“Babies are so sweet!”
Yeah, sure. They’re sweet when they’re sleeping, when they are being nice, being quiet, being predictable and unchallenging. They smell like heaven and their soft skin melts our hearts.
Then they grow out of that angelic state, and somewhere within them lies a wild side we cautiously try to tame. It’s usually no fault of their own—they're simply learning the boundaries of life. But, honestly, some of the things kids to do their parents are simply NOT COOL.
They pull your hair, scream, make messes, pinch you anywhere they can and, once toddlerhood comes along, the attitude and defiance starts. Maybe they are doing this on purpose, to make life hell for Mom and Dad.
There have been times throughout my mothering years where I've felt frustrated with how the day was going, that nothing I was doing made a difference because I still felt like we were on competing sides. I wanted things clean; they wanted things messy. I wanted to nap; they wanted to jump on my face. I wanted to go for a drive; they wanted to scream in the car the whole time. Why were my kids trying to ruin everything?!
Thankfully, my aha moment came and snapped me out of my mommy martyrdom. I realized I had been loving my kids and motherhood conditionally. I loved the precious moments. I loved the Instagram-worthy moments. I loved one-on-one time with the kids. I loved reading to them at night before tucking them into sleep.
I didn’t love all of motherhood and that had to be OK. I don’t have to love it.
But I didn’t love changing yet another diaper. I didn’t love cleaning yet another potty accident. I didn’t love making a dinner that would be complained about and half-eaten. I didn’t love feeling outnumbered. I didn’t love getting drenched at bath time, stepping on toys I could have sworn I had just picked up, or the crying, tantrums and fighting. There was a lot about motherhood I simply didn’t enjoy.
For a moment, shame washed over me. I was aware of all the women out there wanting children. I was aware of all of the children who are hurting or hungry. I was aware of my privilege and the privilege of my children. And then I realized something: I needed to validate my own feelings.
I didn’t love all of motherhood and that had to be OK. I don’t have to love it. Where in the manual of life does it say that you HAVE to love every aspect of a job? Why do we feel so conditioned to believe this is such a special experience in life, that we aren't allowed to share that there are things about it that drive us up the wall?
The relief I felt by practicing some self-compassion lifted such a heavy load from my shoulders and helped my day to feel not so polarized. It also helped me realize how selfish I was being, that I was forgetting not only is this my motherhood, but it’s my kids’ childhood. That’s way more important than how I’m feeling about certain aspects of this role.
I now more fully understand what loving somebody unconditionally truly means.
So, Mama, whether you’re in the middle of a poopy diaper or a sweet cuddle with your little one, remember that it’s OK to not love every single part of this. More good moments will come after the crappy moments subside but that doesn’t mean you have to always wear a smile and love it.
I love my kids unconditionally, no matter what, but I definitely can't say the same about motherhood.