I love a good fairy tale. Cinderella is my favorite, but most romantic comedies leave me feeling gooey inside. The idea of happily ever after is beautiful.
And, I must admit, I have been extremely blessed in the fairy-tale department. Before meeting my husband, I was able to step back from the stories that consume my thoughts and realize that every story is colored by my own expectations and a lot of help from storytellers. Reality inspires the stories, but stories are meant so we can dream; the two rarely match. Partly because of that realization, and partly because I really did marry the best man in the world, my marriage is pretty ideal.
We met, dated, got married, and proceeded with our happily ever after. We expected jobs, kids, trials and triumphs. And, with some unexpected hiccups, and even more unexpected blessings, that's exactly what the last nine years have brought us.
I made a mistake, though.
See, I've never been particularly enamored with children, and before I had my own, I was unable to admit that to myself. At least, not to the degree that I actually felt it.
But, I wanted a family. I believe in family. Family is very important, and children are a part of that. So, when I heard, "It's different with your own kids. You'll love them more than you've ever loved anything," I bought into it. I saw the idyllic pictures of peaceful mothers holding quiet infants, or mostly-naked babies smiling up out of bright flowers, and I believed.
And, for the last 7 years, I've struggled to continue believing. It really has been a struggle. I knew that sleep deprivations would happen. Messes would happen. Whining would happen. I got that, and I've dealt with it, sometimes valiantly, sometimes not. One of the hardest things for me about motherhood, though, is that I rarely feel that inexplicable bond that many mothers report. Being paid in occasional smiles and sticky hugs occasionally makes up for the nastiness that comes with motherhood, but only in the moment in which I am receiving them. The rest of the time? Yeah, motherhood sucks like 90% of that time.
I bought into the fairy tale, and it was a slap in the face when the fairy tale didn't match reality.
Now, just to clarify a few things... my children are fantastic. They are all intelligent, exuberant, and sweet in their own ways. They're confident. They're happy. They're remarkably responsible, given their young ages. I'm well aware that the struggles I'm going through are my own, and not based on the personalities of my little brood.
Also, I love my children. I even feel that love sometimes. Most of the time, the love I have for them looks like the commitment I have to make sure they get fed and clothed. Most of the time, it looks like pretending I have patience for all of the things they can't do. Entirely too often, it looks like hiding in my bedroom, because I can't say anything nice and so I'm choosing to say nothing at all. Sometimes, it looks like sucking it up and playing their games with them. Often, it looks like trying to see them for the people that they are rather than the kids they currently can't help being.
Motherhood is the messiest business I've ever been in. I'm not talking about the tongue-in-cheek, "Oh, you'll miss these days," "It's hard but I wouldn't trade it for anything," type of messy. I'm talking about soul-wrenching, gut twisting, losing all belief in yourself and most of what is good in this world as you clean up yet another puddle of pee type of messy. So, I'm stepping away from the fairy tale. Motherhood is not beautiful. Most of the time, it is not even joyous. But, somehow, buried deep under all the hormones and the laundry and the years and the mac and cheese, it is worthwhile.
Because, while mostly I don't like motherhood, I do have hope. I choose to believe that they will grow up into cool people. I hope that we will all enjoy one another as we grow together. I look forward to the day when we'll be able to play interesting games together, or talk about a book we've all read, or a movie we all enjoy. I have hope that they will grow into self-sufficient people, and that someday we will stand on more even footing.