Secrets About Being a Mother

Smitty, Me, Sheppy, Roan, Green Balloon

Maybe you are a dude, a dad. Or possibly a lady wondering if this mothering thing is up your alley. Perhaps you are a mother, trying to figure out if your normal is actually normal, or if you should start pretending a little harder. I’m writing for you, all of you. But be warned: I’m on day eight of an eleven day stretch of single-parenting this ship. Not only that, but two yes two of my three man-children are down with fevers. I’m Xena Warrior Princessing this family currently and am under a little distress.

What better time to break down what it is to be a mother? The stuff you don’t know. Start here:

  • Mothers are kind of mean. Mostly to ourselves.

Not including those jealous meanies in the playground who suck their teeth at how we encourage our little ones to successfully climb up the slide because really we are much too smart to even think we can win that battle of “stairs only” when obviously the slide is meant to be climbed, not including those meanies – we beat ourselves up in the most cutting of ways.

I’ve yet to meet a mother who does not mentally inventory her failures at the end of the day. We all process them differently. Sometimes it shows up as frustration towards the child, sometimes it comes out as anger towards a spouse, and sometimes it just manifests with a huffy breath and backwards fall onto a couch. But we all feel the potency of each disagreement, each mishandled and overreacted bump with our children x1000 at the end of the day. I usually am able to desperately reach for a few wins – maybe I made Smitty laugh more than usual, or maybe Sheppy shared with a stranger. Maybe Roan offered up a sliver of his day that was important to him. Those are wins. I try to bump out all the rain of messy things with those. But as a mother, we hold the responsibility of all wrong things on our shoulders. We teeter between feeling absolutely overwhelmed and wondering if we’re not quite grateful enough for what we have.

This is why we need time alone. Holding the weight of two or three or four or five people’s bad experiences on our shoulders gets heavy. And yeh, we signed up for this. And no, there’s not a lot you can do to help. Just recognize it, appreciate it, and give us a massage gift certificate. That’ll do.

A mother would consider her child eating raspberries in this fashion both gifted, and talented.

  • Mothers are ready to fix it.

Once a child is introduced into a persons life, the world becomes crazy large. Nothing is actually about the mom anymore. Sounds really gross and scary but it’s actually beautiful. A primal switch is flipped, and the center of the universe is no longer the same. Relationships are redefined and love becomes a huge tangible thing, and not an abstract weird smokey ghost.

Part of our power comes from knowing that we have this magical reserve. For instance, I do know that even if I am tired (I am), even if I am grumpy (I am), even if I’ve not had a break from my kids in eight days (I haven’t), I would be happy to have the chance to help anyone I love. And guess what? Mothers love a lot of people.

Ok, even I think I’m getting a little glittery here – what with the love and magic and whatever. And it’s not all sunshine and flower garlands. But the truth is I think my ability to actually love changed once I became a mom. It probably has something to do with that whole “I’m not the center of my world” thing. Getting out of the middle puts me in orbit with everyone else. It’s easier to connect there. There are an infinite amount of ways to get into that orbit, probably. But for me it took the massive change of having a child.

Obviously a version of the gifted and talented school of berry-eating.

  • Moms can smell their children’s fevers.

I’m not actually sure about this one. But I think it’s true for me. There’s probably a smart-guy science-y explanation for this but I can actually smell a change in my children before they get sick. Or right when they do. Pretty cool party trick, right? With Roan, I can actually feel it in his hands – when I hold his hand it feels different, and then BLAMM-O! Two hours later a fever breaks onto the scene.

You don’t have to believe me but it’s true.

And lest I make all the people who are not mothers mad by this post on magical motherhood, let me say that I think the mothering kind of love comes from a certain place in our heart. It’s quite close to the place where we love our animals, and almost shares a chamber with the place where we love the rest of our family. It also harbors a mean and malicious protective sniper that sometimes makes us behave in pretty crazy ways. All of us. Sometimes. And I’m sorry for that. On behalf of mothers everywhere, I’m sorry for when we believe you want to see another picture, watch another video, or hear another story about our precious. I’m also sorry for when we feel entitled to expect you to put our children’s needs/wants/desires in a place of special importance when actually, they are not your priority.

Mothers can be overbearing beasts, it’s true.

And while having a child can sometimes put things in perspective, if you’re a big jerk before you have a kid chances are you’ll be a big jerk after you have a kid right? But I have seen people change into who they really probably were their whole lives – just through the magic of  becoming a mother.

Ok ok ok – or becoming a father. Everything I wrote is for you too, ok?

  • Mothers really want everyone to be happy.

See above.

9 thoughts on “Secrets About Being a Mother

  1. “Getting out of the middle puts me in orbit with everyone else. It’s easier to connect there.”

    I love these two sentences with all my heart. And, of course, I totally agree.

    Also, I love that you have the sick-kid-forsight-superpower. I happen to as well. I can see it in my teen’s glassy eyes and in my 6-year old’s “sick boy hair.”

  2. I totally relate to the feeling overwhelmed/not grateful enough debacle. This is where I sometimes implode. There’s such a fine line between recognizing our limits and taking on too much out of obligation or trying to be superwoman. Thanks for this piece. At least my normal is the same as your normal. Does that make us normal??

  3. Oops…so now I can stop beating myself up for beating myself up :) thanks for the honest writing that isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and creamy filtered photos that make me feel like maybe I don’t love enough, feel enough or do enough.

  4. Lelalu grabbed my line! “Getting out of the middle puts me in orbit with everyone else. It’s easier to connect there.” The exact same thing happened to me when I had kids but I could not have put it as well as you have!

    Thank you for that! Your preciseness of motherhood-language makes it a joy to read your writings!

    And, trust me on this: You’ll lighten up on yourself eventually. Early childhood mothering is SO exhausting! It gets easier as they grow older–easier to forgive yourself, too! From my vantage point you are doing a TERRIFIC job!

  5. It’s been awhile since I have been here, and I just want to say how much I love your blog. I’m convinced you are a mother with far more grace than I am, but you have such humility and perspective that your stories still seem real.

    Totally beating myself up for sending my child to daycare this morning – knowing he was probably getting sick – and then having to get him early because he has a fever….

  6. Being a new mom and still getting used to the new orbit I really appreciated your blog today as I was beating my self up this weekend and then taking it out on my husband… And then beating myself up for taking it out on my husband…
    Trying to be supermom is hard and learning to let go is a work in progress. Agree it helps just knowing we are not alone :)
    Thanks for taking the time to write your blog while being “single” mommy with sick kids.

  7. You aren’t alone with being able to smell illness on a child. I can, and not only in mine but in others as well. My niece last Christmas was a bit on the quiet side and I took her in my lap, instantly smelling in her what my Mom always called ‘Tonsil-y’. Nina’s mom said ‘Oh she’s fine, she just didn’t sleep last night.’ and two days later we hear that Nina was diagnosed with strep. My good nature refuses to allow me to say ‘I told you so.’ but ….

    Any time you start to feel sorry for yourself that you’re alone with the little men while the big man is away, remember those single parents who go years without a sidekick to support them. I did it for 7 years and it has moments of being unbearable, but as a Mom, we become deft at saving it all for the moment they slip off to dreamland. You have within you the means to be extraordinary. A few days alone with your babies will prove that, time and again. And your blessing is that there is an end to those days.

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