I've never really been the motherly type. As a kid I hated babysitting, felt zero inclination to coo at a newborn, and frankly, I don't like the way kids smell. I don't know why I thought I wanted to do this (much less thought I'd be good at it) in the first place. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time.
I blindly jumped in not knowing how life altering the decision to have children really was. I know I am super blessed (or lucky) because I have two really spectacular children. As far as kids go, they're dynamite. Undoubtedly, I would have given up on motherhood immediately if my two weren't so terribly enchanting.
Yes, my children are exquisite but that didn't stop me from looking at them and asking myself, "What's in this for me? How can you (child) make me (mother) happy?" My husband and I were really poor for a while and I felt like it was my kids' fault. Their neediness was keeping me from the workforce (and I really love working) and consequently, keeping us dependent on one shabby doctoral student's income. I resented the fact that I had to do it all. And for what? So they could grow up and do all the things I wanted to be doing?
It all seemed so unfair.
I don't think I was a terrible mother, my attitude may have been a bit off but we did stuff, we read books, I smiled a lot, I loved them real motherly like. I really did.
Then Sam (my 2 year old) learned to talk. I was delighted. I asked him all sorts of questions and was charmed to hear his take on his sister, his fears and the like. Sam (like many 2 year olds) is a straight shooter. He doesn't mince words or beat around the bush. If he thinks you're acting a fool, you're going to hear about it. And I must say, he's usually right on par with reality. Sometimes, I really do need someone to yell in my face, "Mamma mean!"
That's a nice time to sit and reflect on my motives.
At about the peak of my annoyance with the demands of motherhood Sam started mixing up the words 'thank you' and'you're welcome.' I'd change his diaper and he'd say, "You're welcome." I'd make him some toast and I'd hear, "You're welcome." I'd take him to the park and he'd say, "You're welcome."
I would say to him, "No Sam, YOU say thank you." He would just smile back and whisper, "You're welcome." I'd furrow my brow at him and say it again, "YOU say thank you." This dialogue went on between us for months. He's a smart guy, you would think he would catch on. But he didn't. In fact he is STILL saying 'you're welcome' to all my acts of service.
Two weeks ago it hit me.He's right.
I am getting something out of this parent-child relationship.I am the one who should be saying "Thank you" after my kids let me serve them. Motherhood has been invaluable for me socially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Before I was a mother (and even quite a while after) I was a very self-centered person. I used to worry about trivial things like; does my hair look sexier straight or curly? Does everybody like me? Am I getting enough attention?
I haven't brought my hair up in conversation since my daughter was born four years ago. Through the experience of becoming a mother I have unlocked a door of myself I didn't even know was there. Because being a fully engaged mother means it's not about you anymore. There is a shift in focus. That shift compelled me to want to extend my perspective. I now worry about meaningful things like; how can I be a positive influence in the foster care system? How can I encourage literacy in children? What can I be doing to help my children feel empowered?
My life is no longer about me. I've lost my former self in the duties of motherhood and found that this new person that is emerging isimmensely superior to the girl who worried about her hair. I've found that my purpose in life is not about self-gratification but rather generosity. The beautiful thing about living a generous life is that you discover an overabundance of joy that would have been impossible to find on your own. And the beautiful thing about children is that they literally welcome you into their spectacular little lives with open arms.