It seems like everyone does it, billions and billions of people, but damn if it isn’t hard. My whole generation seems to feel the need to talk about how hard it is. It’s like we’re all just a bunch of overgrown children turning to each other in line at the grocery store, “You have kids? Me too! Man, this shit is hard. How did our parents make this look so easy?”
Like who the hell am I now, I will never be the same again, hard.
And I liked myself before.
Maybe our society isn’t set up for motherhood. There’s no communal support. No babies running close by in the fields burning off that energy while we hang laundry, or tend a fire, or feed chickens. All the while together.
The women all together, suffering it mutually.
Enjoying it mutually.
There are only fences to climb, couches to jump on and endless hours of screen time on a winter day to squash the boundless preschool energy. Energy that could leave a little boy hit by a car or snatched by a stranger. There are nights to lie awake wondering how badly their little brains are being distorted by too much TV.
There are Mamas at desks, in cubicles, hooked up to pumps in a broom closet at work, and babies always sick from daycare. There are the other Mamas at home, with greasy hair and un-brushed teeth with the laundry and dishes still not done.
I know there are other mothers who feel they’re doing it well.
I’m not talking to those mothers.
There are spouses wondering why it’s so damn hard to get the laundry done, the kitchen cleaned, and the dinner cooked. Even the most feminist of spouses eventually grows accustomed to their wife being home. They forget it’s temporary. They begin to see themselves as bread winners, “heads of household.” They forget their wives have dreams, goals. They forget to view them as people. They focus on their own careers. They find reasons to stay late at work to avoid screaming toddlers. It is how they make all the money after all, and goddamit that’s important! They pat themselves on the back because their wife has the luxury of staying home.
With the babies.
There are grandmothers who don’t help out because they “already raised kids.”
And here is the rub, no one is enjoying it. I mean, really enjoying it, like on the daily. Because when we go it alone without mothers, husbands, aunts, sister-in-laws, cousins, neighbors and friends, things become a lot less enjoyable. A toddler will not sit down and share coffee with you. They also won’t go play outside alone, nor should they. And in desperation they won’t even sit and watch a movie, not all the way through.
And yes, we know to “cherish every moment” which makes the uncherished moments all the more guilt inducing. We really do enjoy motherhood in all the ways we knew we would. It’s just that those ways are few and far between, and they bookend a whole lot of whining, crying, demanding, defying, jumping, “whooshing,” yelling and messing.
For me, motherhood is something I longed for. I always wanted early nights, bedtime routines, trips to Disneyland, G-rated movies and story time at the library. I wanted everyone around the Christmas tree. I needed to see the world through a child’s eyes. I needed to love on my babies, to whisper in their ear, “I’ve got you. Mama’s here, Mama’s always here,” in order to heal my broken heart. Because as much fun as a night at the bar can be, the bottom of a bottle always left me empty.
So, what if we confronted a different truth?
What if we questioned the idea that we’re supposed to enjoy it? I’m fairly certain many of our grandmothers didn’t enjoy it. They just married and had kids because it’s what you did.
Some of them loved it.
Some of them took Valium.
What if we admitted that motherhood isn’t 100% fulfilling and it’s damn sexist to expect it to be?
Let’s admit this. Then let’s find our own tribe.
For me, in the suburbs, this looks a little different than children running in the fields while the women tend the fire. It looks like packing the kids up and driving my filthy minivan to a health club where they get checked into a daycare for two and a half glorious hours. It looks like me listening to music while I workout, then meet up with like minded Mamas for a shvitz in the steam room. After showers we spend an hour in the café drinking coffee and commiserating. Hell, sometimes we skip the first two steps and just have coffee for the full two and a half hours.
To my solo Mamas, my stay-at-home Mamas, my working Mamas and my military Mamas far from family, I say this, you aren’t supposed to enjoy it all the time. It’s ok if some days you hate it. But if you seek out some other mothers who you can laugh with, you will suffer it mutually. You will enjoy it mutually.
You will enjoy it.