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What You Find When You Lose Yourself In Motherhood
How do you know whether or not to release your grasp on who you were before motherhood?
Motherhood is the most rigorous job I've experienced. It's the type of work you take on minute by minute because the size of an hour will swallow you. I don't wonder whether I'm working hard enough. I know that I am. I know the value of my work not because a salary tells me but because I feel it inside my own body. There's no applause for making it to the end of an impossible day. There’s something else here though. There’s power to be found in the practice of repeatedly loving yourself because of something the world around you doesn't see. It's love without consensus or approval. This love belongs to you.
The little kid years are about the basics: connection, food, sleep, time outside...the things they must have. The surprise is that fulfilling these basic needs requires more than you've probably ever given. It takes debilitating exhaustion, blaring irritation, physically painful anxiety and mind numbing boredom to achieve the minimum. And it comes as a shock. They told us that motherhood would be sweet and silly, unintelligent even. No one talks about the fact that a minuscule mistake in motherhood can result in death. Did you cut the grape horizontally or vertically? What a funny thing to worry about. A worry for someone with an unimportant life. The truth is that we are keeping children alive. There is care behind survival.
Before motherhood I knew a lot about what other people's careers looked like. Was I measuring up? The answer in motherhood became I don't know. I'm not able to follow along so closely. The noise and needs are too loud. The flickers of pure joy come and go too quickly. I have to hold on with both hands before they float away. I have to stay present enough to remember this feeling of being this human again. Comparison shed away slowly in me until it was small. Then, I remembered how to admire. And there is so much to admire about the women around me. It's sometimes overwhelming.
I used to wonder if anyone could hear me until I overheard my daughter talking to her teddy. I listened to her say, "It's ok to feel nervous. I know what nervous feels like. You're not alone teddy.” I knew the words because I've whispered them in her ear. I wasn't just heard. My words had somehow become her. It felt like knowing what the universe originally intended when she created power. Motherhood is not a period of dormancy. It’s a period of revolution. Parts of who you were before will be lost. Let them be the parts that didn’t feel comfortable to begin with. The ones that probably didn't come from you.
While you’re lost in motherhood, the world will see you as ordinary, if they see you at all. But, I hope you'll see yourself as sacred. You'll be the source of the thing humans spend their lives looking for. You'll be a healer. And no one will be watching you. You’ll work so hard that you cry. You'll wake up and do it over and over again. You'll experience a culture who says that this work holds very little value. But, I hope you’ll be in awe of yourself. I hope you'll see how their blindness is an opportunity to evolve without input. I hope you'll know that it's ok not to have all the answers. That's not what kids are after. What they want is someone to stay close as they walk through the fire. That someone will be you. I hope you’ll break every pattern that ever hurt you and experience the transformation that is giving them something you had to create yourself. I hope you'll hear the whispers of the great-great-great grandchildren you'll never meet saying, "thank you." Creativity doesn't just exist for the sake of career or production. It takes creativity to partner and parent. It takes creativity to build a life that is truly your own. Amidst the chaos, I hope you'll look up one day and see this family, the one you always wanted, and realize that you created it. What I hope most is that you lose everything that stands between you and your own admiration. It's the only kind that ever mattered.
There will come a day for all of us when the littlest is big. They say it comes quickly. We'll find our self-led rhythms again. We’ll get to do the things we can't do now. What we won’t find again is the two-year-old who reminded us how to laugh. Or the baby who felt like sitting in the sun. They’ll be big kids. And we'll be different too. We'll be masters of the lost art of wanting things, and waiting for them. We'll be women composed of our truest parts. We'll have a deep understanding of what power was really made for. We'll be mothers.