The Inconvenience of Motherhood
When I was first pregnant, I felt as if I was bombarded with ideas on how to make life more convenient. I know these people were trying to help me but these comments planted the idea that pregnancy should be convenient for me, which, in turn, led me to believe that motherhood should be convenient for me. When my daughter was born I had at least ten different swaddles, all made of different materials. I had a few carriers for her, along with a baby wrap, which enabled me to carry her hands free. I had a transportable boat-like bed for her that could be placed on anything stable; essentially, she could sleep anywhere. I had pacifier clips, drool bibs, a fan for her car seat, a hammock she could lay in while in a grocery cart (no, but really). I was always seeking for products or hacks to make life easier and more convenient for me. I didn't want life to be any harder than it had to be. I wanted my life to essentially stay as close to the same was it was before having my daughter.
Notwithstanding all my efforts to ensure a convenient pregnancy and delivery, guess what? It still felt super inconvenient. Shocking, I know. I can't believe pushing a human being out of my body didn't feel convenient. That feeling of inconvenience has carried on today, despite having all of these products of mama convenience. Yes it's certainly easier to carry my daughter in a wrap but it's also really inconvenient to have a child wrapped to my body. I might be hands free, but I've still got 23 extra pounds that I'm lugging around. Having an extra human being to look after and solely be responsible for will always be extremely inconvenient. My experience thus far with motherhood has taught me that my life isn't really supposed to be convenient and I shouldn't expect it to be so.
Nearly a year ago we were asked to move to Mesa, Arizona for my husband's job. Which, by the way, Mesa is at least 10 hours away from the closest relative or friend. We were placed in the middle of the desert, in a summer climate I'm pretty sure is the closest thing to hell, and were somehow expected to call it our home. My daughter was only five months old at the time and I was barely getting the hang of things. The only thoughts I had for months and months were "this is so inconvenient and stupid; I hate this." Mostly those three thoughts on repeat for months. My obsession with the inconvenience of my situation consumed my soul. I was suddenly this negative, grumpy, moody, snappy and unhappy person. I didn't even recognize myself anymore and the worst part of it all is that I felt that motherhood has brought this upon me. I blamed motherhood, specifically my motherhood situation. It felt so inconvenient for me. I looked around at other moms who seemed to have a better situation than me and I envied them. I didn't realize then but my fixation with convenience made it impossible for me to be happy in my current situation. It felt like there was always something I wished was different. "If only (insert wishful thinking) then I will be happier" seemed to be a frequent statement. It was a vicious cycle-I was never happy with my situation and it only got worse as my daughter grew older. We've been in Arizona for almost a year and I'm finally getting to a point where I'm recognizing my belief about motherhood hasn't been true. It's not just inconvenient for me, it's inconvenient for everyone.
I've come to understand and realize that motherhood will never, ever feel convenient and I don't think we should paint a picture that it should be convenient. Everything about it is hard and inconvenient. I mean, no, I don't want my stomach to stretch to it's maximum capacity. No I don't want to feel gassy and bloated and nauseated for 9 months straight and then have to push a human out of an extremely sensitive area of my body. No I don't want to be stapled, stitched and bleeding for weeks after giving birth. No I don't want to to let a tiny human suck on my breasts until they are raw. No I don't want to wake up every two hours during the night for months and sometimes years of my life. No I don't want to give up my bubble baths and shaving time. No I don't want to carry a human on my hip all day along with carrying the groceries and walking up three flights of stairs. Not only did I spend an hour making dinner but I now have to watch as my toddler throws spaghetti sauce all over the walls and then I have to clean it up after? No, I don't want to do that. Literally everything about being a mother is going to feel inconvenient and that's the point. Motherhood is inconvenient and we can't change that. I think we are doing a disservice to motherhood if we are trying to make it anything other than what it truly is.
Motherhood is what is it is. It is the sleepless nights and the aching pains. It is the constant struggle to teach and reason with an illogical human being. It is the carrying, nurturing, supporting and sacrificing. It is the questioning of your own sanity and the moments of uncertainty. It is the crying, fussing, biting, scratching, kicking and wrestling. It is the struggle and the self-sacrifice. It is the loss of identity and the struggle to reinvent identity. It is the cuddles, the kisses, the lullabies, the soothing, the lathering and the tickling. It is the happiness and the pain. If you are to accept motherhood, you must accept it for everything that it is-the good and the seemingly bad.
To believe that motherhood should be convenient for us is to misunderstand the true nature of motherhood. A lot that is required with motherhood goes against our human instincts. In fact, we are physiologically designed to save as much energy as possible. The feeling of something being "hard" comes from our brains trying to figure out a new experience; in this case that new experience being motherhood. It feels hard because haven’t figured out how to resourcefully master the task. However once mastered, it will be as effortless and easy as the task of breathing that most of us experience on a daily basis. We rarely even notice it and yet it's the very thing keeping us alive. How can something so crucial to our survival be so effortless? We literally do it without even thinking about it. Can the same really be said of motherhood? Is this experience really something that is crucial to the survival of our souls? I'd like to believe that it is. It won't feel effortless at first at least; it hasn't felt effortless to me. But perhaps as time goes on and experiences are unfolded, we will come to a point where the task feels natural and effortless. A quiet and masterful task perfected. Until that time, motherhood will feel like extremely hard work and that struggle will be real.
Motherhood is constantly a new experience. We might master breastfeeding a newborn but then teething happens and the learning starts all over. We might master helping with teething but then crawling happens and we start all over. We might master crawling and then they start walking and we have to start all over. We are constantly trying to figure out our kids and constantly given new problems and situations to solve. The work never ends.
The reason I make this point is to suggest that perhaps if we could rid ourselves of the belief that work is a bad thing or that work somehow takes away from our happiness, we could start to see motherhood in a brighter light. I think if we could just accept motherhood for what is truly is and allow the hardships and the inconveniences to shape us, we will be pleasantly surprised at the transformation that takes place. I look at aged mothers, now great-grandmothers and their warmth and love overwhelms me. They take one look at my daughter and know exactly what to do to nurture and comfort her. It is no longer an inconvenience to them because mothering is as natural to them as breathing. It is beautifully, and masterfully effortless.
If we can get to that point of accepting motherhood, inconveniences and all, we won't be trying to change it, or fight the duties of the task. We will appreciate the struggle, relish in the hard moments. We will know that those moments are shaping us, changing us, transforming us into beings that are able to love and nourish and provide without a second thought. It is the act of self-sacrifice, or letting go of self, that defines motherhood. Yes, self-sacrifice is hard and yes, we will feel the urge to resist it, but anything less than self-sacrifice is not motherhood.
Looking back now at those first few months in Arizona, I know now that I didn't understand motherhood in the light I do today. Motherhood is inconvenient, that truth will never change. However, my view of the inconvenience has changed. I no longer see the inconveniences as a curse or punishment, something that I can somehow change or alleviate. I now see those inconveniences for what they truly are-the catalysts for transformation and change. Motherhood isn't something that simply requires self-sacrifice rather; it is the embodiment of self-sacrifice. Taking away the self-sacrifice part does not equal easier motherhood; it equals something other than motherhood. So, embrace the sacrifice, as painful and hard as it may seem-embrace it, with all that you've got.
I don't believe there is ever a convenient time to have a child. Regardless of the preparation and the precautions there will always be the surprise of just how hard the self-sacrifice really is. I'm coming to see that motherhood is less about the child and more about us. It's not about what we can gain from that child but how much of we can give up of ourselves. That process will feel inconvenient every step of the way, but I do believe that we will come to a point where it no longer feels inconvenient because mothering will become a real and living part of us. Until that day, take heart mothers. You are not alone. It feels inconvenient for a reason and there is absolutely no guilt or shame in feeling that way. I'm with you and she's with you and every other mother you see is with you. And it will get easier, one day at a time.