CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)
Learning motherhood is a forever commitment
As hard as people may try, no one can prepare an expectant mom for motherhood. You can listen to all the sage advice you want and read all the books available, but until you live and breathe it, you won’t ever understand what it really means to be a mother.
When I was expecting my son, motherhood veterans would tell me my life was about to change. I knew they were right, I just didn’t know how exactly. For instance, I assumed I would suffer from sleep deprivation for the first few months, at least that’s what the books said, but I assumed that because lack of sleep was never mentioned again after Chapter 3, things would soon return to normal, and we’d all be snoring happily for an eight-hour stretch.
I’m just now beginning to realize that, once a mother brings a child into this world, she never sleeps well again. Even when Junior is a CEO, making multimillion-dollar decisions and spending his summers at a chateau in England, you, his mother, lie awake worrying whether he’s eating enough green vegetables to keep him regular.
Motherhood is one big emotional roller coaster ride. We climb on with great anticipation, yearning to do everything by the book, when, in fact, we slowly evolve into our own mothers, using that same tone of voice and the same authoritative phrases you swore you’d never use with your children. But, alas, you quickly discover that the chapter titled, “Using Logic To Build Your Adorable Two-Year-Old’s Self-Esteem” was written by a doctor who never had a two-year-old, and that your Mom’s “no-frill” approach elicited the much-sought-after behavior.
On this somewhat bumpy ride, mothers do a lot of stupid things, and we make most of those errors with child No. 1. The stupidity begins early, as far back as the first bath, when we place our child in a tub with several drops of water and conclude, from the baby’s flailing and screaming, that he hates baths. To make matters worse, good ol’ Dad comes onto the scene, thaws out Junior and fills the tub up to the baby’s neck with warm, soothing water. The baby, in turn, kicks, coos and looks longingly at his lifetime hero and pal. Meanwhile, Mom tears apart the bedroom looking for a Valium.
There is some consolation to all this. After awhile, mothers begin listening to their hearts rather than to other people when it comes to dealing with their own offspring. We grow in confidence as we slowly realize that no one could possibly know a child better than the one who carried him nine months and played a major role in the gift of life. It is only then we begin to understand, through everyday events, what motherhood really means.
It means not getting to buy that dress you’d love to have because your son’s blue jeans are riding above his ankles and kids might poke fun. It means pretending you didn’t want your slice of peach pie because your child asked if she could have a second helping. It means wiping up juice spills on the couch, chasing monsters out of bedroom closets at 3 a.m., tying double knots in tennis shoes, and cutting the crust off of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. It means loving until it hurts.
In other words, motherhood and all the baggage that comes with it is a forever commitment. Long after the kids have found their independence and lifelong mates, you are still there, praying that they still look both ways before crossing streets and that they remember to say their prayers before turning in.
After all, no one ever out-grows those rules.
Mary Farrell Thomas writes a weekly column for the Daily Journal.