This article was previously published on Nettie's Notes. It is republished here with permission.
Nope. I don’t necessarily love this crazy parenting lifestyle. Never mind that I did “like” the Facebook page titled “I Love Being a Mom.” But that was a hypocritical act. Sorry to burst the bubble of anyone who thought I was a sweet, diaper-changing, laundry-loving, meal-making, always-happy mama. The truth is, I don’t love diapers. I don’t relish waking up at all hours of the night. I don’t love meals and endless cooking and mountains of chronic laundry. I don’t prefer spending my afternoons driving around endlessly, dropping off and picking up kids from across the city. I don’t necessarily like staying up nights helping with homework, or getting up early to pack nine lunches and chauffeur kids to their morning classes. These tasks are too often mundane.
“Well, then, what DO you love?” you might ask. I’ll tell you: I love sleeping in. I love ice cream. I love traveling. I love shopping when I can take my time and slowly look at everything. I love naptime when the house is silent without fire truck sounds or doors banging. I love moments when I am all alone and can gather my thoughts into one place. I love being me.
“But, you’re such a sweet mom!” so many well-meaning folks have said to me. Sure, I’m a sweet mom, I think as I struggle to lift three toddlers into a shopping cart, glaring at them when they pinch each other and firmly saying “No” when they want candy at the checkout stand. Or when I play bad cop and hold my teenager to his commitments despite his grumpy protests. Motherhood certainly isn’t for sissies.
“I could never be a stay-at-home mom,” strangers have sighed to me more than once. “I just wasn’t cut out to do that.” Well, the truth is, I’m often sure I wasn’t cut out for this lifestyle either. It isn’t easy sacrificing my personal aspirations and comfort to care for others. Some days I’d rather be looking out of the windows of a high office building, living the life of a CEO. Or run from meeting to meeting making grand decisions that will affect thousands of employees in an important company. I’m certain I could thrive at the United Nations. Or even as an attorney (my husband often reminds me that I do win every argument). At any rate, I’m quite sure that my skills are above diapers and laundry.
“Then why are you a mom?” you might ask. Well, why does the athlete work out, or the hiker climb the mountain, or the doctor perform the operation, or the fireman enter the burning building? Not because athletes love pain, or hikers love exhaustion, or doctors love stress, or firemen love heat. No. Yet we feel driven to do what we do. We anticipate the victory at the finish line, the view from the top of the mountain, the life that is saved, the flames that are extinguished. We know that the prize will be worth the price. Any price.
I like hiking. Let me rephrase that: I love hiking. I love the trail under my feet, I love the passing trees, I love the songs of the wind. But I don’t necessarily like the sweat, the pain and the sometimes-nagging feeling that the final mountain view might not be worth the toil to the top. I have moments on every hike when I think, “If I had known it would be this hard, I wouldn’t have come.” Luckily, I recognize those feelings of despair when they arrive. I pause to take a break and then hit the trail again. And soon (usually shortly after my feelings of hopelessness), the peak appears around the bend and I reach the top. Once I see the breathtaking view below, my pain is more than compensated.
There is a euphoria — combined with incredible sights and sounds — which only those who’ve climbed a mountain can fully experience.
Motherhood is the same. There are moments of despair when I think I will croak at the sight of another diaper, or lose my top if someone else asks for a snack, or simply die if my sleep is interrupted one more time. There are days when I’m sure I can’t possibly fix another meal, or deal with another cranky teenager or touchy tween or temper-tantrum toddler. There are weeks when I’m positive I’ll never see the sun again, or survive the weeds in the garden, or the dirty dishes on the counter. Some days I know I’ll melt into oblivion if I don’t have at least 60 uninterrupted seconds in the bathroom.
These are the times when I don’t love being a mom. But if I rest for a moment — even mentally — and then stand up again, clean up the next mess, change the next diaper, fix the next meal, tackle the next homework project or fold the pile of laundry, then suddenly my energy is renewed and I’m back on the trail. A little person says, “I love you.” A teenager earns an A grade. A flower blooms in the garden. A teacher sends a complimentary email. My family appreciates dinner. And I know that my mountain of motherhood is going to be worth it.
I may never be a CEO in a high-rise building, or mediate a diplomatic conversation at the United Nations, or win an argument in a courtroom. But there’s something fulfilling about seeing nine children all bathed, fed, clean and tucked into bed after a busy day. There’s something fiercely joyous about watching children grow and succeed, after nail-biting nights and weeping times. There’s something happy about a sigh, when I can finally crawl into bed — my bed — and be all alone for a few blessed moments in the pink sheets, recording the triumphs and tragedies of the day in my journal.
And I’m sure these are just minor victories. The true reward will be years from now (granted, I survive this) when I’m rocking in a chair and turn up my hearing aid to listen to a child speak to me, or read a story to a grandchild or great-grandchild. Indeed, my efforts will last longer than any business or international triumph.
No. I don’t always love being a mom. I AM a mom. And that is enough, because one day, when I stand on top of my mountain, my joy will be worth every trying moment which brought me to victory. THAT is why I’m a mother.
Nettie Francis is the mother of nine children. She has written on topics pertaining to children and families for the past 20 years. Her work has appeared in national and international publications. She blogs at fromthefrancisfarm.blogspot.com