintain, and there are days and days of difficult moments, I try to remember that this isn’t it. This moment won’t last forever. It will get better. And when I think I can’t do this, I am grateful that this isn’t all there is.
Having walked the same path, my mother had the experience to understand how I was feeling, the wisdom to know it wouldn’t always be this way, and the love to show me how to carry on in a difficult moment. I am so grateful that she didn’t dismiss my feelings simply because she had learned how to make it across this same bridge.
I want to be just like my mom. I want to lift up tired hands that hang down. I want to show up for my young children, today, with love and understanding when they face a tough moment. When my teenagers sit at the table late on Sunday night crying over the enormous stack of homework that they somehow forgot about until this very moment, I want to be like my mom.
I’ve been there. I’ve struggled along these same roads. Instead of piling lectures and guilt trips onto their stack, I take a deep breath. I can’t do this, they cry. And then I think of Mom sitting there in the middle of the night with me. I think of the way she made me laugh, the way she held my hand. The way she made me believe that I, indeed, could do this. I look back at all the things in my life I thought I couldn’t handle, and I’m amazed that I’m somehow still standing. It’s like the quote: My track record for surviving difficult days is 100%.
It’s going to be okay, I hear myself soothing my children, it will get better. Of course, my children have a lot to learn. And I’m here to teach and guide them, but I am always amazed that there is so much room for love in motherhood.
We all face things that are very nearly overwhelming. Some of us on a daily basis. There are relationships that don’t work, jobs we don’t like, children who don’t cooperate, days that don’t flow. And some of those things, unfortunately, will never change. But not one of those things is all there is. In the tapestry of our lives, there are millions of strands combining to create a colorful lifetime of experiences. And it is those difficult experiences that give us depth. Someday I hope to sit by my own daughter as she feeds her newborn baby in the middle of the night. I will hold her hand and smile. I’m sure I will tell her to just give it two weeks… And I will be forever grateful that I have climbed this mountain before.
I want my children to feel that love. Every time they think, “I can’t do this!” (which will be often if they are anything like me!), I want them to remember that this isn’t all there is. Life is never so one-dimensional as this.
My motherhood HAS been filled with bedtime stories, after-school snacks, outdoor adventures, piano lessons, and sports practices. It’s been everything I ever dreamed it could be. And mixed up in all of that is a whole lot of tears and tantrums and trying moments. I’m so grateful that I didn’t give up on something that has filled my heart and soul so much. I wish I could go back and tell myself during those first few discouraging days of motherhood, when I thought, This is it?, that Yes, this is it. This and this and this and this and this… I wish I could have told myself that it would be everything and more. Just hang in there. Keep trying. Keep going. It’ll be better in two weeks.
But I didn’t need to tell myself that. My mom already did.