Just the other day I had one of those blissed-out mommy moments. The kind where I was enjoying motherhood so much it was euphoric. My baby was happily babbling, telling me all about the train he was playing with, helping me open the blinds, cheerfully toddling about the apartment, wide grin on his adorable face.
Those are the moments where I want to gushingly post on my Facebook status about how much I love being a mom.
But before I ran to my laptop I thought about a recent conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about how sometimes being a mommy to little ones is so frustrating that we feel like we want to tear our hair out (or sheitels off, if you like). You know, the moments where we are pushed beyond our threshold of patience and understanding. She expressed the sentiment that she feels like she is the only mother who is exceedingly frustrated by raising her children.
It made me think about how there can be an expectation to be a perfect parent, to enjoy motherhood all the time, to not share our frustrations and concerns with our peers. It’s possible that we don’t share our struggles with other mothers for fear of exposing our vulnerability.
I think that’s a mistake.
About a month ago there was an article by Glennon Melton where she wrote about how she chooses not to carpe diem. Basically, she acknowledged that motherhood is not all sunshine and roses, and to expect mothers to “enjoy every moment” because “it goes by so quickly” is unrealistic.
Motherhood is FULL of struggles. Full of them. Chock full. To the brim. Every day. It’s hard. It’s not always enjoyable. It’s mind-numbingly frustrating at times. Sometimes it’s a whole day of frustration ending with a nightcap of near-insanity. And the terrifying thing is that my kids are still very small. There’s a whole world of parenting challenges which I haven’t yet experienced.
Everyone reacts differently to the stress of parenting. Some mothers tune out, some yell, some get sarcastic. Some people have shorter fuses than others, some are more controlling, some are more distant. It’s hard not to judge other parents for their methods of coping with the stress. There’s such a pressure to do things right, to be the best parent (Here’s a great list satirizing how it can feel like everyone one is a better parent than you are.)
As for alleviating the pressure of trying not to make mistakes, I think of a quote attributed to Gila Manolson:
The mistakes we make as parents are the opportunities we give our kids for working on themselves when they are adults.
What a relief, right? Most parents I know genuinely have their children’s best interests at heart, and I think most of us have an internal monitor which helps us gauge when we are doing the best we can. Everyone has their own unique combination of strengths and limitations, and we are usually the only ones who genuinely know when we are succeeding in our struggles.
Like anything in life that’s challenging, the harder the work, the greater the reward. I’m reminded of a Beethoven piano sonata that I worked on in college (No.30 in E, Op.109, if you’re interested). While it may seem trivial to compare the responsibility of parenting to learning a piece of music, bear with me here.
This piece was challenging. It’s one of his late piano sonatas, which are generally more complex than his earlier ones (as an aside, he was completely deaf when he wrote it. Talk about overcoming challenges!). It is also heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and I wanted to play it very badly. However, as it was above my level as a pianist, it took me quite some time to be able to just play the notes.
There were many moments in learning the piece when I would plateau and even regress. I would have long stretches where I would make the same mistake repeatedly. It was very frustrating. But then I would have a breakthrough, and I would be able to play something which had been previously unattainable. When I was able to play the entire piece, it was a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Tremendous.
That’s kind of how I view parenting. I have a goal, and I have moments where I feel like I’m not progressing, where I feel stalled and frustrated. Then I experience extraordinary moments of success and growth, and it gives me energy to continue. I imagine the nachas a parent feels when they see an adult child living happily and successfully must be absolutely amazing. But the amount of work it takes to get to that point, well. It’s not a small amount. But it’s well worth it.
You may also enjoy these:
- Dealing with the guilt of mothering
- Putting our kids’ needs first
- Torah Tuesdays: Making a Mommy
- 6 (practically) free indoor activites to keep a toddler occupied