Motherhood is the hardest job in the world. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but so rewarding.
I’ve got to agree with Meagan Francis on this one, it’s really not. Birthing the child was the hardest work I’ve ever done, but that was a one-time deal, and I don’t think it’s what the trite phrases above are describing. Birth is getting the baby out, motherhood is keeping the helpless creature alive. There are jobs out there that are much more difficult than feeding, dressing, and entertaining a child.
A recent Formspring question asked:
can you write a post about the challenges of having a baby the first few months are? You seem to make being a new momma SO EASY & EFFORTLESS that I am wondering either you have an easy baby or you are just so carefree NOTHING phases you! =o]
First, I don’t believe in the good baby. I think there are babies who sleep more, and babies who eat more, and babies who cry more than others. The “goodness” of the baby lies not in the nature of the child, rather in the perception of the parents. I admit I’m a little bummed (or maybe kerflummoxed?) that I’m putting forth this having-a-baby-is-perfectly-easy-and-I-have-the-best-life-ever-and-you-should-be-jealous image though! It has never been my intention to be one of those bloggers. You know, the kind with the perfect life and the perfect husband and the perfect kids. (Ahem, TAMN.) I think I might have across this way though because of my desire to avoid over-dramatic and make things seem worse than they really are. When you write something on your blog it stays there forever and once you’ve moved past it, it’s still there staring you in the face. It’s the same reason I don’t write about fights and difficulties in my marriage, because I don’t want to be reminded of the petty things that would only end up fostering resentment when I stumbled across them in a long-forgotten post. I think the most important thing to keep in mind when reading blogs is that you are only reading snippets, –>self-edited snippets<–, of a person’s life. Add in the craziness of trying to care for an infant and those snippets become blurbs and you glance at a picture here, and a cute video of laughter there, and soon you’ve convinced yourself that motherhood is effortless fun all day every day.
I do think my personality and parenting philosophies contribute to my attitude toward my online portrayal of motherhood though. I’ve mentioned the hygiene hypothesis before, and my belief in this means I don’t stress about wiping down everything he puts in his mouth. I’m not sure if he actually has a stronger immune system due to greater exposure to germs and bacteria, but I’ve never called the doctor with questions , and I’ve only visited at the regular appointment times for shots and measurements. I’m not sure how to best explain it, but I just approach everything as if it’s supposed to be happening. Stuffy nose? It’s just part of life. No bowel movement for two days? He’ll probably have a big stinky one tomorrow. Crying, yet again? He’s hungry or bored or gassy or cold or tired. I have no idea if this is what is best for him (can we ever really know what is the absolute best for our child?) but it absolutely helps with my own level of worry and relaxation about him.
Sometimes, especially in the beginning, I would get so angry that I wanted to shake him. Or slap some sense into him. It’s not that I actually would do these things (and I certainly don’t think I suffered from post-partum depression), it was the lunacy of working all day every day with a being completely devoid of logic and rationale. That was, and will always be, the hardest part of motherhood for me. The inability to communicate clearly, and the urge to scream WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? YOU TINY BALL OF TERROR!!! I can’t emphasize enough that I’m in control of my feelings, that I would never deliberately hurt my child. I voice these feelings because I know I can’t possible be the only one to feel this way. As he gets older I am able to say no with a stern look, and even at 8 months I can see that he sense he is doing something he shouldn’t be. We are slowly beginning to communicate with each other, and it feels wonderful.
But what has the last 8 months actually been like for me? I didn’t particularly enjoy feeding him. Maybe because I’m still struggling with my decision to give up breastfeeding, but when he was younger I passed the time while he was eating by picking up a book. It was a wonderful day when I realized he had developed the muscle strength to hold his own bottle and feed himself. Now he’s old enough to crawl over to the bottle, turn over, and stick it in his mouth. Even better! I don’t have a bedtime routine where we cuddle and snuggle and read books. When he is tired I happily plunk him down in his crib, because it means I get to attend to other areas of my life (you know, like writing this post). I’ve left him for several days at a time, and though I’m excited to see him when I return, it doesn’t pain me to do so. I’ve never felt like my heart was “breaking” when he was crying. Most of the time he cries because he has something to tell me, or because he’s whining for attention, and so I try to figure out what his needs are and meet them so we can move on.
The good times we have though? Oh my, they are just… breathtaking. He is learning new things all the time and I love to watch him grow and develop. Everything he comes across is the most wondrous thing that has ever existed. Sometimes when he can’t settle down at night I cradle him in my arms and sing lullabies to him, as I imagine billions of women before me have done to their own babies. There is no sound you could play for me that would bring me more joy than his laughter (and I’m slowly discovering his secret spots, the ones that make him laugh and laugh and laugh). He can’t get enough of his own reflection in the mirror. I like to crank up songs like “Club Can’t Handle Me” and dance around the kitchen in this really insane way that causes him to open his eyes very wide and rock back and forth in excitement. Soon he will be reaching his arms up, saying mama, and composing cheesy mother’s day cards in his kindergarten classroom.
Motherhood may not be the most difficult job, but it certainly is the most rewarding.