The question started following me around early this spring: What will my daughters think if they read this blog some day?
Oddly enough, this isn’t something I’d spent much time considering. When I began this blog, our girls were so young that the idea of them ever reading independently seemed impossibly distant. In any event, I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve written here. (When I was growing up, my mother advised, “Never say something that you wouldn’t want to see splashed across the front page of The New York Times.” That’s a pretty high standard, but I try to apply it to what I write and publish online.)
Now that my kindergartener sits down and reads entire books to her sisters, it’s clear that it won’t be long before my daughters can read my own writing.
In a way, I see my writing as a gift I can give them; a chance to know me in ways that I can’t verbalize, a chance to see what I thought and felt at various points when they were young. But I also worry that this blog may present them with an overly negative view of my experience of motherhood. Much of what I share here about my life as a mother is the hard stuff, the embarrassing stuff, the “bad mommy” stuff, the snarky stuff.
There are good reasons for that. This would be a profoundly boring blog (to everybody but the grandparents) if each post began, “The girls did the cutest thing today!” It would also make people feel bad; in my opinion, nobody’s helped much by hearing about how wonderful your life is. The real opportunities to connect come around the things that are hard, embarrassing, and even a little ugly. (Although the popularity of Pinterest may prove me wrong on this, but I don’t do Pinterest because I suspect it would make me feel bad).
Another reason for the view of motherhood presented here is that this blog is, in many ways, my therapy: my chance to sit down for an hour of peace after a morning with my girls and hash out my thoughts. I try to tell the truth, and during that hour of peace my thoughts are not usually full of glowing maternal bliss.
And I hope that knowing the truth — that I struggled, felt insecure and guilty, doubted myself, got depressed — will one day help my girls when they feel the same way. Just as it’s hard to relate to a perfect blog, it’s hard to relate to a perfect mother. Should they feel any doubt on that score, it’s all here in black and white.
But, reading this blog, you may have the impression that without naptime, bedtime, and coffee, my life would be intolerable. While that may be true most days, that’s not the whole picture. I left out chocolate.
Okay, seriously: This Mother’s Day, I’ve decided to NOT make it all about me, to NOT focus on accepting the gratitude and pampering of my family, and instead to celebrate by feeling deeply grateful for my children, these four girls who are the reason I’m a mother.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t love Mother’s Day. I’m aware that it can be an uncomfortable and even painful day for women who don’t or can’t have children. I do not intend what I’m about to say to feel alienating to anybody. I do not think that being a mother is the Ultimate Thing. Mothers are not superior to other people; they’re just regular women who’ve reproduced, as women have been doing forever.
But here is what I want my daughters to know, without condition or sarcasm:
I love being a mother.
Motherhood was never one of my life ambitions. It never figured prominently in my future plans. When I first became pregnant, it was mostly because it seemed like the right time to try it; “everyone else” was having kids, why not us?
Someone once told me that the moment her child was born she felt a “massive love explosion.”
I did not feel a massive love explosion. I felt terrified and confused, because I’d just had a 3-pound baby by emergency c-section two weeks early, and I was strung out on magnesium sulfate and needed a blood transfusion and it was slowly dawning on me that I had almost died and that my baby was going to need a lot of special care.
The massive love explosion built up slowly. Now, I feel a massive love explosion for my daughters at some point every day. I also feel terrified and confused. Daily.
But I have loved motherhood, with all its terror and confusion, more than I could ever have imagined. Next to marrying Erick, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. And being a mother has been, hands-down, my favorite job.
Some of what I love about being a mother are the things you hear often: That it’s made me less selfish, and therefore more exhausted, dirtier, achier, and happier. That it’s taught me more about love than any other relationship, because as a mother you spend a lifetime caring for people who are often completely dependent on you and also completely ungrateful. That I love the noise and chaos; even though it often feels like too much, on the rare occasion when two or more girls are gone for several hours, I miss them.
But beyond those things, I love being my daughters’ mother.
You are each so unique. I know where you came from, but I have no idea where you came from. Parts of you are like us, but you have always been your very own people. Being your mother gives me a front-row seat to your lives, and that’s the most fun of all.
But having a front-row seat to your lives means admitting that I’m not always going to be up on stage with you. Motherhood is a slow process of separation, from the very beginning. Every year we say goodbye for longer times, longer distances. My job is to prepare you to leave.
And that’s another reason why I’m sometimes snarky, sarcastic, quick to dwell on what’s hard or embarrassing. We do that to protect our hearts when we know that the people we love so deeply are also people we’re going to have to let go.
Happy Mother’s Day to Fiona, Campbell, Georgia, and Abigail. I am grateful every day that the four of you were entrusted to me for the time we have.