A Love Letter To Moms Of Young Children
I see you. Knee deep in diapers. Running on espresso and Oreos and one shower a week. Eyes bloodshot from tenaciously sifting through hundreds of articles on the Googleshpere to find an explanation for what is wrong with your child and — most importantly — how you can fix it. I see you giving parenthood your A-plus effort yet still unable to shake the feeling of defeat.
People tell you it gets easier, but they lie. They lie straight to your beautiful face. But I’m going to to shoot you straight: it doesn’t get easier. It stays hard, but hard in ways that feel easier because you’ve endured these trying times of babies and toddlers. It also feels easier because you’re getting more sleep. . . that’s clutch. But the truth is that one day you look around and realize that the meltdowns and power struggles and bold faced defiance seem more manageable because your mom muscles have become stronger. You know how to handle this shit, even though each phase brings a brand new flavor of undesirable behavior, challenges to overcome, and mood swings that happen so fast it will give you whiplash.
The years you’re in now are basic training boot camp, preparing you for the lifetime of motherhood you must soldier through. The puke-themed sleepless nights of infanthood are conditioning you to maneuver the surprisingly vicious angst of tweendom. All the panicky tightness in your chest that wonders if your baby will be OK is to show you that most of the things you worry about will never ever happen. Although you can’t know that until you’ve employed your hindsight.
You’ve probably told yourself a story about what it means to be a “good mom,” and most likely it’s unattainable and daunting. Chances are these tales you’ve spun are more of the mythical “perfect mother” variety. And that’s not you. Which is completely freaking fantastic because attempting to be perfect is very inauthentic. Your child needs to see the whole version of their mother — the awesome, the flawed, the strong, and the weak. So instead of trying to live up to an unrealistic story, write your own as you go along.
If I were a betting woman, I would bet you a chocolate cupcake — one with the perfect ratio of icing to cake, not overly sweet, peels clean off the wrapper — that you’re focusing more on where you think you’re falling short than celebrating where you’re really shining. So let’s make a deal: no more lying in bed and giving yourself hell for serving non-organic hot dogs, losing your cool and yelling, or hiding in the closet to eat some of your secret chocolate stash that you don’t want to share, OK? Let’s try this instead: lying in bed and recalling each thing that went right. Naming each instance that you’re grateful happened. Reliving all the true moments of connection you had with your little one — the hugs, the laughs, the snuggles.
I’ve already warned you that it doesn’t get easier. But you can make it easier by being gentle and loving with yourself. Because even though these days on the toddler battlefield will make you weary AF, your current present will soon become a past you mourn. You’ll rewind your memory and gaze upon these trying times with rose colored glasses. You won’t forget how brutal it was, but it will all seem smaller in the rearview because you survived it — and part of you will miss it. At least a little bit. And just when you think those sweet special days of having littles will always be a bittersweet memory, your 11-year-old will take your hand in his for no particular reason while on a walk. Being careful not to jinx this rare phenomenon, you cast a delicate glance his way out of your periphery and see him at three and 11 and 16 all at once and realize that it’s all going to be OK. More specifically, that you’re going to be OK. Because underneath all the fretting and lectures and middle of the night panics over every horrific scenario is this: will you be able to survive it? Whatever the looming trouble that may or may not befall your offspring feels so incredibly crushing because you are unsure of your own threshold for watching your child suffer and struggle.
That’s why you’ve been building your mom muscles. You’re going to need those for what’s coming. Because suffer and struggle your child will, and she is going to need you to assume your power pose when the time strikes. Just like you figured it out when she was scary sick at six months, you’ll find a way to help her heal when someone breaks her heart at 16. You’ve got this because you have no other choice, this is what you’ve been training for.
Motherhood never gets easier, but you keep getting stronger. Soldier on, Mama.