In praise of motherhood (and childhood)

Motherhood has become trendy.  Trendy enough, anyways, to necessitate a backlash movement.  In recent years, several books and articles have emerged defending the choice not to have children.  By all means, this is a choice I completely understand and many of the arguments made in its favor are true to claim.  I began to ponder what I would argue are the reasons why I chose to have children.  In doing so I realized that whatever reasons I chose going in morphed into something quite beyond what I imagined and that only in actually experiencing motherhood first hand did the true reasons reveal themselves.  Being a mother has altered my world view and understanding of self so completely that I find myself with a constant skip in my step at my good fortune at uncovering these parts of myself.  I began to really pick apart what in particular about being a mother made the experience so intensely rewarding.  While the enduring and all-encompassing relationship with another human being, your child, has much to do with it, I realized that much of the magic lies in allowing yourself to experience the freedom of childhood all over again.  To see the world through the eyes of a child, as cliché as it is, truly is a remarkable way of freeing your self-obsessed self from the everyday and returning to a place where we all once were; our childhoods.

One of the most surprisingly “sigh of relief” aspects of motherhood has been the reprieve from SELF.  Yes, before babies my days were spent in wanton abandon of needing to be home for bedtime and with nothing but my own worries to occupy me.  I was surprised to realize once I had a child how exhausting and trivial my needs and worries had become.  Who cares if I gained a few pounds?  So what if she was pissed because I was late picking her up?  Should I buy the black or the grey jeans?  The need to spend mental energy and focus on someone other than myself is incredibly liberating.  You mean we can talk about our children instead of ourselves?  Excellent!!  The all-about-me phase is all good, and necessary, to a point.  I am more than happy to put myself aside for now.

Equally surprising is how content I am to be with my children.  In fact, I am at my most content when in their company.  I don’t miss going out on the weekends and drinking at the local bar.  There was a time when I couldn’t imagine not being out on a Friday night.  Now, I can’t imagine not being at home with my children.  The truth is, kids are fun!  They are endlessly entertaining and when they are yours, you don’t want to miss those little quips and moments that pass by all too quickly.  Every day they discover something new about themselves and their world and I don’t want to miss a second of it.  There are moments when I say to myself, this is it, this is complete and utter bliss.  When I wake up in the morning with my baby girl snuggled beside me, when I see the look of unabashed joy on my son’s face, when I am out for a run and I dare think upon my children whose mere thought of can make me crazy with emotion.  I love that I can snuggle up in bed, guilt free, at 9pm and read my book.  Sure, I do miss nights out with the girls and fellow adults but I am again surprisingly pleased with the whole new world of playground and playdate socializing.  I have learned not to underestimate the potential friendships that take place on the local playground benches and if not lifelong friends, at least pleasant exchanges and insights.  I also appreciate afternoon wine with friends while watching the children play and getting home in time for a good nights sleep.

I have never loved my husband more than since adding two little people into our relationship.  It is hard not to look at these people who you made with an act of love and not love each other even more.  Having the common focus of love no longer exclusively on each other but diffused and magnified onto your children is intense.  Sharing in that love is beyond what I imagined.  The trivial arguments no longer seem as important as the bigger picture we have chosen to embrace together.  That said, never has the relationship been more challenging.  There is so much invested in us doing right by each other and working together.  But when we do work together, it is beautiful.  I see him and I see them and I see us.  It is a much richer love than it was without them.

To be a mother is to see human beings in a whole new light.  I see the homeless man on the street and I now think, “he has a mother who loves him somewhere”.  I teach with the understanding that all my students go home to a family, a family that laughs or a family that yells, a family that loves openly or secretly, a family that cares,  like I care about my own children.   I cried, loud gasping sobs, in a movie theatre a few months after giving birth to my first child in a film where a son lost his father, his key to survival.  I had rarely shed a tear in films before and now I have been known to get teary eyed in a touching commercial or song.  I have a greater empathy for people and their loss as I now understand more deeply what it means to love another human being.  It begins with the love you have for your own parents and then the circle completes when you experience the love you have for your own children.  I would say that I never really knew how much I love my parents until I understood first hand how much they love me.  It is hard to comprehend a world where people can hurt and even kill each other.  The violence that is everywhere becomes incomprehensible where it was once “just the way it is”.  Being a mother has exposed raw, sensitive emotions and I am thankful for it.

All this said, I cannot deny that I have had moments when I have felt absolutely decimated by my spirited preschooler and wondered what I did to deserve being subjected to the torture of unrelenting screaming and whining.  But without fail in those moments if I were to ask myself “Did you choose wisely choosing motherhood” the answer is a quick and assured “Yes”.  There is a reason why children bring out the best in people.  We were all children once.  We all have fleeting memories of what it felt like to feel something for the first time, to be amazed by the wonders that surround us, to play all day without worry.  We all were a baby once, loved and taken care of.  Somewhere along the way we forget that part of ourselves.  I love that I am reminded of that part of the human experience, our shared childhoods, as I watch my children interact with their world.  Motherhood has exposed parts of me that I am forever grateful for.  Children, whether you are a mother, a father, an aunt, an uncle, a grandmother, a grandfather, a godmother, a godfather, do much to remind us of the innate love and joy that fueled our beginnings.  I am thankful I can be a mother to such beautiful little reminders.

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