Thank you to all who shared thoughts on Louella’s post. The diversity of our experience is proof of how difficult – and essential – this conversation is. How else will we learn from each other? I was tempted to step in and arbitrate, but decided to “let the community do its thing,” as my husband says, and I truly enjoyed the ride. About the time things started leaning too much to one side, someone bumped it back on track again.
What was the right track? you might ask.
Primarily, listening to each other with love and respect. That is the right track.
Some of your replies to each other were pretty sharp, I guess you know that? Proof that whatever women feel about motherhood, we feel deeply. We don’t all feel the same. But there was some stellar advice given in the last 24 hours, and my hat is off to all of you, gentle and fierce alike, to be honest. Truth lies in the middle of what you shared, even when you said opposite things: not just about motherhood itself, but about how to find God in busy seasons, and whether to take time away, and how to keep your balance. We pull truth best in pairs, until, taffy-like, it forms itself essential, apprehensible, palatable between our four hands.
We must learn together. We must. And with the women in our own communities most of all. Take a deep breath. Open your eyes to others. Don’t let this point of diversity harm your real life relationships, only forge them stronger.
The response I share below was written before yesterday’s discussion. I have not altered it to please you. #impossible
Thank you again for your thoughts, and your wisdom.
Thank you for your emails and your article, and for sharing what you feel. I hope you found some relief just in saying it and getting it out where you can look at it. Fussy babies will take it right out of you.
Though most days I love my job now, when I first started mothering I felt all thumbs, like I was putting in time until the real mom showed up. For me, the early years involved lots of fear, frustration, and mind-numbing boredom.
At that time, I connected strongly with Rachel Jankovic’s work, Loving the Little Years and Fit to Burst, regarding life with multiple small people. I see she also has a new release, You Who? but I haven’t read it yet.
There is always something to feel mom-guilt about. If it’s not breastfeeding, it is scheduled (or non-scheduled) sleep, or yelling at your kids, or miscarrying them, or giving birth to too many or too few… We can always find something to beat ourselves up about, when comparison strikes again.
The utter dependence of the baby-toddler years, and the lack of reciprocation and mature connection, can be very draining. Some love those years, and are not just faking it either. For me, gaining a little space to breathe as they grow older, while still loving them and investing heavily, feels like an easier fit. But the catch is that if I want the good connection at 8 years old and 12 years old and 18 years old, I must invest deeply at all stages. I don’t have to love it, but I do have to do it – not just the physical work like diapers and healthy meals, but the emotional work of listening when they chatter, being gentle (or repentant) when they are clumsy, and teaching them what relationships should feel like. I have to love them: as people: imperfectly and faultily and as well as I can.
Sometimes it helps the mother feelings to pretend you are more smitten than you are – not to other people, but to yourself. It helps to list in your mind the things you like about them, to take pride in their new accomplishments, to dress them beautifully, to gaze into their faces. Like love in marriage, motherlove doesn’t come naturally all the time. It must be fed and grown.
Don’t give up too quickly: on your children, on yourself, or on those “other moms” who don’t get it, or don’t talk about it. Everyone loves honesty – in others. Much harder is beginning to put out little feelers regarding your own need and inadequacy lest you become a woman who fakes perfection, or shuts down entirely. It may take a few times of saying timidly, “Mothering does not come easily for me,” and “Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning” – it may take a few times of being misunderstood or given blank looks – before you find the people who do get it, and who can help you get through.
Children were precious to Christ, and are precious still. Sink into the mess as well as you can. I believed it would last forever, but it didn’t. Each of my babies I enjoyed more, and by the fourth, I could truly say “She’s growing up waaaayyy too fast.” You don’t have to feel that, ever, but for me it came.
I hope you will hear what I am saying, and know that I care. I hope you will take a deep breath and go on.
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