what I meant to say

I put tie-dye sheets on our bed the other day.  They don’t match our duvet but I have to stop and consider if we are the type of people who match.  It’s bedtime for the kids, I have left the house and escaped to Starbucks to write, and this is the post I meant to write for Mother’s Day.  Actually, it’s not the post at all.  It’s the post I am settling on sharing.

A few wonderful links about motherhood:

Mother’s Day Proclamation, by Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Babies to Teenagers – This is a link to a series of posts.  I love Maggie’s “Babies to Teenagers” posts she writes on her blog.  Sometimes she simply shares pictures, sometimes she writes posts so breathtaking and heart-wrenching that I am speechless. I don’t know her personally but I have been reading her blog for years and I can say with absolute certainty that she is my very favorite blogger – and a very gifted writer.

on things being hard, and what I think it means to grow up

Why I Hate Mother’s Day

What I Know About Motherhood Now That My Child Has Died

Encouragement for tired moms

My friend Ryan Hartigan’s status update on Mother’s Day:

Today, I’m thinking about the mothers (whom I’ve known personally – and, perhaps unwittingly – so many of us undoubtedly have) who try to shield their children from the constant stream of domestic violence that they suffer, but which people find so easy to overlook while public figures cut funding for shelters for those mothers who manage to make the escape; I’m also thinking about the unthinking judgment visited upon those mothers by figures who’ve never had to endure violence, who berate them for what should apparently be so easy to escape, even though these mothers get stalked by abusive partners who will not let them go. My grandmother could have told you all about that. But she fell into all of the above categories. And she died.

I’m thinking about all the mothers who work three jobs and bust their asses to get by and get reprimanded for apparently not being good enough mothers, by people who have the resources to make all their own choices with ease; I’m thinking about mothers who love their children but are apparently automatically flawed (despite the statistics showing otherwise) because others think it’s a problem that their children happily have two mothers; I’m thinking about mothers who don’t get access to basic healthcare when the resources are available, and die from eminently treatable conditions; I’m thinking about mothers who get judged for not having belly six-packs after they’ve had children; I’m thinking about all the mental conditions which can and should be addressed but are dismissed as female neuroses; I’m thinking about the examples of rape culture which should change the most unthinking minds, but don’t, as mothers try to prepare their children for a world that doesn’t think that these things happen very often. I’m thinking about all the mothers who made tough decisions.

Sarah McLachlan’s status update on Mother’s Day:

Just when you think you can’t take anymore, they smile at you and your heart melts and in an instant, all the feral animalistic thoughts recede. Our children have the ability to bring us to our knees , we weigh the depths of love and terror and wonder how could we ever go on without them?
They are our greatest teachers and harshest critics – our babies, born of our bodies and spirits to raise us to the highest office- motherhood. Love those babies well and love yourself even more, for you are witness to and part of an ongoing miracle. Life is rich, embrace it all, happy mothers day, Love Sarah


I don’t want to write about motherhood.  It seems like it’s THE THING for mothers to write about and I always seem to want to rail against THE THING, no matter what it is.  When I was younger, my subject was me, myself, and I.  In addition to having the luxury to obsess over myself, I also had the luxury of time.  An old high school classmate passed away yesterday, and I am reminded that I still have time.  I think of her, and how she probably had to face up to the fact that she was going to have to leave her kids without a mother, and I am reminded that it’s okay to be so immersed in this mothering that I often can’t think of anything else.  This is my reality.

This is my reality: I don’t know how to be a mother and a wife and a human being and a woman and a writer and an employee.  I don’t know how to handle everything that I need to handle.  Some nights after the kids are in bed I clean until everything is sparkling and fresh, and within an hour of a new day, there is no more sparkle, only crumbs and dirt, smears of peanut butter, small pieces of egg on the kitchen floor.  Other nights I am at work and I come home tired and depleted and oddly wired from rushing around refilling drinks and cleaning tables and taking orders all night.  And still other nights I give up on progress and collapse on the couch to read or watch The Walking Dead.  I have words swimming through my head throughout the day but my hands are full with my children and their needs; by the time I sit down to write the words have left me.  I am exhausted, and with the addition of my third child has come the realization that I have never worked this hard in my life; every moment is full.  I have a full life.  What is it people say when someone dies?  “She lived her life to the fullest.”

What does that mean, to live fully?  I always imagined that someone who lived her life to the fullest was a person who had managed to escape the boring rat race of working, bill paying, debt, bureaucracy, red tape, and monotonous tedium that seems to make up most adult lives.  Someone who drove a Jeep Wrangler or a convertible or perhaps a Volkswagen van, who laughed all the time and never let life get her down, who “danced like no one was watching.”  You know?  I always felt envious of those free spirited types, until I realized that they don’t exist, except for maybe in the movies.  We’ve all got bills to pay, mouths to feed (if only our own), lifestyles to support.  It doesn’t leave a lot of time for giving into wild hairs and going off-roading on a regular basis.

What I have come to realize is that life is hard, it’s hard for all of us, and that there is no escape from what must be done.  Choosing to be a mother means that I’ve had to let go of the notion that motherhood is bliss.  It’s not.  It’s hard work with a lot of laughs, a lot of tears, a lot of uncertainty.  There are the small quiet perfect moments when I am nursing my daughter or holding one of my boys.  There are the horrible moments when I have just yelled at one of my sons for not listening and I hate myself for not being more patient.  And then there are the moments in between: the constant influx of dirty dishes, smelly clothes, poopy diapers, tears to be wiped away, sickness, temper tantrums, the tie-dye sheets that don’t match our duvet, when I realize that THIS IS IT.  This is my life, this is what I have chosen for myself.  This is what must be done.  It’s humbling and huge to have it all laid out so clearly in front of me.  I must kiss this booboo, I must get them down for their nap, I must feed them a healthy snack, I must not let them watch too much TV. I must find a decent pre-school, I must pick the best elementary school, I must help with homework.  I must teach them how to drive, I must talk to them about sex and drugs and alcohol, I must help them fill out their college applications.  I must watch them walk the stage at their high school graduation, I must wave as they drive off to college, I must be brave.

I must let go.  Of most other things.

I don’t want to write about being a mother.  I want to write about something more profound.  It’s just that motherhood is the most profound thing I have ever experienced.  On the crumb-covered floors of my kitchen, I have found a small piece of enlightenment.  I have no idea what to do with it.  I know exactly what to do.


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