Friday, May 8, 2009

on mothering

A few weeks ago, I actually turned on the tv in the afternoon. The kids were outside and I had laundry to fold. Great - I'll see what Oprah is talking about. I beheld a panel of women discussing motherhood. Oooh, a topic I can relate to. I begin folding. Then, I hear this one woman talk about how the day her first child was born, she felt like a part of her had died, and she had to mourn that passing. The other women on the panel nodded, knowingly. I froze, hands in the midst of folding socks, and stared.

I don't remember what else would said, probably because I wasn't really listening. I was hung up on that phrase and how thoroughly offended I was by it.

I get it - my general life goals weren't like a lot of girls. In high school and college, you are working toward a degree and a career. You're focused on what you can become. People viewed me as driven - honors classes, active in extracurricular activities, focused, responsible, etc. But from the time I can remember, I have always always always wanted to be a mother.

In college, when trying to decide what to major in, I felt almost left out. So many people around me were passionate about what they were doing. And while somethings definitely appealed to me more than others, I didn't feel that powerful drive.

After college, when I got my first job, I had a hard time motivating myself. I viewed it more as something I could do to pass the time and earn money until I was ready to do my real job. I am not a good liar, so it was especially hard to answer the question, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" that colleagues and superiors were so fond of asking.

The day I had my first child, I felt like my REAL life had finally begun. Everything I had ever done was in preparation of this time. THIS was what I wanted. THIS is what I was born for.

I understand that not everyone feels that way. I get that. I get that motherhood is relentless and often thankless and always exhausting. I'm not saying that every day, every hour, I'm skipping around singing, "Best! Job! Ever!" (as this blog can certainly attest) There are days that I think, "THIS is what I always wanted to be, and I'm not even good at THIS."

I guess my beef is with the idea that a part of you has to die in the process of becoming a mother. I don't think that's how life goes. It's a constant process of building and learning and shaping.

Not everyone has the opportunity to be a mother. Sometimes it is by choice. Often, it isn't. I feel like I owe it, especially, to those women to be a better mother. To appreciate the opportunity I have to build people. To know that these children haven't come as a casualty to some part of my life, but have given meaning to my life.

I have recently felt a real kinship with my grandmas. Perhaps it is because I'm doing more and more homemade things. As I've returned, in a sense, to a more homemakerly lifestyle, I have found myself busier and more productive. Whoever thinks you can get bored staying at home with children clearly needs to start doing more (email me for suggestions - ha!).

Mulling over this topic, I've tried to pinpoint when, exactly, I knew I wanted to be a mother. And I can't do it. I remember wanting to be a ballerina and/or a princess (I think that certifies me as female), but I always knew there would be children in there. I have come to the conclusion that I have always felt secure knowing that my mom loved me. I knew it was a lot, though I didn't fully comprehend how MUCH until I had my own children. I also know that I felt extremely safe and secure in my home.

I wish I could pick out small anecdotes or events about my mom. I've got several for my dad, but I can think of very few for my mom. And that's when it hit me - it's not because they weren't there, but because my mom was such a constant presence in my life. I woke up, she was making breakfast. I went to school, she was at home with siblings. I came home, she was doing a number of things around the house. She taught me how to ride my bike and helped me with my homework. She showed me how to make dinner and clean the bathrooms. She let me take super long showers and gave me 5 of the best siblings I could have asked for. And at the end of the day, she was there with a hug and a kiss before tucking me into bed.

A couple years after having Ainsleigh, I remember calling my mom and saying, in bewilderment, "When I was little? I hurt your feelings! And I didn't know!" She chuckled slowly and said, "What did Ainsleigh do?" When I was little, I knew I wanted to be a mom, but I had no idea what that meant. I still kind of don't - I look at these kids and wonder how they got here. But I must have known the depth of love I had for my mom, and wanted to replicate that for myself. Huh - that sounds a little selfish (love me!). And yet it's quite the opposite.

So on this Mother's day weekend, I honor my mom. For giving me opportunities to go wherever and do whatever I wanted, but for providing me a strong quiet example of how to find ultimate joy and love and satisfaction.

Happy Mother's day, mom.


Angie said...

You are a very inspirational mother!! Your mom has to be pretty great:) Thanks for the post.

Margo said...

Amen! (I am saying that out loud) I would have been so bugged with that lady. I love being a mother. Thanks for your amazing post and all the other amazing ones before this one. Happy Mothers day. Love ya.

Anne said...

i can kind of relate to what that woman said---kind of. i definitely didn't feel like a part of me had died but there have been very distinct moments where i have mourned the ending of my previous phase in life. i remember laying in bed next to craig at about 35 weeks into my first pregnancy and being overcome with sadness that it would never be just him and me again, even though i was beyond excited to be a mom. i also went through the same process a couple days before i had soren. i went through a little morning period for the way our family was with just one child and because some aspects of my relationship with sy were going to change. anyway, i kind of understand her, just not on the dead part.

Lisa said...

Only you can make me laugh and cry at the same time. It sounded weird when I did it, so ya know.

And yeah, part of me also can see what that woman was saying. Because it wasn't until I got married that I could imagine being a mom, let along WANTING to be a mom. I was the girl in Young Womens' who told her advisors that I didn't want to have kids. Ever. I wanted to get married and travel and enjoy career and money.

Luckily, when I met the right guy, my priorities lined up. I actually wanted kids more than he did! And I'm happy to be a mom now. But it took a while. I mean, usually I loved being a mom, but once in a while I'd just be overcome with missing the old life. I've actually been thinking about this lately because I've (thankfully) stopped doing that. When I have to get up in the night, I just get up--I don't wish I could "just sleep through the night for once like I did before."

Anyways. Sorry, that was long :)

wanda said...

The payoff comes when they are adults and they write really nice things about you on their blog and you get teary and know that your choice to be a mother has more influence on other people's lives than any career could possibly have. Thank you.

Tennille said...

Beautiful, Sarah. I definitely have days where I've thought, "So this is what I always wanted to do-- this?!" but I wouldn't have it any other way. Well, maybe less spitup. And fewer bathroom accidents. And more sleeping. :)

Willyerd Family said...

Thank you, Sarah! That was a wonderful thing to read! Do you mind if I share this with my Young Women on Sunday? I am doing a lesson for the Laural class on "The Divine roles of Wife and Mother"?

Apryl said...

I totally saw that Oprah. And I know it was supposed to be all, (said in whimpering voice) "Mothering is hard, lets be nice!!!", but I was totally bugged by most the moms on the show. Also, totally judging them. Which kind of goes against the whole point of the show. But whatever. Yes, mothering is hard. Didn't you know that? COME ON! It totally sucks some times! But there's good stuff too! Stop whining & have some fun!!!