On Facebook recently, I’ve been keeping up with an old friend’s adventures as she gets ready to have her first baby. I find it particularly fascinating just because she’s one of my younger friends and isn’t fully aware of what’s awaiting her in the next few weeks as she turns from pregnant into a full-blown mother.
Boy, is she in for it!
Like me and every other mother I know, she’s dutifully read up on all those books. We read them more out of fear of looking like bad mothers. At least I did. But no book can fully prepare you for being a mother. The role of a mother is one of the hardest jobs in the world, but unlike my old advertising job ages ago, it is intensely rewarding, despite the lack of sleep.
So, what does it mean to be a mother? Here’s my take on it.
You’ll never love anyone so much.
Ever. It’s astounding how much love you feel for that tiny person. It’s beyond comprehension until you feel it yourself.
It’s the scariest feeling ever.
When they handed me my firstborn, I might have tried to run for it if I hadn’t been tethered to a catheter after an emergency c-section. Here was this wrinkly-looking thing that didn’t look like I expected. That’s who was kicking me! And then, utter panic at how I would ever take care of her.
And then it’s amazing.
It was panic, and my brain just said, “Oh my Lord, I love her!” And just like that, I did. I still panicked, but the love I felt took over.
If you’re crazy enough to go through birthing again, it’s different.
I remember laying in the hospital bed, nursing my daughter, and thinking, “I’m never doing this again. NEVER!” Three years later, there I was in the same position with my youngest daughter. Relying on my dad, I asked him how you can love your next child the same, and he said, “You can’t love them the same. You love them just as much but in a different way.”
It was something that didn’t make sense until I was able to get out of the hospital bed finally (another c-section, this time planned). Holding her, I suddenly felt a jolt of joy and love from deep down, like a section of my heart that had been previously closed off had opened. Ever since I’ve found that love for both my daughters truly has no bounds.
Then, they get bigger.
Blink, and honestly, you’re going to miss it. Write down the funny things they say and post them to your Facebook page so you’ll be reminded about them every year. Take tons of photos because your kids change so much over the first few years of their lives. My eldest is now 7, and Facebook reminds me daily of photos from 7 years ago when she was just a baby. It’s amazing to think she was once a little bitty thing that always cried. Now she makes her own jelly sandwiches after she gets home from school and reads to her little sister.
You’ll never do it all right all the time.
There’s no such thing as the perfect mom. The only quality of a good mother we should all have in common is loving our kids. Just like there’s no one way to make eggs, there’s no one way to raise your kids. Do it with kindness and love, and you will get through it. The reality is we scream when we’re overtired and under stress when we’ve asked nicely 20 times, and no one (not even the husband) listens until steam shoots out our ears and our heads spin around on our necks.
Relevant: What a husband needs to understand about motherhood.
And we can try to be their friends all we’d like, but we have to be the bad guy here and there. You have to put your foot down somewhere, or else they’ll never learn the disappointments of the world.
And speaking of disappointments…
Teaching your kids about them is so important. We’re looking at a world where people were afraid to tell their kids ‘no’ and shielded them from disappointment. Life is disappointing, though. Letting your kids dig that lesson now will make them happier adults.
You feel their pains. All of them.
And yet, somehow, your inner panic silences, and you hold them tight and make everything feel alright again, just like your mom did. My eldest split her lip when both kids jumped on the bed (after I’d warned them multiple times). Somehow, I managed not to freak out and administer first aid. It was almost like an out-of-body experience. I saw myself from the outside like a good mother.
Being a good mother is easy.
It’s the hardest job in the world, so how is it easy? Because that love in your heart, the kind of love that spans infinity, sees you through.
You go without sleep to watch over them when they’re sick. You get up early to pack lunches just right. You run after them out the door to hand them a jacket when it’s cold. You go without things you would love to have, like a new handbag or shoes, just to give them what they want.
You give them the last piece of food on the table even though you haven’t eaten enough because they loved what you cooked and wanted more. You read to them until their little eyes flutter closed, and they drift off to sleep. You do these things because loving them is easy. The ups and downs and exhaustion of keeping up…that’s what’s hard.
So, go ahead and read everything about being a mom. Then come back to this in 5 years and laugh at all the things you never knew that totally caught you by surprise.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.