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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Rest of the Truth About Motherhood

"Motherhood is wonderful."

"Being a mom is so fulfilling!"

"I wouldn't trade jobs with anyone in the world!"

"Being a stay at home mom is the best/easiest/most fulfilling job there is."

"Motherhood is the highest calling a woman can have."

I think we've all heard these statements and others like them. But how many times have we heard other mothers say these sorts of things:

"Sometimes I think all I do is wipe snotty noses and poopy butts."

"I feel like I'm losing my mind."

"I don't really know who I am anymore."

"I am so tired of being the nanny, cook, and housekeeper!"

"Some days, I want to lock myself in my room and cry."

"I can't even pee by myself!!"

"I'm so scared that I'm going to mess this up."

"I can't do this anymore."

I think that we, as women, have done each other a disservice. We've painted the picture of motherhood with pastels and left out the dark, ugly colors. When we were younger, before having kids, other women told us all the wonderful parts about being a mom and we got the impression that that's all there was. When life showed us that that was only half of the picture, we felt like something must be wrong with us. Like we weren't doing it right. But instead of accepting this as part of the equation, we just kept perpetuating the one-sided perspective that was handed down to us. And the myth of pastel-painted motherhood just kept on going.

Nobody told me I'd go crazy for lack of sleep. Or I'd feel overworked and left out and forgotten. Or that there'd be days I don't want my kids and wish they'd just go away. Or that I'd turn into someone I don't even know. No one talked about how scary it is to be responsible for the life of another human being. How my house would never be clean. How hard being a mom is. How tedious and painful and depressing life can get. All I ever heard was sunshine and roses and high calllings. And if there was anything bad, it was masked in humor and dismissed.

We feel like if we complain, we are selfish brats. That if we even think "what about me?!" we're self-centered and need to gain perspective. We are afraid of even asking other women "is it normal to feel this way?" for fear that what we believe about ourselves will be voiced and proven true: that there is something wrong with us, that we are a bad mother. Or we feel guilty because so many women desire to be mothers and can't and look how much we've been blessed. We feel like we must be missing something because having kids isn't the sunshine trail that other women said it would be. That other women sit around and talk about. Our Facebook statuses are supposed to be all about how wonderful our husband is and how amazing it is to have beautiful kids and how we just adore our life. And we just keep painting in pastels and roses while the darkness builds in our souls because we are ashamed to let those bold, dark colors show on our canvas. Because every other woman's canvases are only pastel and light.

Ladies, we need to be honest with each other. We need to stop giving an unbalanced view of motherhood; stop passing on the myth that motherhood is all rainbows and tell the rest of the truth: that sometimes, often, stormclouds are part of the picture. And they can be nasty. We need to release each other to be sincere, open, and honest with our feelings and struggles about motherhood by being honest ourselves.

So let me be the first. Motherhood sometimes sucks. Really, it does. Sometimes I wonder what in the world I was thinking. I wish for my life back. I wish for my body back. I wish for unlimited time with my husband back. Sometimes I scream at my kids and stomp my feet because one of them smeared poop all over the wall, one wiped spit all over the coffee table, one is pitching a fit, and everyone is crying. Sometimes I can't do anything but cry because I'm so tired and so lonely for adult interaction and so fed up with poop and I haven't eaten anything all day or slept in months or had a shower in days. Sometime I'm jealous of my husband who leaves for work for days and who isn't enslaved to school schedules and meal times and poopy diapers and laundry. I feel like I've lost myself and my life is in shambles and I must be doing everything wrong. And I desperately need to know that there isn't something wrong with only me. That other young mothers go through this too, and they survive and I'll survive. That I'm not the only mother in the world who's put my hands over my ears and yelled "Go away and leave me alone!!" I need someone to tell me "Yes, this sometimes sucks and it's hard when your kids are little. Yes, it's worth it. Yes, I've often felt that way. You're not the only one. You can do this."

Girls, we need each other. We need each other to be real. We need to stop telling one-sided stories and own up to our fears and failures. We need to stop feeling like we don't measure up as mothers because we don't always like being a mom. We need to encourage each other and love each other enough to tell it like it is. I'm guilty. I find myself trying to dress up my kids and my life and look like I have it all together when I know I will be around other people. I catch myself only telling the good parts like I'm trying to impress someone. I'm afraid of admitting my convoluted, confused, unsettled, stormy thoughts. I want to look like the other moms I see who seem to glow and float along gracefully though their mommyhood.

Motherhood is wonderful. But sometimes it's not. It can be amazing and joyful. But sometimes it's awful and sorrowful. Sometimes it's lonely, isolating, and hard. It's beautiful and fun. And sometimes not. It's messy and full of poop and snot and spit-up. But it's also full of color and love and excitement. You're not always, every minute of the day going to enjoy it. You may even hate it at times. You'll miss long showers and peeing by yourself and eating hot food. And that's OK. We need to stop trying to be super-moms and just be normal, human, and imperfect. We need to admit our fears so that other women will feel free to admit theirs and maybe those fears once spoken won't seem so scary and insurmountable. Those tears we cry in secret need to be cried in the open so they can be wiped away by understanding, laughter, comradery, and grace. And maybe, just maybe, the hard things won't be so hard, the ugly things won't seem so ugly, the storm clouds so ominous, and the dark colors will be allowed to mix with the pastels to form an exquisite picture of life.