I got my first doll when I was a toddler. I don’t actually remember it, but I’ve seen pictures of me toting it around, a little hard plastic baby head attached to a soft flannel baby-blue body. I loved the body to pieces.
I was a child who loved playing with dolls. I played with baby dolls, paper dolls, and Barbie dolls. I had tea parties, pushed baby buggies, and played house all the time. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be a mother. I realized in middle school that I loved to babysit, and I was good with children. After college, I became a teacher. I married a youth pastor. Kids were my life. I was ready.
(Cue the laughter.)
But no one prepared me for some remarkable revelations about motherhood. I guess there just aren’t words to describe the emotional climaxes of becoming a parent–of being a parent forevermore, and never forgetting that you are one. I didn’t realize that:
- I could love so deeply, and that it would actually hurt.
- I would be so tired. All the time.
- I could be so afraid about my children’s well-being. And that I would feel this way most of the time, even when I masked it with pro-active energy and activities.
- I was more impatient and selfish than I thought I was. And that I could get angry over stupid stuff like toys on the floor and uneaten beans and little fingers poking me awake in the middle of the night.
- I would dislike their homework, disobedience, and Saturday morning chores as much as I did.
- I would lose my identity, use my children as my identity, and then find myself again. And that it would take a long time to navigate that cycle.
- I would be so impressed by my own mother.
- I would catch a glimpse the depth of God’s love for me, and that it would overpower me.
- I would rather suffer than watch my kids suffer. That their disappointments, sinful mistakes, and painful consequences would tear my heart out.
- The days might drag, but they years would fly. And that every moment was worth remembering. In a way, I wish I could have videoed the entire experience, but I know it would hurt too much to watch it. Memories are better reviewed in small doses.
- My children would learn many of their bad habits from me, and that I would need to fix myself first before I could begin to fix them.
- Letting them grow up would be simultaneously painful and rewarding, and letting them move away would feel like dismemberment.
Mothering is the single most important thing I could ever accomplish in my lifetime. I thought that was true before I became a mother, but I couldn’t have anticipated how the experience would alter me. Mother’s Day is not a sufficient enough occurrence to commemorate the impact that mothers have on culture.
Every mother holds the world in her hands. It’s why we are so anxious. What we need to remember is that the change that comes with motherhood–all the scarring and the aging and the imperfection–that’s an important part of culture, too, because wisdom slips through the unanticipated challenges of life.
Motherhood is a magnificent garment you never take off, even if you outlive your children (which, of course, none of us want to do). It is new skin that takes awhile to get used to. Although it ages, you wear it because it’s impossible to un-wear it. No matter what motherhood has done to you, it remains your greatest badge of honor.
Happy Mother’s Day!