Today is Mother’s Day, and so I’m lost in a sea of introspection, mulling over my own mothering and the influence of so many mothers in my own life. Over and over today, I’ve been struck with how blessed I am to be surrounded by wonderful mothers.
There is my own Mom, of course. She is a woman so wonderful that I think almost everyone who meets her knows within moments how special she is. She continues to teach me about creativity, kindness, forgiveness, and family. I love her.
There is my mother-in-law, a woman who has opened the doors to her home and her family so wide, that I have always felt right at home. I love her.
Then, there are my friends, many of whom are the best mothers I know. On my hard days, they encourage me and listen to me vent. On my good days, they celebrate with me. They are examples of compassion, patience, faith, and courage—whether in mothering or not. They inspire me and make me want to be better while knowing I’m accepted as I am. I love them all.
And there are also writers, bloggers, and public figures who have transformed my own mothering experience through their words, art, and activism.
It’s a great cloud of witnesses.
One of the things I love most about being a mom is the same thing I love about being a woman—what an amazing company I am surrounded by, both near and far. It’s an honor and privilege to count myself among them. Seriously.
These days, my children challenge me and also make me insanely happy. I’ve talked so many parents about how there really aren’t good days and bad days; there are just days jam-packed with both very good moments and very bad moments. My children can be stubborn, aggressive and emotional; they are often needy, demanding, and loud. There are speech delays and allergies and behavioral challenges that keep me up at night and make me question my parenting decisions. But my children are also joyful, passionate, compassionate, and eager-to-please. They are smart and curious, always eager to learn. They have contagious smiles, awesome laughs, and the sparkliest blue eyes. They are awesome snugglers.
I haven’t been entirely forthcoming about this in my writing or on social media. (In fact, I haven’t been entirely forthcoming about it in many of my offline relationships either.) But I find that I can’t talk about Mother’s Day this year without acknowledging that since Leo was born, I have struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety. I started taking medication just a few weeks before Ruthie was born, and only over the past few months have I finally begun to feel the cloud lifting. I am finally feeling like myself again.
I don’t like admitting this part of my story. I’ve been trying to write about it for months, but I haven’t really been able to. Maybe some day soon I can share more of the story. But what I can say right now is that the past 18 months or so have been incredibly difficult, and I have struggled to find joy in my motherhood on many, many days. I have felt like a failure, and it has felt almost impossible to be the mom my kids deserve. (I know that’s not true. But it felt real, nonetheless.)
I’m grateful to be mostly on the other side of that. At the same time, I’m mourning the time I lost. Today at church, we talked about the now-but-not-yet Kingdom of God, and one of the most significant things I’ve come to understand is that in motherhood, like in the rest of life, there is room in my heart and hands for both joy and sadness. I can carry them both. As much as I feel grief over my PPD, I also feel deep, abiding joy in the presence of my children and in the act of being their mom.
Motherhood is exhausting, and there are days I wonder what in the actual heck was I thinking?
Motherhood is also my most important work. It’s not every woman’s most important work, but it is mine.
Being a mom is my greatest act of resistance, and it is my greatest contribution to the kingdom of God.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Anne Lamott says there are three essential prayers: Help, thanks, and wow. Motherhood makes me pray those three words in an endless loop.
Today, I am grateful.