I said it to my husband last night as I was ready to fall into bed at 11pm. I was bone tired. Just exhausted. And I was losing my temper–frustrated for a number of reasons. The baby had gotten up a total of four times in the past hour. I had a clogged milk duct (ohdearlordhavemercy). And our other daughter had just gone to bed an hour prior–a full three hours past her normal bedtime. All this tacked onto a day that had already been epic in its drain on me.
“Motherhood is the hardest job I’ve ever had.”
I think he thought I was being dramatic.
But it’s true. Motherhood and all its Bigness just takes my breath away. It’s staggering in its deepness, its ability to whittle us down to exhausted little senseless nubs, and then build us back up again in its beauty.
Many times I’ve reflected on the sheer physical strength it takes to get through a day of parenting little ones; it never fails to shock me–no matter the fact that I do it day in and day out–how physically exhausting “momming” can be.
I’ve had a chance to reflect on those words I said last night in the 24 hours since I uttered them, and you know what? I stand by it.
The truth is, these past five years that I’ve been a mother have forced me to dig into reserves of strength I never knew I had.
From those first labor pangs, to the endless nights, to the hauling-in and hauling-out of toddlers in carseats I do dozens of times daily even now. It takes strength.
The strength to get up as many times a night as my baby needs me.
The strength to keep moving through the day on four hours of sleep.
The strength to enforce consequences, when all I want to do is give in to make my life easier in the moment.
Even the strength to ask for help so I can take time away to find my own self again.
It’s the kind of strength no gym or exercise can prepare you for. And the training is constant–a ceaseless climb up the hill. A push against your own boundaries–or what you thought were your boundaries–in the interest of making your child happier.
Under the word “slog” in the dictionary must be a picture of a harried mother who’s trying to keep it all together–and probably half the time, failing.
But with this job, the beauty is in the struggle. So here’s what I always tell my friends who are about to become mothers when they ask what it is they should know: It’s hard, I say. But it’s good. So good.
There will be days when bedtime routines are thrown to the wind; days when your boobs hurt from constant nursing and all you want to do is claim your body as your own again; days when you feel like couldn’t possibly give one more piece of yourself to anyone else; days when all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep to hide from all the Bigness.
But you don’t. Because you’re a mom. And moms can complain and whine and make midnight proclamations to anyone out there who will listen about “how hard it is, ” and then… Then? You do what moms do. You shut up, put your two feet back on the ground and go back for more.
Because that’s what moms do.
And in the end, there are no medals for our strength, but there are those moments in the dark quiet, after everyone else has gone to sleep, where you get to tell yourself, I did it. Again. And man, I’m strong.
And sometimes, that’s all you need to know.