When discussing parenthood with people who are not parents, you are sometimes asked what it is like to have children. Though nothing can truly prepare you for parenthood, you try to answer.
So ... what is it like being a mom?
You hear a lot of things about motherhood—that it's rewarding, exhausting, exhilarating; that it’s "the hardest job you’ll ever love." All of these things are true—a tad cliché, but still true. Here is what being a mom is to me (and maybe to you, too).
Being a mom is the moment that you lay eyes on your baby for the very first time. This experience is different for every woman, but there is one thing we all share—the moment we lock eyes with that beautiful little stranger, we are forever changed.
Being a mom is holding your newborn in the dead of night as she cries and cries and cries and you cry and cry and cry because you’ve done everything that you know to do, and she is still wailing. You feel like you’ve failed her. You feel like she hates you. You feel frustrated and miserable and heartbroken, so you just hold onto her and cry together because if you don’t, you will sink. She is your anchor.
Being a mom is beautiful. It’s your daughter coming up to you while you sit on the couch, holding both hands out to you and saying with a smile, "Come on, Mama. Let’s dance." You scoop that girl up and twirl her around your living room, warm summer air blowing through your open windows, blinds drawn back. You laugh and spin and don’t care who is watching because in that moment, no one else matters but that girl in your arms.
Being a mom is emotionally draining. Your child will challenge you. She will defy you. She will frustrate, infuriate and annoy you; and in the very next millisecond, she will fill you with a sense of love that is so powerful and so strong it just about brings you to your knees. You are put through an emotional wringer every. single. day.
Being a mom makes you realize how short life is. Your pregnancy takes forever, and then, when your baby is born, you blink and they are 3. One day, you look into the mirror and see a woman with deeper lines around her eyes, grey hairs sprinkled throughout her locks, a woman who grows and changes and hurts every day that she loves that child.
Being a mom is devastating. Every day, you are in pain. The physical pain of childbirth fades, but you are now so connected to this child that each day brings a new wound that leaves shiny scars around your heart. There are days when your patience is thin and you feel like the biggest failure that ever lived. Those are the days that you shut your door after a massive power struggle that left her in tears. You rest your head against the wall and cry until you feel a little better. The bad days are hard, but they aren’t the truly painful ones.
The truly painful days are the beautiful ones. The day when your child puts their shirt on by themselves for the first time. The day they get all the way down a flight of stairs without your help (while you hover nervously behind them—always with the hovering). The day that they stubbornly say with their tongue poked out in concentration, "No, Mama, I can do it. I’m big."
You stand there and watch them as the sadness and pride rise up inside of you like some terrible tide, threatening to pull you under and drown you. Your child gets bigger with every breath they take. Every second, every accomplishment takes them further from the safety of your embrace. Each step toward independence cuts you like a knife, inflicting an endless series of wounds that never heal. But you smile and you wave and you cheer; and when they aren’t looking, you cry.
No one can ever truly describe what it is like to be a mother until they become one themselves. Being a mother is being held captive, forever, by your child’s soul. Being a mother is teaching them, holding them, comforting them and at times disliking them but still loving them so fiercely it frightens you. You watch them grow. You watch them learn. You watch them leave.
Someone once asked me if you ever get a break from being a mother, and I answered her, without hesitation, "No." You can have a night out or you can go away for the weekend ... But that child is always in the back of your mind. She is always with you. You remain captive, happily, because the thought of not being in that brilliant child’s life is too horrifying to bear.
Being a mom changes you, irreversibly, forever. It is the greatest, scariest, biggest love you will ever know. It is truly something to behold.
Natalie Green is a Chicago girl living in Chattanooga with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter. When she’s not working full time outside of the home, she enjoys reading, writing, singing, zombies and running. From zombies. And also beer. You can stalk her blog, Mommy Boots, or follow her on Twitter @mommyboots; or you can email her directly at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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