A few weeks ago I sat around a table with several wonderful women, conversing about our shared experiences of the difficutly of mothering the second time around – daughters for the lot of us. Whether it be the differences in habits, the presence of baby-sized estrogen hormones or our own lack of patience after parenthood lost its shiny newness, we each expressed that this time around has been a bit more challenging. I renewed my belief that, other than “I love you” the strongest words you can share with a person are, “Yeah, me too.”
Motherhood has an interesting way of bringing you together; whether at the grocery store, looking over a screaming child and seeing a mom give a “been there, it’s okay” glance or times of offering how-tos. Often I feel very fortunate to share my experiences with so many women who, though we all choose different methods, are living parallel, albeit sleepless, struggles.
The irony enters when I consider that much of the community I feel among my co-mom family and friends may exist because of our shared experience in the solitary nature of our mom job. Now most of these ladies are very happy with the amount of shouldered responsibilities put forth by their husbands; I feel my own is quite the superdad. But there’s something about the fact that no one really cares about your kid’s poop that gives mothering a sense of aloneness. Perhaps it’s the nights where it’s just you and the baby… or it could be the evenings you feel a bit trapped in your own home, starved for social conversation. Whatever the case, no matter the strength of partnership you share in the household, I believe mothering has a lonely side.
After some recent reflection, I decided it’s not how you do the job of mothering, it’s simply ingrained in the job description. I feel quite loved by my husband and family – this is not one of those times where I fear no one will come to my funeral – but it’s a new and different experience to love someone, such as your child, so deeply and feel in exchange needed. Now, I don’t doubt my toddler’s affection and his hugs and kisses prove his allegience. But when you get down to our daily life, my kids need me more than than they choose me. They mostly prefer me to complete strangers when it comes to wiping duties, but the nature of my love sometimes yearns for more. Not friendship (I firmly believe that’s not my job as a parent), and not romance. But when you’re used to love as a partnership, shouldering most of the weight of a relationship can feel uncomfortable and wearing. And yet, that’s what it means to be a parent. (And we’re only on the maiden voyage; I realize that we haven’t hit the older stages of “I hate you” or the teenage “You’re ruining my life!” antics).
I regularly read a blog of a pastor who had recently reflected on his life and the role of his recently passed father. One lesson told of his father’s joy when he became wanted rather than needed. While I first read this as true and powerful, I hadn’t yet identified its depths specifically as a parent. I will be needed before I’m wanted. It’s part of the process of love. (And the process works – I love my own parents dearly and we regularly choose to spend time with them because we enjoy them).
The journey of loving our children seems like walking a road alone, together. Many travelers join us – first and foremost my husband – but yet our pace and patterns are just enough different that the path can feel lonely. The best we can do is offer one another encouragement while take on the next mile.