A few months ago we were at a BBQ together–do you remember? I had dressed up my baby in something really cute for the party, but he’d puked all over it just minutes before we arrived, so we showed up fashionably late and smelling slightly of puke, but we were there.
Maybe you were just being polite, asking me about the day to day life of mothering a newborn. You asked about being pregnant, and giving birth, and about all the sleep I hadn’t been getting. You agreed that my slightly pukey smelling baby was adorable and said you liked his name. And then, in a sort of round about way you asked me this: Is it worth it?
I’ve thought about your question for a few months now. I’ve also thought about all the questions I had before becoming a mother. I was surprisingly hesitant about having a child. I say “surprisingly” because I’ve always been in the Loves Kids category. As you know, I’m the oldest of 5. I was a favorite neighborhood babysitter. I nannied all through college. And yet whenever girls talked about how dreamy it would be to have a child, I just thought they sounded naive. I’d seen the hard days and long nights. I’d watched the stress and anguish and worry. I knew that the unexpected could happen. But here I am today, an honest to goodness mother. And I just keep thinking about your question, as well as all the questions I had before having a baby. So if you’re up for a little advice, here are the questions I had pre-baby, and my best attempts at answering them.
Do I have to have kids? Of course not. But let’s be honest: We live in a place and a culture that expects us to have children. But I seriously don’t think societal pressure is a good reason to become a mother. You can affect and change so many lives, kids or not. You can have so much love in your life, kids or not. You can be happy, kids or not. You can be fulfilled, kids or not.
Am I ready? I wondered that for several years. And then one day I realized that I was never going to feel completely ready. More than anything I wanted that one pivotal moment where I’d know for sure, but it never came. Sometimes you just have to jump.
Will I always be happy about being a mother? No. There will be a day when your husband will come home from work to you in tears because you’re positive the baby hates you. It is just sleep deprivation. There will be days that feel so unbelievably long and lonely you can’t believe it. You’ll have to call your mom and haul the baby and his 30 lbs. of stuff to the mall to remember there is still a world out there. There will be moments that someone will tell you to “trust your motherly instincts” and you will want to smack them because you feel like you don’t have a single motherly instinct in your body. But you’ll be okay. You really will.
Will it be hard? Duh. But seriously, what phase of life isn’t? Work is hard. Marriage is hard. High school was hard. Look back on the easy-peasiest time period of your life and I bet you’ll remember some hard. That’s just life.
Will it affect my marriage? Yes. You’ll see the man you love loving that baby you made and you’ll feel like your heart is going to explode. Other days he will forget to start the dishwasher full of bottles and you’ll feel like your head is about to explode. Motherhod is draining, and there will be times you’ll feel like there isn’t an ounce of anything left of you at the end of the day. It will take extra commitment, extra communication, and lots of patience with each other. You will see the best in him. You’ll love him even more. You’ll have a connection you didn’t know you were missing.
Can I do it? Of course you can. As one book put it, you come from a long line of succesful parents. It is in your genes. No, it isn’t all intuitive. And no, I have ‘t figured out which cry is “hungry cry” and which is “wet diaper cry.” But you can do it.
Will it be like I imagine? A whole hearted no. It will be better. It will be worse. It will be crazier. One day you’ll leave the house fully aware that there is spit-up in your hair and you’ll wonder Who the heck am I? But it most definitely will not be like you imagined.
So, finally. Is it worth it?
Over the past 5 months the following thought has come to my mind on a weekly basis: These are the moments you will look back on for the rest of your life. I keep feeling like this is the most important thing I have ever done. I keep looking at Sam’s impossibly big eyes and feeling like I am the luckiest person I know. And to be honest, I didn’t know I would feel like this–I just hoped.
I will not try to tell you whether or not it will be worth it to you, but I will tell you that it is hard to know what it will bring into your life until it happens. So listen to whatever voice is speaking to you. Follow it. If you feel like motherhood is for you, then head in that direction. Embrace it! So much love will come into your life. So much life will come into your life. Be excited! But if it isn’t for you then allow yourself to be at peace. Be kind to yourself and shower the people you love with all the good things you have to offer. You’ll know what to do. And remember, so many of the good things in life come from embracing the unknown!