A recent article on a UK site shared anonymous thoughts of mothers who reportedly had regrets about parenthood. Reading through the comments, the mentality of the mothers involved provided insight into the self-centered and narcissistic culture we have now. One new mom wrote that she now “hated” her life. The demands of an infant, night and day, ruled her life. No longer could she take off for yoga and pilates, spray tans, coffee dates with friends , or hair highlighting without cumbersome logistical issues of child care, and she resented it like crazy.
The remarks of these mothers made me fear for the babies and toddlers involved. No child is safe, physically or emotionally, in an environment where a mother is so absorbed with herself that she actively resents the existence of her own child.
The needs of children are intense and immediate. There is no doubt about that. I was first introduced to that at the age of 20. As I have said before, it was the making of me. Holding my little son, Charlie, I knew life wasn’t about me anymore. When you love your child, your happiness, your well being is tied up inextricably with theirs. You are held captive by that love. And that’s how it is supposed to be. That’s how babies can know the nurture and protection that they need.
Younger generations are not made of the sterner stuff previous generations of mothers had. I mean that sincerely. I frequently see memes and comments on social media about how kids drive moms to drink, how wine play dates are essential for moms, how kids are always out of control and how that’s the norm and how all parents can do is hunker down and try to endure.
While it’s true that parenthood isn’t orderly and predictable and motherhood is filled with challenges that can seem overwhelming, I reflect on how difficult, by comparison, our mothers and grandmothers had it. It is helpful to have that perspective. My mother had no disposable diapers, no wipes, no electric dryer, a ringer washer someone left behind in the flat they rented (she had to go down two flights of steep stairs to a dank basement to use the washer and peg out the diapers and clothes in winter), and had no air conditioned minivan or home, no dishwasher or microwave, no counter tops in her kitchen, no wealth of toys and clothes. She made do, many, many times. That’s what moms did back then when they had to.
Then there was her mother who had 8 children, beginning in the Great Depression years that lingered in the Ozarks where she grew up, long after the rest of the country was in recovery economically. Grandma washed diapers on a wash board. She washed all the clothes on a washboard after getting water outside from a pump. They had no running water or indoor plumbing. She had no cribs for her babies, one slept in a dresser drawer. I could go on and on with the difficulty of mothering in that era in America. As for white privilege, that nonsense term that is so popular now, that is an insulting joke. There was no such thing for my relatives.
So when I hear sleek, young mothers with smartphones and selfies on Instagram and all the conveniences known today complaining about how they are up every two hours (for a few brief weeks) and how they need alcohol to cope, I feel sorry for them. They have no idea.
I feel sorry for these mothers because they don’t know how quickly it all goes. It’s a blink of an eye and it’s over, all those moments where you can savor the sweet smell of your baby or toddler’s head, all the times you hold those dear little bodies close to you when they need comfort, all the times you are needed and wanted by your child.
Our youngest who was born when I was 42 and my husband, 51, is a young lady now in second grade. I get choked up when I remember our many walks when she was little. I even wrote about them here on the blog, and realize how she has grown up since then. In my mind’s eye, I can see her dancing down the sidewalk in front of me, singing the little songs she always made up, asking about the flowers and birds and houses we passed. I can see the highlights the sun showed in her hair on a beautiful summer morning. I can see her running, always trying to catch a robin, but never quite succeeding.
We talked about so many things on those walks, God, nature, life. And now, she is a big girl of 7 with long legs, growing ever taller. I just saw a photo of Emmy last year at this time, and I could not believe the change in her. That is as it should be, but the question always lingers, did I savor those days enough, or did I get lost in the work of it all and miss what was passing by? Am I savoring her now, at this stage? Or am I letting fatigue let me wish this phase away?
I came across this beautiful post from another blogger at Finding Joy. I want to share it with you. If you were once a young mother or are now a young mother, it affirms the value of what we do as moms, day in and day out. It’s not in the Pinterest-y moments of crafting and fancy homemaking that our worth is established, but in nights when a small, hot hand touches our faces and our child is sick with fever and in need of us. it’s in the walks, the talks, the meals we make and the daily care we provide. We weave the fabric of our children’s emotional and physical health by being there and caring. It’s a tapestry that only we can weave.
God bless you mothers who understand this and don’t listen to the siren song of popular culture that perpetually devalues mothers’ sacrifices and instead celebrates moms who outsource that role to achieve “greater” things. Reject the lie of popular culture and embrace your child while you can. They are gone before you know it.