The boys were dressed in black pants, button up shirts, and bow ties adorned with music notes. I wore a dress that I can't wear too many places because it's a touch to "fancy" if you will, but it was gorgeous. My hair and makeup were done up and I felt, well, you know how you feel when you dress up and your hair does good and your makeup goes on well, and you just feel like walking a red carpet?! Yep! I felt ready to walk down that red carpet, get on stage and show off my handsome boy to the crowd!
As we got ready to walk out the door to this concert, all adorned in red carpet attire, I reached for something, and as I looked down at my hand, I saw bright yellow play dough under my fingernails.
I signed heavily and thought to myself. "I can't fake being put together even if I try!" I washed my hands and picked play dough out from under my nails for as long as I cold before we headed on out the door. I would just have to address the rest of the play dough later. I walked out the door feeling less "fancy" than I had before I noticed the play dough.
I have a few photos from that night, and you know, the play dough wasn't noticeable; at least, no one said anything about it to me! <Haha!> But that juxtaposition of being dressed for the red carpet while simultaneously wearing bright yellow play dough under my fingernails was, to me, the perfect representation of motherhood.
Motherhood has to be one of the simultaneously most beautiful and not-so-pretty things to exist. It's definitely like walking the red carpet so to speak! It's such a beautiful and exhilarating thing that not everyone gets to experience! We are so lucky to get the honor of being a mother, and at the same time, it's so easy to get distracted by the not-so-beautiful parts. Think about it, we all see the beautiful maternity photos. They make pregnancy look gorgeous on anyone, but anyone who has ever been pregnant knows that photo is not always an accurate representation of how we feel.
Weight gain, heart burn, morning sickness, hair loss, post partum depression, after birth, contractions, the pregnant waddle, I could go on, but I think you get the point. "I feel big as a whale" is a common phrase I have heard from my pregnant friends. Pregnancy is not always pretty, and neither is motherhood.
So often, we see these gorgeous depictions of motherhood as well, that aren't an accurate representation, at least not always. First skin to skin cuddles with a new baby, priceless. The peace of a sleeping baby on your chest, breathtaking. But not every moment is priceless, or breathtaking, or anything that even remotely resembles beautiful, at least not what anyone would consider typically beautiful, like sitting in the baby's room at 3am for the 12th night in a row, blood shot eyes and exhaustion that brings you to tears, so desperate for sleep that you don't know how you'll do it all again tomorrow.
Take this photo above for example. I was very pregnant with Chandler when this was taken. I think I look beautiful. I think I look like I was made to be pregnant in this photo. My smile says that I love carrying this precious baby in my body, and I did. But the truth is, I was sick my entire pregnancy from gallbladder and digestive issues. Terrifying nightmares haunted me often during this pregnancy and I suffered lack of sleep because I was so scared to go to sleep some nights. (I once dreamed of Christian lying deceased in a casket. I'm talking extreme nightmares.) I lost weight for the last month of my pregnancy because I was too sick to eat. I was terrified about how I was going to take care of Christian's needs AND a new baby's. I questioned my ability to be everything they both my boys needed so much so that I began to wonder what I was thinking by getting pregnant again after Christian.
Motherhood is so beautiful, and at the same time, there are so many things about it that I wouldn't call beautiful. Kind of like being dressed in red carpet attire with bright yellow play dough under your fingernails.
It's so easy to get caught up in the here and now, in the exhaustion of the moment, that we forget to stop and take in those little moments, the ones we may never get again. We will only get to cuddle a newborn for a few weeks before they turn into an infant. We will only get the opportunity to love on an infant for a few months before they turn into a toddler. We will only get to chase after a toddler for a couple of years before they turn into a preschooler. Then we only get a couple of years before our preschooler turns into a school age kid, and although I don't know from experience, I've heard that all you have to do is blink and your kindergartner is graduating high school.
But I don't really think it's our fault that we get swallowed up in this constant battle between trying to enjoy every little moment and not lost our mind in the process. I hope no one hears blame in this post, because that isn't it at all. I think there is this huge expectations on mothers to "have it all together," but the fact is, it's a feat in itself to care for multiple lives beyond your own and do it well. Let's be honest!!!!! Waking up and going to bed on someone else's schedule can be exhausting, especially if that someone happens to decide to wake up a dozen or more times a night for seventeen straight months, but that's not speaking from personal experience or anything. (It's absolutely personal experience!! EXHAUSTING!!!!!) It's hard to give enough attention to yourself and your needs when you're giving enough attention to a child. In fact, pretty much impossible. It's even more difficult to work a job, keep a clean home, the laundry done, food in the fridge and the bills paid, study for class, see your friends, eat a well balanced meal that's not just whatever you could grab in the 12 seconds you had allotted to eat, take care of your relationship with your spouse, attend religious services and car pools and baseball games and gymnastics and piano lessons and parent teacher meetings and play dates and doctor's appointments. Let's not forget ensuring that those little people who made us a mother are eating
Are you tired yet? Because I'm exhausted just thinking about it. And on top of everything else, we are expected to be a certain weight, not look as exhausted as we feel, have great complexions, be fit and tone, have gorgeous hair that doesn't take too long to fix, look like we are always put together, be well dressed and on point even though we generally have about 3 minutes to dress ourselves, and actually HAVE it all together!!! Unrealistic is only the first word that comes to my mind.
But wait, there's more!!! I can't write a post like this without talking about the notorious mommy wars! Breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, stay at home mom versus working mom, cry it out or bed sharing. A million different ways to raise a child, and mom's infamously battle over whose way is best and why other ways are inferior. I'm not sure there is any greater pressure known to human kind than attempting to raise, nurture, and care for another human being and attempt to ensure that it turns into a decent adult!!
The pressure mothers are under is EXTREME and sometimes I think we do ourselves a disservice by actually listening to all those voices telling us what we need to do and that we are never good enough; cause, ya know what, we don't have to listen to every Pop Sugar article that tells us how inferior we are and we certainly don't have to join in the Facebook debate with strangers about which parenting method works best. We don't have to listen to that inner voice that tells us we failed today, but man, isn't that easier said than done? It. is. SO. HARD!!!!!!!
When Christian was an infant, my first child, extreme and complicated medical needs and all, I felt so clueless so often. And the worst part was that his needs were so unique that no one could really help me or give me guidance. I felt really alone a lot. I think everyone was so taken aback by his complicated needs that they didn't want to give me advice for fear of it being wrong (that can be a good thing at times to not receive advice!) but I think a lot of people just avoided the situation all together, avoided us altogether, when really, I didn't need advice at all. I just needed someone to stand next to me and BE there. I didn't need help, really, I just needed to NOT be alone in the scariest and most stressful thing I had ever experienced up to that point in my 24 years of life. I spent a lot of time alone in hospital rooms, alone in prayer (at least I felt like my prayers were one sided at that time), and alone in the middle of the night caring for my sweet baby.
But, I honestly think, had Christian been typical, I could have very well had the same lonely feelings. I think most moms feel isolated or lonely in those early days of child raising. So much of your time is spent tending to baby that you don't even have time to tend to yourself, let alone to relationships with others. I often hear other stay at home moms voicing that they just want some "adult time" because their days are spent with toddlers and Dora the Explorer. So many people hear this as a cry of unappreciativeness and scold moms for this, but after living the lonely life of a mother, I get it. I know it has nothing to do with not being thankful for your kids! I know it has nothing to do with your children not being your everything! But I certainly also understand how it appears that way to the outside world.
As an almost thirty year old woman, I understand that this season in my life of being lonely and feeling isolated, of picking play dough out from under my fingernails, is just that, a season. I understand that my boys are the most precious gift I have ever been given, and the highest calling I have ever had is to be their mom. But NONE of that negates my need to feel connected with others. My love for my children does NOT somehow end my longing to have deep, meaningful conversations with others who get me on a soul level. The fact that I spent a portion of my day cuddled up with sleepy babies in a joyous bliss that I wouldn't trade for ANYTHING, does not stop the yearning in my heart to feel like I am more than just a diaper changing, snot wiping, cartoon watching, milk supply. Don't hear that wrong. I wouldn't trade wiping those snotty noses for ALL the adult interaction in the world. If I had to be lonely for the rest of my life for my children, I would; but why does it have to be one or the other? I propose that it doesn't.
You know what I think mom's need more than to be labeled, more than advice (welcomed or not)? You know what I think we need more than to not have to pick yellow play dough out from under our fingernails? I think we need support, from each other, and from those around us, and from society. I think the entire world would benefit from us all having a greater understanding of the pressures and stresses that come inherently with raising tiny humans. I think we could all benefit from showing more compassion and understanding to women facing the tremendously difficult (but oh, so rewarding) challenges of tending to the every need of another person!
And I think we need to stop being so hard on ourselves. it's unrealistic to think that you will never make mistakes in life or in motherhood. I sometimes feel like, with my boys, there isn't room for error. I am raising human beings who will be fathers and husbands and leaders one day, and I CAN'T MESS THIS UP!!!! But I have. I have messed up. I have lost my temper. I have made the wrong choice. I have fed the junk food. I have caved and bought the toy.
I don't want to pretend that I am perfect. It does no one any good, and certainly not myself! I don't want other women to look at me and think that they need to try to be "perfect" like me. Not that anyone thinks I'm perfect, just that if I give that perception, they might feel pressured based on what I show and what they see. And that's just it, we generally only get to see the highlight reels of other people's lives anyways. I don't post on Facebook how I just lost my temper with my child, and I am really cautious to even post when I am stressed, because inevitably I will get judged and called ungrateful or whiny or whatever, as if my life is always supposed to be rainbows and sunshine, and as if I should never be stressed or tired or moody. So, of course I'm going to be more likely to post the good things, the fun times, the highlight reels.
First and foremost, mothers are human. Sometimes seeming superhuman, but still human. And I want to be the first to admit that I am as human as the next mom. And that's okay! I am doing the best I can, and I am lucky enough to call Christian and Chandler mine. The rest will just have to fall as it may!