Whoever “They” are – those endless voices that guide our lives, whisper relentlessly into our souls – wherever they reside and whatever their fleeting and false import, They dropped the ball recently. They missed the mark. They let me down. They’ve let us all down.
While I was growing my eldest womb fruit, and preparing to embark on the most daunting journey of my life, They told me how to diaper (disposables are for the lazy!) and feed (breast is best!) and sleep (baby loves her back!) and restrain (five point harness until they’re 20!), the growing human within me, once she finally made her debut into this world. They set me up for a few solid years of feeling like I was the worst mom ever. It was awesome. It was relentless. It was ruining me. But in their finite wisdom, They missed a few important things about what was about to happen to me.
They didn’t tell me that the love I had for my children would open me in such a beautiful and miraculous and essential way. That my heart would so often feel as though it was breaking in the most poetic and profound way. Not because it was being destroyed, no, but because it was growing. Shedding its old skin to make room for a newer, bigger version that would walk around outside of my body for the rest of my life. They didn’t tell me that I would forget who I was – that I would look in the mirror, scraggly hair and deep grooves in my forehead, and not recognize myself. They forget to mention that I would hate my post-baby body – the soft skin and saggy breasts – while simultaneously reveling in its strength and resilience. Or that I would only lose my identiy long enough to finally go out and find myself – the very self that I had been looking for the whole of my life but couldn’t ever reach because I didn’t yet know the story I was made to write with my life. They didn’t tell me that the guilt that accompanied motherhood would be crushing, no matter how tightly I screwed my head on, or how much wine I drank after bedtime. They failed to mention that it would encompass me, at times so wholly that I wouldn’t be able to see a way through it. That I would spend so much time reading blogs and staring at social media and never-quite-measuring-up to the ideals thrust upon me. She babywears; my kid hates the Ergo. She makes her own baby food; I’m fine with store bought because – sanity. She uses disposable diapers and has chickens and no TV in her house and her hair IS ALWAYS PERFECT AND OH MY GOD I’M THE WORST MOM EVER.
They didn’t tell me that I would never measure up, no matter how hard I tried, until I finally let go of all the bullshit noise that I was holding onto. Until I not only stopped judging other moms, but also stopped judging and berating and criticizing myself. I had to realize, once and for all, that just because another mom does something different than I would, or did, or could, she’s not by default a better mom than me. She’s simply different. The same way her kids are different than my kids and her life is different than my life. I had to tell myself, firmly, finally, that we are all in this together. This mom job can feel really isolating and lonely, but we aren’t islands. We are doing this alongside the strongest and most beautiful and powerful and wonderful women on the planet. Each of us convinced we are doing it wrong. So this year, for Valentine’s Day, I’m going to give myself the gift of love. Of acceptance. Of believing wholeheartedly and with a knowing so deep I can feel it in my bones that I am doing the best I can, and that is all I should ever expect of myself.
I don’t care what They say, or forgot to say, anymore. What matters is what’s real. What’s now. What’s true.The truth is that is that motherhood is the most wonderful and difficult and mind-numbing-and-blowing-all-at-the-same-time thing I have ever done with my wild and precious life. It’s not something I ever planned on – or life goaled for myself – but here, now, in the throes of a job I wasn’t even sure I wanted, I’m finding myself. The self I had no idea I had lost. A woman who is courageous and funny. Kind and stern. Comforting and nurturing and engaging and determined.
My kids didn’t teach me how to be a mom, that came as natural as breathing. What they’ve taught me is so much greater than that. Because of them I’ve finally learned how to be Athena.
No matter what They say, that is the true magic of parenthood.