Motherhood took me by surprise. The kind of surprise that happens 9 months after your wedding day. Yes … that kind.
I was never that little girl; the one that dreamed of being a mom and having a house brimming with kids. I was the tomboy. As the second oldest of five, my sister and I were tasked with typical older sibling responsibilities: babysitting, changing diapers, and wiping various body parts. But this early primer on motherhood just made it feel like a burdensome responsibility, not a joy. I hated it. I wasn’t sure if kids would be in my future.
God had other plans, and I got pregnant. When my first bundle arrived, he was a bundle of colic, not joy. Not familiar with colic? Picture constant, red faced, screaming that nothing can soothe. I may not have been eager for motherhood, but having it quite literally dropped into my lap I wanted to be a good one. As any good mama bear, I wanted my sweet new son to be okay all the time and to fix everything that would cause him pain. But colic doesn’t cooperate. No matter what I did his pain persisted and so did the crying. And then, surprise! Seven months later I was pregnant with number two.
The consistently disappointing reality was that Mother’s Day just made more work for me … dishes, laundry and even the diapers, awaited me the next day, dirtier and smellier than if I’d just done my duty the day before.
Having kids 17 months apart forced us to enter what my husband and I called, “survival mode.” No showering. No adult communication. Sleep at levels barely enough to keep us alive. A house full of vomit, bottles, poop, and tantrums. Fond memories for sure. I was in the fullness of motherhood and all that came with it. Those experiences gave me a much deeper appreciation and respect for my own mom and all that she sacrificed for me.
This motherhood thing was turning out to be really hard. I naturally viewed Mother’s Day as a time to be rewarded for the endless selflessness that was required to keep these toddlers alive. I would enter each Mother’s Day in those early years ready to be served and to relax. No dishes, laundry, and certainly no diapers. At least that’s how I dreamed it, but reality was drastically different. The consistently disappointing reality was that Mother’s Day just made more work for me. I expected that while I relaxed, my family would pick up the slack; but the dishes, laundry and even the diapers, awaited me the next day, dirtier and smellier than if I’d just done my duty the day before. Mother’s Day wasn’t joyful. It was just another day, but a day tinged with the bitterness of the accolades I didn’t get, the rest I didn’t receive, and expectations crushed.
I wouldn’t complain about an uninterrupted visit to the bathroom.
It was one of these Mother’s Days as I was marinating in my own self-pity that I had a revelation. It was a simple thought, really: “It’s o-kay.” Yes, it’s okay that on Mother’s Day I still get to be a mother. It’s okay that on this day in which motherhood is celebrated, I must continue to care for kids, cook dinner, fold laundry, and even change dirty diapers. It’s okay because it means I’m a mom! I get to be a mom. I was given the gift of motherhood. This gift that I didn’t ask for and never even knew I wanted. The gift that gave me more than anything I could ever hope for or imagine. I have two little people that call me mama. What a privilege!
I realized on that day, the day that had become an anniversary in which I celebrated bitterness and self-pity, I should have been celebrating gratitude. Mother’s Day shouldn’t be about relaxing all day, although I wouldn’t complain about an uninterrupted visit to the bathroom, it should be a day of recognition. What ought to be recognized isn’t me, but rather the God who gave me the sweet gift of motherhood. In that moment of revelation, God had given me another gift. So, from that day on I changed my mindset about celebrating Mother’s Day. It would no longer be about me getting my day off, it would be about me having a special day to be thankful. Thankful for everything I did that day that reminded me of the honor of being called a mama. Also, thankful for my own mom and honoring her.
What ought to be recognized isn’t me, but rather the God who gave me the sweet gift of motherhood.
Now that my kids are older and in Middle School, I don’t get the sweet handmade gifts they used to bring home, but I’m thankful for the growing independence that has replaced those less durable gifts. And after 14 years of marriage my husband has definitely stepped up his game, giving me something else to be thankful for. The early years were hard, but when I was able to shift my mindset to gratitude, my whole world turned around. This is how God has structured His world; when we see that for which we should be grateful even our greatest disappointments can be redeemed. When we release our expectations and embrace thankfulness, everything is sweeter. Even the everyday responsibilities of motherhood.