No one will tell you the truth about motherhood. It’s like some global conspiracy to keep you in the dark so you’ll procreate.
Three months after the birth of my son, I figured out how badly I’d been screwed. My husband and I were idling in front of the drive-thru teller, and I burst into tears.
“What’s wrong?” my husband asked.
“I just realized something awful.”
Horrified, he waited for me to tell him, deposit slip in hand, mouth slightly ajar.
Tearfully, I whispered, “I’m never ever going to be carefree again.”
And you’re not.
That love owns you now.
Before kids, I spent most of my day reading, writing, working out at the gym, blithely going on modeling assignments. If I had extra cash, I spent it on things like Bob’s Big Boy statues, two-hundred dollar bikinis and stupid blingy sandals.
After kids, it’s all Diaper Genies and baby formula — which is a goddamn fortune, by the way. Having kids is ruinously expensive.
Eventually all that responsibility makes you dull as dishwater. That’s why your own parents as so boring.
Everything you do is in the service of this squalling little bundle of joy. That look of wondering fascinating in your child’s clear, long-lashed eyes. The adorable chubby rolls. The utter fact of being needed.
You know early on you’d take a bullet for your child. You’d slice out your own kidney if it needed one.
But with dawning horror, you also realize that your heart is now walking around outside your body, and anything — anything — could happen to it. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A car accident. Meningitis.
Say goodbye to your peace-of-mind, and hello to a lifetime of worry!
It never fucking leaves you, this worry. Never. The very fact of loving your kid means you’re screwed.
So, yeah. They don’t tell you that. It’s all baby showers and hand-knit booties until the day you finally wake up and realize that you are truly vulnerable. Maybe for the first time in your life, you realize this. And you have very little control over the outcome.
With kids, you’re working against your own best interests.
Here you are with the sleepless nights, nights spent in the bathroom with the shower going because the little guy has a bad case of croup; here you are fucking killing yourself driving your kids to football practice, soccer practice, piano lessons, Mommy and Mes, playdates.
But the truth is your kids are going to leave you someday. They’re going to grow up and fucking leave you.
In fact, that’s what you’re actually working toward: their independence.
And I’m here to tell you, it sucks. It’s heartbreaking. It makes you painfully nostalgic for the days when they needed you, when they had problems only you could solve.
There’s this terrible ache inside your heart that feels as though it will never go away.
And I knew those days were the best ones I would ever have. I knew it was never going to get any better than it was right at that moment.
My second child, Kate, was two-and-a-half then. We were in the pool. She was wearing her little swim Pamper and a bathing suit I spent too much money on that had a little grass skirt and a Hawaiian lei.
A friend of mine sat next to the pool watching me teach Kate how to swim.
Once again, those awful treacherous tears slid down my face.
“Oh, my goodness, honey!” she said. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve been a mess lately,” I told her. “I have this gut feeling that these are the best years of my life and there’s nothing I can do to make them slow down. It’s only going to be downhill from here on out. My kids will go to school. They’ll grow up and become their own people. And then they’ll leave me with nothing but the memories.”
She started crying, and then we were both crying, because in that moment we saw the same truth: the great lesson of life is its impermanence.
Everything ends. Relationships end. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.
Motherhood, by its very nature, will break your heart.
Shel Silverstein, author of THE GIVING TREE, depicted it perfectly. The tree gives everything to the boy it loves, until finally there is nothing left to give and it dies.
When your kids leave, and they will, you feel strangely irrelevant.
By the laws of Nature, you are.
You’ve done what you (by Nature’s metric) were put on this earth to do: procreate. Now your kids are grown, and you’ve fulfilled your mission. Kindly fuck off now.
They don’t tell you any of this shit when you’re expecting your first child.
They don’t tell you how lonely it’s going to be spending hours every day with a little being who isn’t old enough to hold a conversation.
They don’t tell you that society will make you feel deeply ashamed of everything you do or don’t do as a mother. Work outside the house and you’re a selfish bitch. Stay at home and you’re a lazy one.
They don’t tell you society expects you to vote your own vagina off the island now. No more sexual feelings for you! You’re a mother. You’re unfuckable.
If you don’t puree organic baby food, you’re a failure. If you ask for time alone on Mother’s Day to read a book or take a bath, you’re a failure. If you don’t enroll your kids in every goddamn program or activity under the sun, you’re — say it with me now — A FAILURE.
Would you like a little advice from a failure? Here, I’ll give you some.
Don’t listen to any of it. Don’t read parenting magazines. Don’t ask advice from other mothers. They don’t know you, and they sure as hell don’t know your kids.
Remember that no matter what, you’re going to fuck it up. Maybe you don’t make the same mistakes your mother did with you, but you’ll make different ones.
I believe every generation gets a little bit better than the one before it. Evolution is slow but inexorable. Keep the faith. Your kids will survive your unwitting bullshit. Then they can grow up, vow to not make the same mistakes, and repeat the whole self-defeating cycle. Story of.
By the time your kids are teenagers, they stop listening to you, but they don’t stop watching what you do. You’d better walk it like you talk it and lead by example — or risk being outed as a hypocrite.
Take millions of photos. They help you remember.
Love your kids for who they are, not for who you want them to be. Remember that you didn’t have kids — you had people. As such, your people have their own ideas, agendas, and life philosophy.
That life philosophy is probably not going to be yours.
I’d like to tell you that being aware of the inevitable, of your kids growing up and leaving you, will be your hedge against disaster. You’ll gird your loins. You’ll make sure you’re ready for this.
But you won’t be. Nothing prepares you for it. You must accept that as well.
Motherhood changes you forever. You will never be the same person you were before. You will never be “young” in the way you once were.
Once it’s gone, however, you’ll yearn for those days of no sleep, no hot food, and no warm showers. You’ll wish with all your heart you were needed that same way again.
So Happy Mother’s Day.
You’ve earned it.