Need to Know
I sat there, at my sister’s thirty-third birthday party, and I took note of the collection of women who had gathered to celebrate with us. We were a fairly eclectic mix, but one thing stands out to me now as I think back over that night: the mothers were out-numbered. Of the ten of us, only four were mothers. It’s really not an unusual ratio for a group of 30 somethings, especially when you consider that we had one or two 20 somethings in our midst. What causes me to call this into question, to even examine it in the first place, is a topic of conversation we landed on and conversations that have continued both in and out of my head since that evening. The topic: motherhood.
At some point during the conversation that night, my younger sister Holly mentioned that she is a stay-at-home mom. To a 5 year-old boy and 2 ½ year-old twin girls. From the sharp intakes of air, the expertly-lined eyes staring in horror, and the margaritas freezing mid-way to high-polish glossy lips, you’d have thought she just announced she was an axe murderer. The mothers and mothering-friendlies at the table just smiled knowingly.
I’ve seen this exchange multiple times. Even though I just have the one daughter and a career outside the home, I’ve been on the receiving end of it more than once. Granted, many of my friends have taken a far gentler approach – you know, less gasping, less staring and more: “I just don’t know if I want kids.” Something about mentioning twins just makes people lose their good manners. Still, it’s not unusual for a woman my age, whether she’s single or married, to declare some sort of opposition to the station of motherhood. Maybe it’s the pain of childbirth, or the loss of freedom, or the sleep deprivation, or the cost of diapers (or college), or, I don’t know, any one of the mental sucker punches I felt within 24 hours of finding out I was pregnant. And still, like so many mothers I know, I smile and try to explain just how much I love being a mother, and how grateful I am for the privilege of raising a daughter.
See, the thing is, we’ve survived everything that these women are so desperately afraid of or fundamentally opposed to. We just don’t tell them about it. There’s an unspoken rule among mothers that the grittiest stories shouldn’t leave the club. Was childbirth painful? Yes. Enough said. Was sleep deprivation hard on me? Yes. I’ve heard the alarm go off 30 minutes after I fell asleep one too many times. Do I sometimes wish that I could just grab my purse and go to Target without having to get another person dressed, fed, pottied, and into the car seat? Sure. I even have dreams about it sometimes. But these things are not the sum of my motherhood experience. They’re tee-tiny parts of the journey, and they are devastatingly temporary. Even with the birth experience I had, I’ll still see a pregnant woman and wish I could have another baby. Even on the days I am most frustrated with how difficult it is to get Livi going, I’m still stunned by how quickly she has grown up enough to climb into the car seat on her own. And if you ask me about sleep deprivation, I won’t remember how tired I was. I’ll tell you about the nights that I would sit and stare at my sleeping baby, how I can still remember exactly how her tiny body felt in my arms.
If you’re one of these women, consider this: the reason you’re alive is because some crazed woman somewhere got it into her head that she wanted to have a baby. Or maybe she didn’t; maybe you were a surprise, but you’re still here. She went that far at least. I do think that some women truly are just not cut out to be mothers, and it really is okay to think that you don’t ever want to do it…just try not to act like the rest of us are crazy for being knee-deep in it. Because there’s one last thing that we don’t tell you about motherhood: we think you are absolutely, 100% out of your ever-loving mind.