My firstborn son is not a sleeper. So neither was I, for several years. I recall one afternoon when he was around 18 months old, playing with a heavy metal firetruck. I was fighting to keep my eyes open, playing with him on the floor. I couldn’t get him to nap that day.
Eventually I laid down on the floor, then drifted off while he played in front of me. Moments later, he dropped the metal firetruck on my face. I jolted upright in pain and surprise. Well, I thought, at least I’m wide awake now. And in that moment, my toddler came over to snuggle and nap.
Few things are easy in motherhood. But it remains unequivocally true that it’s the best thing I’ve done. It is the thing I’m most proud of. I love being a mother.
Perhaps you’ve noticed how often today’s stories of motherhood begin with anecdotes on struggle (as mine does), or admissions of guilt, or diatribes about the parts of motherhood that can or should be hated, or lamentations about changed bodies, or eulogies for the women who “died”—or careers that fizzled out—when life as “mother” began.
My theory is that we are accepting when women share such stories because they’ve agreed to malign motherhood in their telling. Our culture rarely values mothers, I think. The signs are everywhere. Sometimes literally. (I once saw posters for an “inclusive” women’s group with small print that explained children were not welcome.)
Females seem to be swearing off motherhood in growing numbers. Some women simply don’t want or enjoy children; I respect their choice. For others, like the young girls and women who’ve joined the Birthstrike movement, not having children is an en vogue political statement as much as it is an attempt to reduce one’s carbon footprint by proxy.
For other women who might have children, the economic barriers—like housing costs, or needing to have two incomes per household—deter them. If all of today’s women were to follow the “when the time is right” adage, no women would be having babies on purpose.
While I can understand women’s concerns over climate change, I think that to not have children because of that—or any other of the myriad “we are going to hell in a hand basket” reasons—is nihilistic. And I don’t believe that nihilism will have any net positive impact on our world. But you know what will? Babies. And motherhood.
Motherhood has changed me. Because of it, my life is flooded with meaning and holds purpose I never imagined I would experience. A mother’s love is unlike anything else. I am a better person because I am a mother. My conscience has been suffused with the understanding that every person on earth has at one point been an infant enveloped—with rare exceptions—by a mother’s love.
I don’t want to add to the din of self-deprecating “mommy” articles. There are enough of these for every mother that will ever exist. We all know it’s hard, and that we will be tired and have messy hair. (Note: I am not referring to ante or postpartum mental health issues, which are indeed serious and warrant attention and discussion.)
Motherhood is a sacrifice. And if you want to make it, know that it will be worthwhile. If you don’t, that’s fine, too, but it’s a bore to frame the choice as a grand political statement or a morally superior position. If you’re worried about the having children at the “right time," consider that it will never arrive and so, in that sense, any time could be the “right” time.
I’m going to end by rewriting the anecdote I started this article with: My oldest son has demonstrated empathy from a young age. When he was 18 months old, he dropped a metal firetruck on my face in the moment after I fell asleep watching him play. He stopped what he was doing when he understood I was hurt. He came to me for affection, and then fell asleep in my arms. I rocked him to sleep while my face ached and stung, thinking that the memory of this moment will forever sustain an inner joy I only knew after I became a mother.
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Remind me next month