The Other Side of Mothering
Last week I was saying goodbye to a friend who I knew I wouldn’t see for a while and I suddenly blurted out, “Don’t worry. It’ll get easier. Someday your kids won’t be all-consuming and you’ll feel like going out into the world and doing stuff again.” It was completely unsolicited and luckily received with a relieved smile. I brazenly said this to a completely capable, intelligent, talented, kind and wonderful woman, who by all appearances has everything together. Who knows. Maybe she actually does. I just know I didn’t when my kids were little. I paraded around, kids-in-tow, trying to fit into a professional crowd while secretly just wanting to crawl under a rock where no one could find me. Maybe there I could get some sleep.
I knew that my life was forever changed by my kids in a good way, but I imagined I would forever be chained to them and eventually overtaken with the guilt that I wasn’t doing a good enough job raising them. At the same time, I envied friends (without kids) that were growing in their careers and making a sizable difference in the world around them. I tried with all of my feminist being to merely “add” children to my already full life.
But then something happened. My kids got older. I got more sleep. And the world changed. I started wanting to contribute more to the world outside of my house. I could think coherently again. I had bigger ideas and bigger aspirations than before. I had more confidence; the confidence that comes with keeping your kids alive while working full-time and growing a marriage. Trust me. These things are hard to do simultaneously. And when you realize that you’re doing it even marginally successfully, a certain sense of gravitas sets in.
So to every new mother, mothers of young children, mothers-in-waiting, I want you to know that raising young children is the most profound thing you’ll ever do, but it won’t be the only thing you ever do. What you’re experiencing when you have young children is only temporary. Let me repeat that. It’s only temporary. Live with your children. Be fully engaged in them. Receive their tantrums, fevers, and boo-boos with the same love as you do their hugs, their unbelievably peaceful sleep, and their admiring gaze. You’ll have time later in their childhoods to pursue your dreams, work passionately, and still raise and love your big amazing, wide-eyed, goofy, sometimes frustrating, but mostly perfect children.
You don’t have to do it all when you have young kids. You really don’t. Hang in there, all you mommas out there. See you on the other side.