A dear friend who doesn’t have children recently asked me a very standard, very benign question:
I deliberated for a week. I typed and retyped responses in the dialogue box. I started writing things like, Motherhood is the best. It’s awesome. I’m astonished and humbled every day. I found my purpose, my true calling, the reason why I’m meant to be on earth.
I erased those sentences and started again.
Motherhood is a mixed bag. Some days I feel like I’m floating down a river, bobbing effortlessly like an otter on its back, my head tilted toward the sun, my body weightless and my mind on nothing more than playing. Next to me is a smaller otter, a tinier version of myself. We’re splashing and slip-sliding and doing whatever it is otters do. The small otter is following my lead. I dip underwater. He dips underwater. I flip onto my back. He flips onto his back. The air is warm and the water is cool. The small otter climbs on top of my chest, burrows under my chin and together we float as one, at peace with each other in our wild, meandering domain.
Then there are days when I feel like I’m swimming against the current in a heavy Mississippi flood. I can’t touch the bottom. My muscles ache from kicking and paddling. I’m swimming in slow motion past fallen tree limbs and wayward debris. A young boy is clinging to the branch of an old oak, crying like a kitten, desperate to be rescued. “Mama,” he cries “Save me.” I push my body upstream, past overturned cars and floating piles of untethered junk, the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life. Beleaguered but not broken, I wade through waist-high weeds. I climb the tree, retrieve the child and clutch him to my chest. I lower us back into the water. I kiss his wet forehead and like Rose in Titanic I vow to never let go. He hugs me, happy to be in my arms. He tells me he loves me. Then he punches me in the face.
When my childless friends ask me about motherhood I have an urge to respond with these longwinded analogies as if it’s the only way to articulate how terribly difficult it is. GAG.
The truth is nothing is easy. What’s easy is being a kid and even that’s hard.
I willfully signed up to be a mother, ugly bits and all. As much as it may feel like parenting is a herculean feat, it’s not. For better or worse, big people have raised little people for centuries. Same complicated human experience, different generation. Same circle of life, different shit getting our panties in a twist.