On days like Mother’s Day there’s always so many moms publicly gushing about how much they love being a mom. Part of this is the Hallmark nature of the day and part of this is the existence of social media itself, but part of this is also because of cultural expectations. Just under the surface of our society is a very clear but unspoken expectation that mothers must proclaim that motherhood is wonderful. I think that misses the point though, and it devalues what motherhood really is about because many parts of being a mom suck.
Being pregnant sucks. Feeling so nauseous that you don’t know how you’re going to crawl out of bed and make it to work to teach an engaging lesson to a classroom full of teenagers sucks. Having seven layers of your belly sliced open to give birth sucks. Being home alone with a newborn baby all day makes you feel really lonely, and that sucks too. Suffering through sleep deprivation during the first year is horrible; wondering how you’re going to stay awake to take care of your baby sucks. Desperately wanting to sit down with your family at a restaurant and eat your food when it arrives, but spending most of the time pacing, trying to quiet a fussy baby so as not to let them disrupt or annoy the people at surrounding tables, sucks. Then, when it’s time to go back to work, leaving your not-quite-one-year-old behind at day home for the first time as they cry and scream for you to come back sucks. The responsibility and panic-inducing guilt that you feel when they refuse to nap at day home and their screaming prevents all the other kids from napping for the first two months sucks. Having to physically hold down your toddler so a lab tech can get a blood sample will break your heart; the horrible, mysterious rash that lasts for weeks and means your child can’t go out in public sucks too. Still not fitting back into your pre-pregnancy jeans on your baby’s second birthday sucks. Fishing poop out of the bathtub sucks, as does wiping puddles of pee off the floor as you attempt to begin potty training. In fact, a lot of being a mom isn’t wonderful at all – it’s doing things that suck.
The kicker is that you do those things out of a deep, all encompassing love that is the purest love you will ever know. As Charley Benetto once said, “When you are looking at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.” That’s the part that’s so special. Let’s not pretend motherhood is simply wonderful because that devalues all of our hard work that comes in the form of blood, sweat, and tears. It devalues the giant mess and the beautiful humanness of the experience. Being a mom is really about wading right through the shit, literally and figuratively, to get to the wonderful on the other side.