Years ago, a friend shared with me her uncertainty about whether or not she wanted to become a mother. I tried to relay something that someone had shared with me when I was pregnant. The essence was this: becoming a parent adds a layer of depth to an individual that can’t be obtained through any other endeavour.
My effort to convey this was an epic fail. What she took away (and what I obviously implied) was that not becoming a parent makes one shallow. That’s not what I believe. Not one little bit.
Having children isn’t for everybody. I respect that. It’s hard work, time-consuming, costly, and you need to like children! If in your heart of hearts you don’t want to become a mother (be it by birth or through adoption), screw what others think. Put your love, time, money and energy towards something that beckons you more.
There are endless ways to add depth to your being and grow as an individual — art, travel, teaching, spirituality, even business — but the shape of that depth varies depending on the path (or paths) you take; not in quality, but rather, in essence. And the shape it takes on when you become a mother is unique to that role.
When you become a mother, you start to figure out what really matters.
Devoting yourself to a helpless little being who is 100% dependent on you is time-consuming. You’re so busy dealing with important stuff (like teaching your youngsters to tie their laces or manage their anger) that you don’t have time to sweat the small stuff (like long grocery store line-ups or a messy house). And that’s a good thing.
When you become a mother, you learn a lot about yourself.
Kids may lie a lot, but they’re also incredibly honest. Painfully so at times. Recently, my teenager told me I had good legs. “At least, they look good from behind. They’re a bit veiny on the front though, Mom.” There are truths you could do without. And then there are truths you need to hear.
Just the other day, I saw a heavy, sweaty man walking along the street without a shirt on. Fair play to him, he’d been for a run and it was stinking hot outside so he’d whipped off his top. Still, before I knew it, out slipped these ghastly words from my mouth: “Yikes, his boobs are enormous.”
Without skipping a beat, my daughter said, “Mom, that’s not kind.” In a child-parent relationship, the parents aren’t the only teachers. A child’s honesty is unparalleled and it will teach you things about yourself that no other experience will teach you.
When you become a mother, you truly come to understand unconditional love.
There is nobody you will forgive faster than your own child. In fact, scratch that. Forgiveness rarely even enters the equation, because when your child acts out, your instinct is to focus on what’s behind his or her actions, versus the impact those actions have on you.
You’re not waiting in the wings for an apology; you’re racking your brain and the library shelves in an effort to understand where the action came from and what you can do to help your child overcome the source of his or her anger, despair, deceit — whatever the case may be. You discover a level of empathy you never knew you had; one that you can apply, in time and with practice, to others in your life.
When you become a mother, you discover strength you never knew you had.
Giving birth was life-altering for me. Thanks to some great coaching from my midwife, doula and ex (as I screamed, he held up one cue card after another, affirming my strength — KEEP BREATHING. YOU’VE GOT THIS!), I was able to bring my daughter into this world without medical intervention. I had no idea just how strong and mighty I was (and still am) until her birth was a fait accompli.
Of course, not everyone has a straightforward birth. And not everyone births the children they mother. But parenting (especially mothering) is, I believe, hands-down the most demanding role out there. There can be months on end where it feels like a thankless job; the joys of parenthood lost in a blur of exhaustion and frustration.
Yet day after day, you get back on that horse because unlike any other life venture, you can’t bail on this one when the going gets tough. Through parenting, you discover a degree of strength and sticktoitiveness that you will be able to transfer into other areas of your life, and that’s a gift.
When you become a mother, you value your own life more than ever.
Two years before my wonderful step-mother came into my life, my birth mom passed away. I was just shy of four. While I recognize my perspective here may be skewed by my experience, I don’t think you have to have lost a mother to understand the void that remains in a child who has loved and lost one.
As a mother, you are irreplaceable. Your kids need you and that means you have to do your damndest to stay healthy — and alive! You’re also a role model, and if you want your child to live a fulfilling life (don’t we all?), you work on modelling it. Granted, this can be tricky when you have young and needy little ones hanging onto your legs, but they don’t stay small forever.
It wasn’t until my daughter was about 10-years-old that my true self-care journey began, but begin it did, and it’s still ongoing. At 18, my daughter has a mother who walks what she talks. She sees me openly facing any demons that hold me back and embracing the life-enriching experiences that carry me forward.
There have been many times I could have crumbled to bits, but I didn’t because my daughter needs me whole. She needs me, not just to provide for her, but to guide her, and thank heavens she does.
Have there been days when I would like not to have had to parent? Absolutely.
But there has never been a day when I have doubted, for even one second, why I chose to become a mother. In all of the ways I have described above and more, I have, through motherhood, found my happiest, most fulfilled self. May your unique path lead you to your happiest, most fulfilled self, too.
Viv for today xo
(Originally published in July 2018)
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