There comes a time in every mother’s life when she feels like she’s the sh*t. Maybe it’s the first time you lay the baby down for a nap and triumphantly tip toe from the room. Or perhaps it’s preparing more than one kid for travel and arriving on time. These moments come and go. But at some point we feel as if we can do this motherhood thing without totally freaking out. We need that feeling, because the struggle is all too real far too often.
I hold on to the times when I feel capable in motherhood because my Mommy Achilles heel cramps my style more often than I’d like to admit. I am almost ashamed to say my biggest struggle as a mom has nothing to do with my child. It’s actually about me.
My greatest struggle as a mother is the resentment of losing my freedom.
After relocating to the DC area recently, I’m trying to grow my tribe of people here. I have a few friends in the area who are either unmarried or childless. Sometimes they invite me places at the spur of the moment. I love being invited places! However, because I am heavily pregnant, new to the city, and must wrangle childcare to go out at night, I’m seldom able to go. I am afraid that at some point, they will realize how inflexible my schedule is and stop inviting me at all.
Underlying that fear is a tiny kernel of resentment. At who? At what? I cannot say. But I am new enough to parenthood to freshly remember a time when I was able to carpe diem (and the night, too). I sometimes miss the spontaneity of childlessness. I miss the magic of knowing I could let life happen by being open to circumstance. So many wonderful things and people have come to me from the indulgence of well timed whim.
But parenthood is very much about controlling the environments in which you bring your child. We are to be paragons of stability, in whatever form that takes for our lifestyle. As such, spontaneity becomes the purview of children: the unexpected smiles they bring you, unforeseen meltdowns and blowouts, wearying deviations from a set schedule. You are the adult now, I tell myself. So I act like one.
These days, without advance notice, I am unlikely to “hop over” anywhere. Sippy cups and baby dolls must be packed. Snacks have to be stuffed in the purse for the inevitable, “Mommy, I want something to eat, please.” Anything less than thorough preparation could spell stress for both me and the little one. I also take a small measure of pride in my newfound “ready for anything” status as a mother. Ironically, it is in losing my spontaneity that I have found my capability in motherhood.
But if I consider being “whimsical and spontaneous” a part of my personality that I can no longer exercise, am I less “me” as a mom? I battle myself, “You don’t have the right to complain. You chose this path.” That I did.
However, I also believe that motherhood is wrestling. The state of motherhood is centered on the child in the womb; but the raw, sloughing work of *mothering* is an evolving effort made over time. Children are born. But mothers must make and remake and remake themselves. The shifting of women into mothers rarely happens without constant internal dialogue about who we are to ourselves once we become “mommy” to others. It’s a fallacy to believe that mothers of (young) children should slide seamlessly into the role when we have lived with our bodies and minds longer than we have lived with our children.
And so I have come to understand this struggle is not something I should bear with shame. Motherhood, even when it is chosen and cherished, is a grappling for balance. I see-saw between raising my children to be whole people and maintaining my own wholeness. One cannot happen without the other. I strive to redefine what it means to be free, to be myself, and mother my babies.