“As for fairy tales, he understood that they were reflections of the people who had spun them, and were flecked with little truth.” ~
Once upon a time, a little girl grew up, married her prince, had lots of babies and lived happily ever after. That’s pretty much how I thought life was supposed to go. I mean, sure I’d kiss a few frogs along the way, get a degree and a job for a while, but the ultimate goal was a husband, house, and babies. Life would be happy and full. I’d spend my days reading books, cooking nutritious meals, folding laundry, and raising them into perfectly well mannered, kind, amazing little humans.
Except, motherhood doesn’t look like this. Motherhood was nothing like I expected, it was harder in every way, but most surprising of all was the way motherhood made me feel (or didn’t). I loved my baby boy, he was my entire world, and yet changing blowout diapers 743 times a day, waking up 2,123,012 times a night, and nursing 22 hours a day was anything but rewarding. Whenever I’d finish feeding him, he’d poop. And when I changed him, he’d inevitably poop again, or he’d need a bath because there poop was in his ears somehow. The work never ended. A sense of pride and accomplishment rarely lasted because there was always another repetitive task in que.
No matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t get ahead.
No matter how much I gave, he needed more.
It was wonderful and awful at the same time. Adjusting to a newborn and the emotional and physical demands of motherhood was the hardest thing I had ever done.
Watching him develop and accomplish new things, from rolling over to taking his first steps, was absolutely incredible. Welcoming 3 more babies over the next 6 years, seeing them all grow, interact, start school, make friends, learn lessons, struggle, and basically transform our house into a noise, happy, family home was the epitome of my dreams, the fairy tale had arrived. Having front row seats to their childhoods is the greatest privilege of my life, and yet, being a mom is not enough. My happily ever after wasn’t quite as happy as I’d imagined.
I love them with all of my heart. I enjoy being a mom, even when it’s really tough. I wouldn’t trade my kids or the years home with them for anything, but my soul needs more.
For so many years I bought into all of the lies about what it means to be a good wife and mother. I believed a good mother did everything for her kids, put herself last, kept a perfect home, made everything from scratch, hosted perfect parties, never asked for help, worked the hardest, and loved the deepest.
Okay, maybe that love part is accurate, but the rest is just bullshit. It’s bullshit society tells us is required to be a good mother and because we desperately want to be good mothers, we get on board. We follow the rules, we accept it as the way it has to be and we totally deplete ourselves in the process. We give all of ourselves away, put ourselves last, give until we have nothing left (and then give some more) and wind up resentful, overwhelmed, exhausted and anything but fulfilled. We follow the rules, we do more than our share, so where’s our happy ending? Why do we feel like shit? Why are we so lonely? Why are we so angry? Why did we even sign up for this life? Why did we have so many kids? Would we do it over if we knew it would be this hard?
Instead of admitting we’re struggling and unfulfilled in motherhood, we bury it deep inside. We look at everyone else who seems to have it all together and are ashamed. What’s wrong with us? Instead of tearing down the fairytale we tear down ourselves.
At some point, most of us drown in motherhood, but instead of asking for help or admitting it’s too much, we throw some guilt on top for good measure and keep treading water with all of this weight upon our shoulders…and then wonder why we can’t keep our heads above water.
You can love your life and still want more. I look at my kids and my heart feels like it’s going to explode, I love them so much but I am tired of pretending washing their laundry and cooking their meals is enough for me. I am profoundly grateful for my beautiful home and yet, I’m done trying to squeeze a sense of pride out of clean toilets. I was made for more than this. I need to do more than wipe noses, administer snacks, and sweep up crumbs.
So many of us fall in love with the fairytale, but the fairytale is just that, a tale, one story about what it means to be a woman and a mother. Instead of measuring our worth against a piece of fiction, we need to become the heroines of our own story.
I say, fuck the fairytale. Break up with the bullshit that keeps you small, quiet, miserable, and in the kitchen wondering where your happily ever after is. You’ve done an amazing job in the role you thought you were meant to fill, but you’ve also paid the price. While performing for others, hoping to gain their cheers and acceptance for playing an excellent “good mom,” you’ve lost yourself. You’ve been hiding who you actually are and what you actually want behind the mask of other’s expectations.
You will never find the peace and happiness you seek while living a lie. You will never get your happily ever after as long as you look to the fairytale to provide it. It’s time to slay our own dragons and chart a course to somewhere we actually want to go (not where we think we should go). We need to stop playing by other people’s rules and start writing our own….preferably without guilt, overwhelm, and never feeling good enough.