Everyone has those days. You know. The ones where so many things go wrong it’s almost comical? Yeah. Today was one of those days for me. Or maybe it wasn’t so much that everything went wrong, as much as I had a really bad attitude and so all the little things that went wrong seemed like big things and I just couldn’t deal.
I knew motherhood would be hard. Or rather, I “knew” motherhood would be “hard.” It’s difficult to really know how something will affect your life before it actually happens. I had this notion that once I became a stay-at-home-mom, I’d have time for all the crafting and baking that I never had time for before. I had visions of myself sewing or crafting or baking as my sweet offspring played nearby, occasionally showing me what he or she had made, and my praising him or her for what a smart child he or she is.
Ok, I knew it would be harder than that. But I didn’t fathom that most evenings would be me, in the kitchen, desperately trying to make something like mac & cheese with a toddler clinging to my leg and shrieking if I didn’t pick him up. I didn’t dream that I’d have a child who wouldn’t nap more than half an hour for the first 6 months of his life. And I don’t even have a particularly difficult child.
I know full well that I have nothing to complain about. My life is blessed far beyond what I’ve ever deserved. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to know that it’s real. I have a great husband, and a healthy, sweet child. But even after 14 months of motherhood, I still am learning how to cope with the lack of freedom that comes with being a mom. And some days, I get really cranky. Some days I get really frustrated that I can’t do something simple like drink a cup of coffee or make breakfast or go to the bathroom without a small boy interrupting me with whines and demands. Sometimes I just feel like screaming “WHAT DO YOU WANT??”
Me. He wants me. My attention. My affection. And sometimes I’m not willing to give it to him. It’s not something I like to admit, but it’s the truth. Sometimes I want me all to myself. And as hard as I find this to be, there is one thing I know.
I have a choice.
I can choose to give of myself willingly, putting his needs above my own. I can recognize that he needs me more than I need to drink coffee, more than I need to make gourmet meals, more than I need to blog and craft and do all the things I love to do. I can take my job as a mother as the most sacred calling of my life, and take it seriously. I can understand that the love I’m called to give him is unconditional. It’s patient, kind. It doesn’t envy or boast. It isn’t proud. It isn’t self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. It never fails. And most of all, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Or one’s child. I realize that reference (John 15:13 — see 1 Cor. 13 for the other references) is speaking of death, but true love always requires death to one’s self in a figurative sense. Death to my selfish desires. Death to my all-consuming self-interest. This is not to say I will never need a break. But when I am with my son, I want to be fully present.
My second choice is to give of myself begrudgingly, because as a mother you can’t not give of yourself at least somewhat. But you can let it make you angry. You can become bitter about all the things you have to give up– time spent with friends and your husband, the freedom to easily run errands that you need to run, sleep, bathroom privacy… You can sit and stew about how you don’t have a moment’s peace, how you’d rather be doing something else. How you can’t for the life of you keep your house clean. How you can’t get just ONE thing done when you need to. You can become angry about how your plans have been ruined by a sick child. You can resent your children for how they’ve taken these things from you.
How do I react? It depends on the day. Some days I do better than others. Today I failed miserably. Today I was frustrated, tired, and upset. Thankfully we are not only judged by our bad days. Thankfully, I can learn from my mistakes.
I hope tomorrow to have a chance to truly learn how to love unconditionally. To allow this journey of motherhood to make me a better person. I know I won’t ever be perfect. But I hope that in the end, my son knows that he is more important to me than my coffee, my privacy, my sense of self-entitlement. I hope he knows I love him with all my heart.