Thought I’d share these thoughts, because they’ve been really freeing to me lately. As with all parenting and motherhood content that you consume in any form (from friends, from social media, from parenting blogs, from your own mom…) it’s all just a buffet. Take what looks good, leave the rest.
Recently, motherhood has gotten really, really fun for me. I’m in my 4th year of it (I found out I was pregnant with Milo in early 2019) and now I have a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old. I feel a sense of calm and freedom in my days. I feel so present in each day. It’s really wonderful.
I’m pretty sure this sense of ease has come from a really simple concept I’ve decided to adopt: motherhood, like most areas of life, is half good, half hard. Sometimes I say half fun, half infuriating. Other days it’s half magical, half monotonous. But it comes back to these four words: half good, half hard.
And if that concept sounds really depressing to you (it did to me at first!), think of this: when you preemptively consider that your day with your child will be full of some silly, wonderful, lovely memories and the sweetest snuggles and the most hilarious quotes, and it will also be full of irrational toddler behavior (eewwww why why why do you insist on crawling on hands and knees through the airport??) and sleepless nights and sick babies (always at the worst time!) and expensive childcare and toys ever.y.where, it feels so good to know that this is just how it’s supposed to work out. Nothing’s wrong. It’s supposed to be wonderful, and it’s supposed to be really hard. This is normal! Take a deep breath.
For the first year of motherhood, I often found myself wishing away the days. If only I could get past this postpartum recovery!! Phew, made it. Ok, now if I can only get past the sleepless nights! Great, he’s sleeping 12 hours now. Next up: power through this first year of breastfeeding, and then I can travel again and life will be awesome! Made it. Ok, wait: now I have a toddler, and those baby snuggles are gone and daily life isn’t actually all that much easier…
I realized that for every hard part about a phase of life, there’s a good part. The months of breastfeeding Milo were difficult because I couldn’t go anywhere without a baby or a breast pump. Life was measured in those 3-4 hour increments between feedings. Mentally exhausting! Now he’s fully on solids, and I monitor his eating, pack food for him when we travel…and I should develop a plan to introduce him to whole, healthy foods. (Failing at that right now, tbh.) I’m on the second round of breastfeeding now, and this time around with Dayton I’m aware that there are some parts about breastfeeding that I’ll miss. So I’m enjoying it more.
I haven’t gotten into the elementary and middle school years (and I’d love to hear from you if you’re there!), but I imagine that every time I finish one challenging phase of life (sleeping, potty training, breastfeeding, childcare costs), something else pops up that’s equally challenging.
Since it’s all going to be half fun, half hard, I get to decide which half I want to focus on. They’re both going to be there all the time, so I might as well put my intention on the one that I like best, right? This helps me out a bunch, because when the infuriating things happen (and they will!) I can recognize that they’re supposed to happen, notice whatever emotion I’m feeling, and gradually let it go.
A few specific examples of when I’ve used this concept:
– The first few months after giving birth. They are soooo hard because you don’t sleep as much as an adult human is supposed to sleep….but that sweet newborn smell! It goes away and never comes back, and it’s just so precious when they fall asleep on you while you’re watching tv late at night.
– The toddler phase. There is truly NO LOGIC in toddler behavior and all you want to do is have a driveway conversation with a mom friend, but your 2-year-old is screaming “no talking!! NO TALKING!!” and so you miss out on some much-needed adult human interaction because it’s just not worth it to yell over your toddler’s tears…but then 10 minutes later he’s sitting there playing make-believe with stuffed animals and singing Jingle Bell Rock in the middle of the summer. Toddlers are so fun and funny. These moments are fleeting.
– The traveling (ooooh, the traveling!!) when something as simple as a 3-hour weekend drive to visit the grandparents involves a full day of planning and laundry and packing and loading up your child’s entire life into the SUV, timing the trip juuuust so with the nap schedule so there’s minimal awake time in the car, and you think “remember when I just hopped in the car and listened to a podcast”….but then you get to the destination and watch those babies bond with their grandparents and you think this is the good stuff of life. This is exactly what I’ve always wanted.
Of course, it’s not a new concept. Every parent will talk about how it’s so much fun AND it’s so much work. They coexist.
I try to remember it daily, especially when parenting feels extra exhausting.
I’m only a few years into this, but I imagine it goes this way all the way to the very end.
Someday these babies will be out of the diaper stage, but that means the baby stage is over forever. (Sob!)
And someday they’ll be in kindergarten and I won’t be paying for childcare, but they’ll have started sports and music lessons and the weekends will be full of tournaments and competitions, and I imagine I’ll say “remember when life was so simple back then…”
One day they’ll be teenagers and will have graduated from Irrational Toddler Land, but I’ll be guiding them into adulthood and helping them shape their lives and trying to raise them to be noble, kind human beings. (Ugh! That sounds too hard right now.)
And one day they’ll graduate from high school… NOPE. Just kidding. Too far. We’re not going there yet.
Anyway, we just got back from a quick trip to Colorado. A few friends have asked how it went, and I don’t know how to respond. Haha! I could either say “it was great! So much fun and we made a bunch of great family memories,” or “it was absolutely exhausting and I’m sooo happy to be home.” Both are true.
And most days are an even mixture. They’re half good, half hard. Even the very best of days (Christmas! Milo’s 2nd Birthday! The day we brought Dayton home from the hospital!) are full of some good stuff, some bad stuff. It’s all wonderful and also so very very hard.
I’ve found a new love and appreciation for this phase of life as I recognize that it’s all supposed to be a mix. I’m not surprised by the challenges when I know that they definitely will come up, and I can handle them. And I feel like life is moving slower now that I’m focusing on the sweet parts of parenting that will end so soon. XO.