Being a mom is a mind-blowing experience. It’s the most complex, overwhelming, heart-bursting and heart-wrenching thing that has ever happened to me, and I find myself struggling on a daily basis to flow with the waves of change and keep myself centered. My mind is flooded with all sorts of questions, simple ones that seem obvious at first but turn out to be layered with meaning. Things like, “What does it mean to be someone’s mother? How can I be a good one? What is motherhood to me?”
So I’m going to attempt to capture my answer to that last question, in all its swirling emotional complexity.
Motherhood is the life-changing moment of stepping into this role with no idea what the future brings. It’s the joy of loving a kid so much that your chest physically aches and your throat gets tight and it’s hard to breathe sometimes.
Motherhood is willingly opening yourself to more pain and fear than you could ever imagine, and to levels of stress and sleep-deprivation that would make your 19-year-old jaw hang open.
Motherhood is being so tired you can feel the exhaustion literally radiating from your body. It’s being so tired that you can’t string together a coherent sentence, and there’s no rest in sight. Motherhood is feeling like you can’t possibly be a mom for one more minute, surrendering completely, then finding some deep reserve of strength that helps you keep going.
Motherhood is the tremendous responsibility of molding the way a child goes through the world. It’s doing your damnedest to raise a person who is kind, whole, and feels loved, even if you made a lot of mistakes along the way.
Motherhood is the privilege of having a front-row seat to watching your kid become the person they are meant to be. Motherhood is the indescribable pride of knowing you played a role in that breathtaking transformation.
Motherhood is feeling deep self-doubt, complete certainty, overwhelming love, and crushing despair within a span of 12 hours, and then doing it all again the next day.
Motherhood is finally getting your kids to bed after hours of tantrums and whining, hours of feeling utterly miserable in their presence and desperately wanting to escape, then using your tiny sliver of adult time to look at pictures of them on your phone, tears filling your eyes as you think about how much you love those incredible little people.
Motherhood is wondering what happened to the carefree young woman you used to be and feeling real grief for the loss of that person, while also knowing that you wouldn’t choose to go back to the time before your kids. It’s feeling like a stranger in your life while also knowing you are exactly where you’re meant to be.
Motherhood is messing up. It’s yelling, saying the wrong thing, doing something that you look back on with shame. It’s worrying about the examples you are setting. Motherhood is forgiving yourself and trying to do better and remembering that your best is all you can give. Motherhood is hoping like hell that what your kids remember above all else is how much you loved them.
Motherhood is never being able to truly take a vacation from your job, not even for an hour or two.
Motherhood is smiling through a work meeting like everything is fine, but your mind is humming with endless tasks that need your attention and weirdly specific anxieties your childless co-worker could never begin to understand.
Motherhood is crying because your kid will never be a baby again, then realizing that your tiny baby was awfully cuddly and sweet, but she couldn’t tell you a hilarious joke or ask a question that totally changes how you think about the world. Motherhood is loving those adorable babies more than you ever thought possible, only to have them grow up and be even more amazing.
Motherhood is a glorious afternoon where everything goes right, and you can’t imagine a more perfect moment than this one right here. It’s wondering what you did to get so lucky.
Motherhood is holding a million different emotions in your heart at the same time and then feeling every single worry melt away when you hold that child in your arms and feel their head resting again your chest.
Motherhood is the hardest and best experience of my life. And even on the hardest days, I know it’s worth giving it my all.