Leaning into Motherhood
Mothers come in all shapes and sizes. Aside from all of the apparent differences that cause judgements of one another, what we all have in common is being a mom. We have children to care for and the rest of life to manage.
The fatigue, exhaustion, and many of the day-to-day childrearing challenges we face are likely universal.
In my house, I currently fall into the more stereotypical role of mother and wife, except I clean fewer toilets and cook fewer meals. I’m the more traditional caretaker, the nurturing one, the healer. I’m most definitely NOT the breadwinner (maybe someday?!). Being an empath, I’m the one who feels responsible for the harmony within the house; I like to make sure everyone is happy and their needs are met.
I do the laundry. Restock the toilet paper and paper towels (for all my husband knows, there’s a toilet paper fairy that magically appears once a week). I do the dishes. I feed the baby. I pray. I’m the one who feels everything on the very wiiiiiiide spectrum of emotions. In many ways, I feel responsible for making sure everyone in the family feels loved (including our new dog). It’s funny how I’ve fallen into this traditional role, as it’s not what I would have imagined for my life. But that’s a story for another day.
When I got home recently from a short weekend trip, the baby was fighting a nap and I was so exhausted I couldn’t deal with it. I wanted to collapse and melt into the earth. As you probably know, a baby’s naps are crucial not only for their well-being but more often for yours. It’s sacred time to yourself, whether to get the necessary done, or to plant your butt on the couch for a few minutes, eat chocolate, and do something for yourself. I favor the latter. For me, it’s this micro-break that gives me the stamina to make it through the rest of the day. A brief recharge, if you will. This is definitely not the time for cleaning toilets.
My husband finally got the baby down, thank goodness, and we collapsed on the bed together, his arms around me. I was tempted to leave the house for some “me time,” but even leaving the house felt like too much work. So I stayed. I didn’t expect it, but an overwhelming sense of relief came over me. It felt so good to be held. In hindsight, I think it was the combination of melting into him and the letting go of the responsibility of the baby’s needs for that moment. Usually it’s my job to get him to sleep, and if he doesn’t, well, that’s my problem too, since my husband works out of the house all day. As I lay there with his arms around me, I practiced my mindful breathing and let my mind and body be held by him.
This phase of motherhood is physically taxing on my body. I swear I never reestablished any core strength after pregnancy, though I have toned arms that I’ve never had before. Oliver and his nearly whopping 25 lbs needs to be picked up a lot, carried around on hips that are likely out of place, moved away from things he shouldn’t be getting into (on repeat), picked up so he can see what’s going on on the countertop when he has FOMO, and moved into different rooms as I try to get things done, usually unsuccessfully, in each of them.
I wake up sore every day, and then am required to effortlessly do it again the next day. Whenever my body reminds me of its aches and pains, I choose to be grateful that I am generally healthy physically, as this job would be far more arduous otherwise. And yet, there are moms further burdened physically, and they, too, are required to effortlessly do this job over and over again. That is the job of a mother of a young child. It requires SO much of you.
I used to think massage was a luxury and that chiropractic care was only for the truly injured; as a mom, I’ve now realized that they are a necessity not only for relaxing time away, but even more so for putting all my body parts back together so I can keep going.
But anyway, after the baby slept for a successful hour and a half, we took a trip to the neighborhood coffee shop, my mind still stuck on the exhaustion and excited for the caramel latte pick-me-up. Sipping my coffee, I watched a mom of two boys walk out the door. At about 6 and 8 years of age, it occurred to me that she probably no longer gets to hold her babies like I do, and that that day (probably too soon) will someday come for me. It was a good reminder.
This is what often gets me through each day that seems hard...knowing that, for better or worse, no phase we’re ever in lasts forever.
I will hold my baby until I’m crippled on the floor if I have to.
It is in the DNA of a mother to care for her children. We put so much of ourselves into caring for their basic needs and beyond. This requires immense effort mentally, emotionally and physically. But all while we are holding them...who is it who’s holding us? It was such an important realization as I nodded off on my husband’s chest.
Mothers, too, need to be held. We often try to “do it all” and have it all figured out, but it’s paramount to know who we can lean into and onto. Who can hold us. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of the role of mother and realize what we ourselves need. Maybe it’s solitude (HELLO SANITY!!), working out, or wine. But maybe sometimes it’s leaning in instead of leaning out.
Leaning into the arms of your beloved. Leaning into your mother. Your grandmother. Your friends, your community. Your Divine Creator. Leaning into the place where you can melt away, and for a second (but hopefully longer), relax into the knowing that you, too, are held.
As I grow more into the fuller expression of the role of mother, I recognize that it’s not only our jobs to do the nurturing and holding, but also to do the allowing. We must allow ourselves to be held and nurtured by others, just as we do so lovingly with our babies.