The Myth of Motherhood: A Letter to The Mother I Thought I Would Be
A Letter to The Mother I Thought I Would Be
Dear Beautiful Naive Woman,
Your intentions were pure. Your visions, idyllic. The love and hope from which your desires sprung were sincere beyond measure. All these wonderful, lovely qualities look nice on paper, but our lives do not exist on a page. Our lives extend out beyond intentions and visions and love and hope and join the fierce tornado that swirls all those qualities together with all the others – the ones we didn’t pen ourselves, the ones we didn’t count on.
Dear Beautiful Naive Woman, you believed a myth – and it was a whopper! The Myth of Motherhood is like a fish with many scales. The sum of the scales covering a fish create a slick and shiny creature gliding through the currents and tides, riding on waves. But a single scale becomes lackluster when removed from the bunch. The Myth of Motherhood is composed of thousands of tiny scales – each its own flake of falsehood – that can only be recognized when removed from the sparkling object which they help to make whole. We all pluck different scales from the fish, depending on who we are and who we want to become. Each scale a small thing we thought to be true, something we believed we needed to be the kind of mother that our children deserve.
Dear Beautiful Naive Woman, you thought you would be homeroom mom, PTO president and sit on committees to help your school achieve maximum excellence. You envisioned weekly family bonding experiences like Pizza Friday, Ice Cream Shop Saturday and Movie Night Sunday. The crafts you imagined creating with your children were destined to end up in the Smithsonian. Never, ever did you envision yelling so savagely at your children that your own voice sounded foreign to you. Not once did you imagine yourself shaking and sobbing in your closet because you yelled so savagely at your children that your own voice sounded foreign to you. Once you became a mom, the art of self-sacrifice would come naturally to you; as would good time management, excellent organizational skills and loads of clarity for decision making purposes. You thought you wouldn’t care as much about how your body looked because you were so thankful to have been able to birth children. With all your heart you believed that you would adore every single thing about your precious child, all day everyday and twice on Sunday.
These are the scales you plucked from the fish, Dear Beautiful Naive Woman. These are the myths you gathered along the road that led you to motherhood. The pieces you believed were necessary to assemble a dazzling shiny mother, gliding through tides and currents, riding on waves. You kept these scales tightly gripped in your palm for years until the stench of their unrealistic expectations was too much to bare. They caused you pain and disappointment and confusion. So you finally tossed them out. Naive no more. Beautiful Woman. Amen.
Allow me to tell you about the mother you ended up being.
You love your children with the force of one million suns. You try hard – not every day, but most – to do your best rendition of Being Awesome Mom. Not every weekend is packed with family bonding revolving around pizza, ice cream and movies, but instead it comes in the 10 minutes before bed time, the ride to school in the morning and those little moments you didn’t handwrite.
You would rather face your odds agains a pack of hungry coyote than be homeroom mom. You don’t even bring a proper treat to the class parties, signing up for napkins and plates instead. You are not even 100% sure if you are a member of the PTO. You have a vague memory of writing a check at the beginning of the school year, but you can’t be certain that it was to join PTO. You have never attended a meeting and there are none currently scheduled on your personal calendar. All of the committees to help the school achieve maximum excellence seem to be operating just fine without you. Let them do their thing.
However, you do volunteer in the classroom, workroom and at school events.
You work extremely hard to stay patient, kind and connected with your children when they are having a hard time being patient, kind and connected. Sometimes you accomplish all those. Other times you get two out of three. And there are times when you have been pushed to the edge of your sanity and become temporarily unable to remain patient, kind and connected. But you recognize this and you ask for forgiveness. Your children forgive you and you forgive yourself and you continue to work hard.
You miss your old body more than you thought. Mostly because it seems unjust, but also because you struggle with your vanity demons. But you learn to be happy with how it is. You can’t play a hand you weren’t dealt.
Turns out self-sacrifice is a two-headed monster. You give so much that when you take for yourself you feel guilty. You want to play Candy Land and read Harry Potter with your kids, but you also want to lay on the couch or go get a pedicure without feeling selfish. So you begin to understand the push/pull of sacrifice. You make peace with the monster and take her out for a drink.
You listen when your kids want to tell you something they feel is important. Really listen, even when you want to be reading a magazine. And they notice you listen. You explain to them what giving to people in need means and weeks later they tell you they want to “help with charity.” Sometimes your children annoy you. Sometimes you think they are mean and plotting to ruin you. But always…
You love your children with the force of one million suns.
Beautiful Woman, The Mother You Became