I like to think that most of the "surprises" of motherhood have been pleasant, and even beautifully breathtaking at times, but the truth is that most of them are not.
Don't get me wrong, some of them are most certainly wonderful. Like the rushing flood of love you feel for that squirmy little thing the moment you lay hands and eyes on it. Or the quickening of your heart and sting of tears when they say "I love you mama" and "You're beautiful mama", usually at times when you feel neither lovable OR beautiful. Watching your husband cherish them and their utmost adoration in return. The moment when they learn something new, or ride their bike on their own for the first time, and their face shines with pride and you feel as if you're seeing the rest of their life rush by you in slideshow form until you're walking them down the aisle.
But unfortunately, there have been quite a few surprises of motherhood that have been altogether unpleasant. For example:
1. I never knew how hard it would be to just try and do "my thing" as a mom. You know, just doing what comes naturally and instinctively and from the heart. It sounded so easy. Just go with your gut! But I never was able to foresee how many others' opinions and words and actions would start to influence me, whether positively or negatively, until the deafening chaos of public opinion would begin to drown out some of my own mama instincts. Everyone disagrees about EVERYTHING. Home birth, vaccinations, homeschooling, circumcision, breastfeeding, baby wearing, discipline, scheduling....everything. It makes me sad when I think about how much more we could all accomplish if we just kept our opinions to ourselves, and showed our mama friends the most love and support and friendship we possibly could.
2. I never knew how tempting it would be to compare. Comparison of pregnancies and birth stories and feeling like everyone is just out to "top" one another, when really, we should just be rooting for each other. Comparison of baby gear and designer diaper bags I can't afford and strollers that cost more than my first car. Comparison of milestones and accomplishments and attitudes and behaviors and way more pressure than was ever intended for the simple act of nurturing your young.
3. I never realized that there were a million BILLION ways to be a "stay-at-home-mom". I used to think that the options were either A. Being a career woman or B. staying at home. I knew what I wanted for my motherhood during the years my children were young, and so I thought my decision was made, and it was simple, and that's all there was to it. But today, women all over the world are "stay-at-home-moms" that ALSO have a career. Whether they work part-time, full-time, hire a nanny, a maid, a "mother's helper" or have a husband who stays home so they can work from home, they are able to juggle a full-time career all the while still calling themselves a "stay-at-home mom". And as a result, (without ever having a clue how they actually do it) it makes one feel like just simply being an actual "stay-at-home mom" will never, ever be enough.
4. I never imagined how jealous I could be of someone's help. Some mothers live surrounded by family. Some have husbands who are home a lot. Or at least husbands with paid paternity leave. Amish families have a helper come after baby who cooks, cleans, and just helps around the house with the other children, so that mama can snuggle her newborn and rest and recover. And the temptation to compare and feel jealous, can be overwhelming at times.
5. I never realized how isolating it could feel. I mean, I had heard about how lonely motherhood could be, and I always shook my head a little in confusion and just thought to myself, "Schedule a playdate with other moms! Get away for a girl's night! Join a book club, go to the gym, or sign your kids up for lessons in something!!" It just seemed so simple. But then I hit about kid #3 and all of those things just got harder and harder to do, at the exact same time all of my friends were having kids #2 or #3, and we all just started staying home a little bit more, and a little bit more, until I realized one day, that yes....it can be quite lonely indeed.
6. It can be so tricky knowing how to relate to others in different stages of life. One friendship in particular, I feel as if I am losing, simply due to the fact of motherhood. And it is hard to know how to repair that breach, because I AM a mother. I cannot change that, it's what I am. And after a while, the vast canyon between lifestyles just seems to drive a wedge deeper between us, and while I'm sure it's frustrating for both of us, I feel helpless to know what to change.
7. It can be really, REALLY hard to know how, and what to share. I am writing the least amount that perhaps I ever have in my life, and believe it or not, it's not due to lack of time. It's due to lack of knowing what to say. I am more aware than ever of the hurting women around me, women that would love to be married, or pregnant, or long for more children, and so anything I can possibly think of to share that is real, raw, and revealing of the DIFFICULT stage I am in, feels wrong. I never feel able to just honestly share how hard this phase of life is, because I'm sure someone somewhere thinks I am living every dream come true. Or if they aren't thinking that, they are thinking, "Well then WHY did you get pregnant so many times so close together?! If it's so hard, just don't pop out a string of babies! Don't you know how to prevent that?" And so it truly feels like you are left with no options of anything to say.
Well 7 feels like a strange number to end on, but my day is starting before I am ready, and so it's time to go. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts. Maybe I'm just totally off on some of these, so feel free to set me straight! And mamas of 4 or more.....please PLEASE share how you made it through these trenches and came out on the other side still relatively in one piece and managed to maintain friendships through it all.
, by Shelley Smucker