I sit on the cracking 70’s orange and gold linoleum in our kitchen, phone in hand. The trauma of the day hasn’t been anything catastrophic. My littles have been noisy and destructive and disobedient; basically, it’s Tuesday. But today I’m undone. Between the noise and defiance and the need to do something about whatever just got broken, I’m sobbing. I should clarify: I am not a crier. Unless I’m pregnant, crying is a thing that happens perhaps a handful of times a year. Anyhow, I’m crying hard enough that I can’t call a friend. I have to text:
“I hate my job. Hate it. I love my kids, but this job sucks.”
It kills me to say it. Typing it makes me a little shaky. I carry a load of expectations about what a “good mom” looks like. Among them: a good mom does not hate her job. Right?
When I was seven— the same age as my oldest daughter now—I knew I wanted to be a mom. I just knew I’d love it. I loved holding tiny babies, playing with bigger toddlers, giggling with them all the way. I figured the work involved with raising kids (all the things to do with keeping a house full of people running: dishes, cooking, laundry) would be worthwhile for the joy of it. I saw my own mother doing this—enjoying the tinies and handling the tasks— so I assumed what I saw as a seven-year-old was the totality of motherhood.
I was gonna love momming. Because a good mom loves her job.
You know, for seven, that’s not bad. I may have been several years short of puberty, but I had a reasonable grasp on some parts of motherhood, and I wasn’t wrong in my assumptions about those. I do manage the housework, and it’s fine. I do love all my babies’ stages so far. But in my childish imaginings of motherhood, I forgot to take into account one tiny thing: the amount of work and self-discipline it takes to teach little people how to be big people.
I didn’t understand that housework and enjoying adorable babies would only account for only a small portion of my time, the rest taken by the endless noise and training. It’s hard to correct and correct and correct again while trying to run a household. There are easily dozens of times a day when it would be much easier to feign ignorance and carry on than it is to stop what I’m doing and do the hard work of teaching my offspring.
I failed to account for how hard the larger portion would be on my mind, body, and soul. I didn’t realize how constantly overstimulated my too-sensitive nervous system would be, or that my body would rebel after eight years of pregnancy and breastfeeding and sleep deprivation, spiraling into adrenal fatigue. I had no way, as a small child, to guess how triggering (and eventually refining) it might be to have my own faults glaring back at me from my toddlers. At the core of my expectations for motherhood were the words “fun” and “easy,” and though some moments could be described by either word, my experience of motherhood could better be called “challenging” or “sanctifying.”
Seven-year-old me pictured adult me as endlessly patient, always knowing how to best interact with my angels to help them behave perfectly well, the clear goal of motherhood in the mind of an elementary schooler. What’s not to love?
But the truth is ugly and unflattering: I don’t like motherhood, at least not in its entirety. I’m daily worn down by the parts of the job my (seven-year-old) expectations originally failed to consider.
I get hung up on this long-held belief that motherhood should be something I always enjoy. I frequently feel that not loving every bit of it (like the old ladies in the grocery store always tell me to) means I must not be doing it well. I wonder if it means I’m not sufficiently grateful or I’m not adequately loving my kids through these trying years. My husband works hard so I can spend all my time at home with them, which I interpret as added pressure to live every moment to its chubby, cherubic fullest. My body mostly cooperated with the baby-having plan, and I know that there are so very many who’d give anything for the same chance. But maybe liking motherhood isn’t a prerequisite to doing it well.
When I tell my kids to clean up the Duplos, wash hands, go to bed, or any other thing this mean mom forces them to do, they frequently whine back, “but I don’t want to…”
What do I tell them?
“That’s okay. I didn’t ask you to want to do it. That would be unfair because it would be super hard for you to obey. I just asked that you do it. Obeying is enough today. You don’t need to like it.”
“Obeying is enough… You don’t need to like it.”
What if I don’t need to love every single part of motherhood? What if doing the tasks with a willing heart is enough? When my kids obey with glad hearts, even though the chore isn’t one they like or would choose, we all have a better day. We move past the unpleasant chore and onto enjoying each other with so much less fuss.
I don’t need to enjoy my job as a whole, but I can enjoy my kids and choose to serve my family with a glad heart. God has called me to the task of motherhood, but He hasn’t called me to love every single piece; He called me to love my kids. So when Tuesday mornings find me hating my job on the kitchen floor, I can acknowledge it without adding heaps of unnecessary shame.
The burden of having to love every moment of motherhood in order to be a good mom is a heavy one. It detracts from my ability to enjoy anything. When I acknowledge the truth—that this job is often difficult and sometimes downright crappy—that burden lifts. As frustrating as they can be, my kids are pretty awesome people. I like them. The truth is, as costly and difficult as this job is, my children are worth the effort.
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Robin Chapman is a full-time imperfect Jesus lover, wife, and mama to four babies six and down. When she isn’t buried in children or hiding from them, she enjoys reading, photography, and sharing stories on her blog, where she’d love to connect with you! You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram… or perhaps hiding in her bathroom with some coffee.
For May 2018, we are hosting a series on Cherishing Childhood. Check back to read more essays in the series as the month unfolds. Check out Episode 39 of the Kindred Mom Podcast, Cherishing Childhood with guest Lindsey Cornett, and Episode 40 on Letting Go of Loving Motherhood with Robin Chapman.
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