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10 Things about Motherhood That You Don’t Understand Unless You Are A Mother.

Let’s make an agreement. You promise not to get your panties in a bunch because I say something you don’t like. I will be honest. Agreed? 

 Motherhood is a choice, one I am grateful for. I do however know that it isn’t going to be a choice for all and I respect that. I even understand it. For most of my life I never wanted to be a mother. This post isn’t about superiority or the brainwashed idea that not having children means you missed out on something in life. This post is about perspectives. If we are going to be intentional and honest we have to increase our awareness. I often have conversations with people who do not have children that attempt to say they understand motherhood because they have a pet or babysit alot or “just about raised a child”. I appreciate the attempt to understand perspective. I need to say the thing that will be unpopular. You cannot and will not fully understand this journey unless you have been through it. And that is okay! I will never understand what it is like to be a man or to be a firefighter. We aren’t here to understand everything. You can still honor the journey of another without trying to equate it or explain through metaphor and comparison. Every mother has varying experiences and this post is about awareness and education from my perspective. Unhinge the bunching before you proceed…

1. We have changed. There is this illusion that we as mothers should strive in  being, acting, looking and living as we did before our babies came. It is not possible. We are changed. Our priorities have shifted. What looks like a good  time is different. As we are evolving  through this continually changing responsibility who we are and how we can/will show up is not going to look like it looked before. And the pressure to return to something from before in the exact same way is unrealistic and traumatic.  We cannot be the same. Work. Relationships. The Gym. I am not talking less. I am saying different. My own focus is razor sharp. I am able to clearly set goals and knock them out because my motivation has changed. They are depending on me. I cannot invest  my energy in the same ways. I need that energy to fuel my life with them.  I care about wellness so I do what I must but my regimen doesn’t look like it did before. It can’t .  I don’t mourn it either. I embrace it. 
2. We are questioning our every move. We have to because we are bombarded with opinions, advice and real time “consequences”. Our lives have become about more than our own comfort and desires. Each of us wants the best for our little ones and the internal judge of motherhood can be a harsh one. One less voice of question can be helpful. 

3. You don’t see all of our children. Infant and child loss is an ignored and so overlooked trauma that affects more mamas than you can imagine. There are mamas walking around with no  children. There is a shame associated with miscarriage that creates a deep  wound into the hearts of many women. Questions about more babies or why there are no babies are a stinging reminder that isn’t helpful or necessary.  I do not know the pain of burying or losing a child so I don’t understand it. I can honor the love that will not end whether that child was here for a moment or years. 

4. We are consistently disrespected.  We are told how to hold, when to hold, how to feed, where to feed, how to discipline and on and on.  Shamed, blamed, rushed through the process and expected to put the comfort of grown ups over the care and comfort of our babies. I could write a dissertation, honestly. And it would revolve around the disgust I encounter when I travel with my boys. Children are humans but mothers are routinely pressured to treat them inhumanely. We aren’t given space or time (see Maternity leave time frames around the world) to fully grasp or connect to this new human.  Just a reminder that a little compassion goes a very long way. 

5. This is a life or death responsibility.  From conception our responsibility is so serious. We can watch and protect, plan and safe guard their lives and still there are things we cannot protect them from. There are accidents and illness that  we cannot prevent. It is a divine honor but sometimes an overwhelming reality. Recently, Palmer got away from me at the door of a grocery store and was out of my reach, moments away from stepping into traffic. I replay that incident and my heart almost beats out of my chest. It’s insensitive to compare what we are doing to job responsibilities like emails and deadlines or to make fun of the concern we have for their safety and who we entrust them to. 

6. Motherhood is isolating.  For all the friends and family, wonderful spouses and supportive efforts, this  journey also makes you feel alone. There are moments when you have to sit  with the changes, shifts and transitions. Not everyone will know how and when to help, reach out and support. For most moms there is a gap that can fuel the emotional turmoil that often accompanies postpartum. I think about sitting next to Palmer’s NICU bed wanting to hold him. Even with Christian by my side and throngs of people praying for and holding us up I felt a solitary pain that I do not ever want again. I am fortunate to have an incredible village but I have had relationships that could not survive this change and I am aware that most do not have support at all. 
7. We know our children. We have been learning them in each moment. They  are each different and need different types of caring, support and engagement from us. We are all trying to thrive until naptime or bedtime as best we can while maintaining a balance between the demands of our unmotherly responsibilities. We know if they are ready to sleep alone or use the potty. We alone know if it’s time to ween. We know their disabilities, challenges and illnesses. Imagine the frustration of someone coming to your job giving you instructions after watching you work for 3o minutes….  

8. It’s not all joy. I wish it was. I wish  each moment was an Instagram picture of motherly bliss. Sometimes I  look at my instagram to remember it was all joy last week, yesterday , 10 minutes ago… It’s  beautiful, inspiring and amazing. It is also overwhelming, exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking. We can be grateful for these babies and honor the discomfort that is part of this journey.

9. We deserve our own care. We cannot possibly care for our children if we neglect  ourselves.  We have to create time to replenish ourselves. Sometimes, most times, that will not look the same as before we embarked on this  journey. So a night out with the girls could work but it could also be a lot of work in terms of getting ready, coordinating child care and having the energy to resume mothering upon returning home. Maybe your mom friend needs a shower and a nap.  

10. We need our village. There was a time when we remained in family groups and were surrounded by people, other women who supported and assisted us in this journey. As this world has gotten bigger the distance from those we love has also grown. The need for support is still there. The village helps to keep the parents as well as the babies. The village fills the void of grandparents and family if need be. It is essential.  Be willing to love compassionately. 

Perspective. Joy to your day. 

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11 thoughts on “10 Things about Motherhood That You Don’t Understand Unless You Are A Mother.

  1. I love this! You have managed to express exactly those feelings and experiences. You are always honest and so articulate. Thank you for this post!

  2. I totally felt that part about needing a shower and a nap last night. I went to the movies, something I never do because of having to coordinate child care, come home from work, get ready, leave things, try not to think about things, then return to mothering upon return. You’ve summarized so much of how I feel that I’ve changed since I’ve had my sun. It’s no joke, and you remind us why, in the words of Shonda Rhimes in her memoir (I recommend) we should “leave no mom behind.” Thank you!

  3. Amazingly written. Point for point, I was right there with you. My journey through motherhood has altered. I am post raising. But, I am part of the village that assist my daughter through her journey. That is a journey in itself.

  4. It is awesome to hear a perspective that is similar to my own. You really mententioned some very important things that all moms struggle with but often times won’t discuss. You should share these ten points with the Parent magazine; very good read!!

  5. This was so accurate Kelley. Thank you for your honesty, transparency, authenticity and perspective! Glad to call you friend. ❤

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