This past summer, a Fellow Fabulous Mom (2 Ds - 9, 4 1/2) and I were tossing around the idea of a mommy-getaway/girlfriends-weekend and how absolutely glorious it would be just to relax and release that ready-to-sprint-into-action stance even if only for a few short days. FFM mentioned another FFM - a "newer" mom in terms of how long ago it was she started motherhood (almost 2 1/2 yrs and 2 kids) - a mom to whom she'd brought up the same idea of a getaway trip. The "new" mom quickly responded "Oh, I don't think I could leave my kids for that long. I'd miss them too much! What would I do?!"
At which point my FFM and I began laughing hysterically. Don't know about my FFM but my laugh was almost embarrassingly uncontrollable. Almost.
Don't get me wrong. I love my children - more than life itself. From the moment I found out there was a first bun in the oven I happily - nay, ecstatically -donned the mommy-bear cloak, never to take it off, no matter how much I would come to joke of motherhood equalling insanity.
When my daughter (4 1/2) was born, I held her almost her entire first week of life on this planet. From the moment they brought her to me, I rarely let her be even a few inches from my body. I would put her down to use the bathroom and the shower and that was it. I know that, for me, I held on to her so tightly because I was afraid she'd be taken away somehow. We'd tried for so many years, I'd shed so many tears and hopes and dreams to conceive and bear this child. If I just held on to her, no one could ever take away those hopes-and-dreams wrapped into such a beautiful sweet bundle.
After the first week of being home and trying to sleep with her in my arms in our bed and, most probably, due to the waning of all that oxytocin, I was able to trust that God would still see her three feet away in her cradle, in her carseat, swing, wherever and I didn't have to actually hold on to her 24/7.
And as every mom can vouch, your arms may let go of your children, but your heart never does.
The same scenario played out with my son (16 mos.) - he was in my arms continuously and I wasn't about to let him go, especially after the first night in that hospital bed when he melted my heart and soul with laughing in his sleep and showing off that gorgeous dimpled smile I'd come to memorize every minute detail of. But after sleeping with him against my chest for the first three nights at home, I just couldn't do it any longer. This time, it had nothing to do with hormones and everything to do with his thrashing around in his sleep. How can something so little be so wonderfully disruptive? Yeah, it was wonderful the first few times. After that, not so much.
And though my arms may have laid him in the cradle in the corner of our room, my heart continues to hold him tight to my chest.
New motherhood - whether it's the birth of the first or the fourth child - is like the honeymoon period of marriage. It's bliss. It's heavenly love. Being with that child is like being among the angels.
How could there ever be a day that I could possibly not feel like this toward my child? How could I ever not want this? How could I ever not love mommyhood?
And those are the questions we pelt ourselves with once we get tired, worn out, burnt, exhausted - once reality sets in that this whole parenting thing is not what we expected. Reality hits us and we find that it is not easy, is not always sunshine and roses, and, we almost hate to say it but being a mom is not always something we like to do.
The truth is that the depth of love we feel for each one of these blessings does not have to end but the honeymoon does. Not a one of us can maintain that everything's-comin'-up-roses attitude even on the best combination of anti-psychs and pain meds. We simply can't keep up the honeymoon because the honeymoon doesn't plan for tomorrow, it doesn't think about years from now, it doesn't wonder how food will make it to the table, it doesn't write out checks to pay the mortgage. The honeymoon simply does not deal with reality.
Moving from the honeymoon to the "this-is-ever-after" stage is nothing to be ashamed of. It has nothing to do with the depth of love for our children or the joy we find in motherhood and has everything to do with fatigue, daily grind, and the stress from our constant tight-rope balancing act.
Not gushing irrationally that I just love being a mom the minute someone points out that I have my hands full doesn't make me any less of a mother and it doesn't mean that I don't love being a mom. Truth be told, I wouldn't trade this job for the world. The problem is, though, that some days it does feel like an underpaid and unappreciated job rather than the unending euphoria I'd thought it'd be.
The days I feel less than loving toward my children are the days when my body and mind begin shouthing irreverantly, "you need a break - if you don't take it, I'll take it for you." I've gotten to this point of fatigue by pushing myself, as every mom does, til I have little left to give. I've listened entirely too much to mainstream media and cultural ideas of the martyring mother and completely ignored my mind and my body's frantic smoke signals warning of the impending downward spiral. And once I've gotten to this point, frankly, no, I don't like being a mother, I don't love it, and I want a dang break.
And I need that break. Because I love my children. Because I want to love my "job".
If I didn't look honestly at and accept my less-than-warm-and-fuzzy feelings regarding my, um, "position" than I'd be lying to not just the world but to myself and, more importantly, to my children. I'd be showing them a harmful facade, an unhealthy way of life, and I'd be ultimately setting them up for failure, especially my daughter. I'd be role-modeling for her that mothers must forego happiness and stifle any negative emotions and that being a good mother means the sacrifice of self rather than self-sacrifice.
From the honeymoon stage I've taken the hope, courage, and bonding found therein and carried it with open eyes into the ever-after stage. I want to continue to carry those with me, I want to bravely face reality and live. And I want my children to have the skills to do so as well.
We all know moms who have never left and will never leave the honeymoon stage. The moms who gush "oh, I just love being a mom!" or deeply sigh "my kids are my life!" or even state matter-of-factly yet nonetheless gleefully: "I was nothing before I had kids." How sad for the offspring of those rosy moms that they will never understand what it is to experience the satisfaction of brazenly trudging through negative lulls in life only to find ourselves suddenly at the peaks, afforded the glorious views.
And those views - the ones that show me thoroughly enjoying every aspect of each of my children - those are the views that keep me willing to trek those lulls and face reality.
Those are the views that, in my quiet moments, I return to for they keep me realistically and humbly whispering, "yes, thank you God, I do love being a mom."