How having a breakdown when my kids were young was the best thing that happened to me...
The Fantasy of Motherhood by Lori Lara
Originally Published The Multi-tasking Mother's Survival Guide (Chicken Soup for the Soul 2013)
I big mommy dreams before I had kids. I pictured myself chasing lady bugs and butterflies through open fields with my children as they giggled with curiosity and delight. I imagined our family sitting around the dinner table extolling our hard-earned wisdom to our eager children as we ate nutritionally, balanced meals. And I envisioned our family cheerfully doing chores together on Saturday mornings.
My husband and I were married for almost eight years before we had kids, so I had a lot of time for these fantasies to become well rooted and unchallenged.
And then we had kids, and I heard reality laughing so hard it scared me.
When our first child was born I turned into a complete lunatic because of the lack of sleep. I can say with all my heart that I understand why sleep deprivation is used as torture tactic. Feed, burp, cajole to sleep, pray for sleep, beg for sleep, do anything for sleep, wake up after a cat-nap with spit-up all over you, and then do it all again. Whoever said time flies never had a newborn baby. Every day felt like a ground-hog year. I was buried in monotony, and I felt guilty that I wasn’t barefoot and happy about it. Did I love my baby? Of course I did. I just wanted his mother to show up so I could take a nap.
We did, in fact, chase lady bugs and butterflies in an open field. Once. But the kids were more interested in arguing and throwing weeds at each other, so I ended up growling at them while I begrudgingly gathered lady bugs in the stupid habitat container. The jar sat on the dining room table for a week, serving as a reminder of how not fun it was. Needless to say, I didn’t hear Chariots of Fire.
Dinnertime, my prized fantasy, ended up being the most awful time of day when our boys were young. Our kitchen table turned into a battleground complete with lines drawn, complaints and preferences listed, and antsy, energetic boys who’d rather jump up and down making weird sound effects than sit and listen to any words of wisdom. It was crazy mayhem wrought with tears and loud and noises, and eventually I stopped serving myself because I couldn’t swallow my food through all the stress. Dinner was over in a flash, and even though I was glad when it ended, I felt resentful that my two hours of cooking organic, hand-made meals were dismissed with pinched noses as if I were serving sewer contents. The only wisdom we shared at the dinner table revolved around the fact that if they didn’t eat their vegetables they couldn’t have dessert. Period.
Chores were a joke. No one cared about a clean house. I felt more like a drill sergeant than a loving mother. The kids just wanted to play with Legos and leave them out wherever they fancied.. Have you ever stepped on a Lego brick right in the middle of the arch of your foot? Two words: primal scream.
Can you hear my dreams shattering like glass on the floor?
There’s a special joy that comes with making peace with domestic chaos. And after years of making that adjustment, I can tell you with all sincerity that when I tuck my children into bed at night and I lay my tired mommy self next to them, my world is complete. As they open their hearts and reveal their secret wishes, dreams, and fears, I’m leveled by their compassion, untainted truth, and willingness to forgive. They’re far wiser than I ever imagined, and I’m humbled to know that I’m the one learning most of the lessons in this sacred relationship. Yes, no one ever told me how hard motherhood was. But they also didn’t tell me how my life would really begin the moment my children were born.
Chasing an active, tantrum-slinging toddler around the park well past his nap-time while hauling a crying baby on your back is no fun. And if anyone says otherwise, it’s a lie. And any mom worth her weight will admit that she wasn’t born a good mom; she had to work at carefully unpacking her past hurts and developing past her natural abilities. She’ll also swear that every moment of frustration and fatigue pales in comparison to the holy bond she has with her children.
Long gone are the days of expecting things to be perfect. Instead of a sparkling clean house, our visitors are promised nothing beyond flushed toilets; and I’m ok with that. Friends might not be able to eat off the floor, but they’ll be greeted with happy hearts and genuine desire to connect.
And, yes, after almost twelve years of being a mom, I’ll agree time flies…but only in retrospect.