Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Trade-Off


I can’t pretend to understand the mysteries of the human heart.  How is it possible that the most grueling, demanding, thankless job in the world has been undertaken some 7 billion times, many of them (most? I hope?) gratefully, as if it were a favor to gain an uncomfortable amount of weight and carry a child for nine months, then push him or her out of an excruciatingly small opening with what can only be called extreme relief? And then you start worrying.  And cleaning up messes.  Disgusting, disgusting messes.





Parenting is unbelievably difficult, and being the primary parent (Do you have your children’s weekly schedules memorized, know what each of them is going to eat for each meal and snack every day, have the doctor’s number on speed-dial, and recall exactly what each of them wore to school this morning?  Then you’re the primary parent.) is a Sisyphean task that takes over your whole life.  Laundry, dishes, meals, school work, daycare bags, brushing teeth, tying shoes, reading… on and on, day in and day out.


photo 4 (34)photo 3 (80)


It’s exhausting and it’s soul-depleting.  So many of the things I used to love, I no longer am able to do.  So much of my sense of self has turned into mommy that I’m no longer sure what else there is, what else is just “Amelia.”


photo 3 (82)


It’s tough to know if I’m doing a good job.  If I take the time to think about it, I worry that I’m doing a terrible job.  There’s never enough, you know?  Never enough time spent reading or practicing letters and numbers.  Never enough imaginary play on my part.  Never enough activities, trips, vegetables, teachable moments, or unfettered fun.  And then sometimes, there’s too much.  Too much anger, too much yelling, too much frustration, too much unvoiced relief when they’re all finally asleep and I can eat the chocolate I’ve been hiding from them while I fold all of their laundry.


photo 4 (36)


And it matters so much.  To screw up at this job means unbearable consequences, lending a certain (large) amount of guilt to every. single. action I take as a parent.




But something amazing happened when I became a mother: my heart and soul took that baby boy in my arms and felt that anything, anything, would be worth the strange payment I could get from him. 




Yes, I am paid to be a mother.  Paid in sticky kisses, sweaty snuggles, milky baby breath, baby giggles, and small-child belly laughs.  I’m paid when my son stops me mid-stride on our walk home from school to take my face in his hands, bend me down toward him, and kiss me all over because he’s just so happy that I’m making raspberry cobbler for dessert (this happened yesterday, for real).  I’m paid when the first thing my almost-four-year-old wants to do every morning is be cuddled in my arms.  I’m paid when the baby settles into sleep on my shoulder.  I’m paid by the light in their eyes and the joy in their smiles.  I’m paid in endless fart noises and wrestling grunts.




Somehow, despite how hard I work for these boys, how much I suffer and worry, how many sleepless nights I endure, it is all worth it for their love and the love I feel for them.  That is the truest and most unfathomable part of motherhood.  I thank God every day for those little boys and the ability of my heart to expand and feel that they are giving even when they are taking, taking, taking.




I know their love for me will change as they grow.  Someday, they might not want to hold my hands when we walk or kiss me on the nose before they go to sleep.  But as I still love my parents with a heart-breaking intensity, so, too, will they love me as we all age.




Mother’s Day is only once a year, and that’s enough.  The boys shower me with affection and gifts and words of love and appreciation, thanks in no small part to Tony (whom I have trained well).  It has always been a joy to me to thank my mom for her love and give her gifts to show her how much I love her on Mother’s Day – my boys are discovering that joy now, which in turn brings me more joy. 


photo 3 (83)


What a wonderful (dirty, stressful, infuriating, fatiguing, ridiculous) life I lead.  How blessed I am.



No comments: