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To the Mom Who Feels Like It Shouldn't Be This Hard

Photograph by Twenty20

It's not a good day.

It’s a count-the-hours-until-bedtime kind of a day.

You felt the frustration build and build until it gushed over. Maybe it was the moment your son threw his yogurt on the floor. Or when you finally thought you’d convinced your daughter to get dressed and she declared today National No Pants Day. Or when he asked you for the 11th time to please find the ninja costume he was just wearing three minutes ago.

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Maybe it was cumulative—the exhaustion of battling small, seemingly insane people over mundane tasks over and over again.

Maybe you felt so bored you could barely stand it. And then you instantly felt guilty for being bored, because you wanted to be a mother, dammit. And yet the space between what you imagined parenting would be and the reality of it is vast. You imagined cuddles and giggles and the thick, wafting mystery of mother-love, but you never could’ve imagined the way that small people could drive you to the brink of lunacy on a regular Tuesday.

Maybe I'm not cut out for this, but maybe I'm cut out for them.

You never imagined the nuanced, messy storms of human emotions—both yours and your kids—and the way that tiny, continuous frustrations can mount into something huge, fiery and volcanic when piled on top of each other.

Maybe it’s because you just want one damned moment to yourself, and your kids are hell-bent against it. (They can smell your need for a break like a dog smells fear, and it makes them rabid for your company.)

You cried or you yelled or you cursed. Or maybe you clamped it all inside of you until you felt you’d combust, and a singular, ugly thought rolled through your head:

Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a mother.

This is not the truth.

The truth is that parenting is like the rest of life. There are highlights, those moments when you’re so ballooned with love that you feel dizzy and drunk. And there are the lowest of lows, like election years, explosive diarrhea and death. For just a moment, you fantasize that a benevolent troupe of aliens could abduct your children, or at least take them to the playground for a couple of hours while you take a nap.

And the truth is that nobody is cut out for a day like today. Nobody is wired to field whining and shrieking and pants refusals and dozens of questions that don't even make sense.

And the rest of the truth is that just when you are drained, just when you are about to go AWOL, something will shift. It might be a big thing, like your daughter wrapping her soft arms around your neck and telling you, “You’re the best mama in the world.” But it also might be that for just a heartbeat, you feel that thick pulse of connection that tethers you to your son. Or you take in the sweep of his ridiculously long, thick eyelashes. Or your daughter lets out the longest, loudest fart you’ve ever heard (because she’s still not wearing pants) and you can’t help but laugh.

And you think, yeah, maybe I’m not cut out for this, but maybe I’m cut out for them.

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And you make promises. That tomorrow will be a better day. That you’ll ask for help even though it’s hard. That you’ll go to bed early tonight. That you’ll text a friend and tell her about the terrible, no good, shit smear of a day you’re having, and it’ll sound so ridiculous that you catch yourself smiling. And she will text you back and tell you about the douchebaggery her son put her through the other day, and you’ll realize that even when you feel so alone, you’re not alone at all.

You remember those early weeks when you were up feeding your baby at 3 a.m., and you were so tired you thought you might die, but then you suddenly had an image of all the other women up feeding their babies, spread all across the world and throughout time. It gave you strength.

And you remember that you are connected by this shining thread of motherhood, by the quiet desperation and the immense love, by the brutal exhaustion and bruising self-doubt. You are connected to all of us, who sometimes wonder maybe I’m just not cut out for this parenting thing but do it anyway.

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