I don't know if the title of this post is accurate. You see, I'm not sure what my thoughts on motherhood are yet. I usually do my best thinking when I write things down and sort them out. Let me give it a go by relating my own story on motherhood.
When we first got married, becoming a mother was not even a thought for me. I grew up assuming I would have kids someday, just as I assumed I would get married. But that was the end of my thought process about both subjects. I never dwelt on either idea, and what thoughts I did have about becoming a mother usually involved the idea that I didn't really care for other people's children. Yes, some of them were entertaining, and I loved interacting with them in a teaching kind of way. But I didn't care for babies. I don't get any kind of thrill or warm fuzzy when I held babies. My only thought was, "Someone needs to take this thing so I can go and do. I can't just sit here."
It took awhile to get Kacy. Of course I would not tell anyone of the problems I was having with my body, and I'm sure the family just thought I was putting my ambitions over having kids. We lied a bit about it too, like when people would say, "Don't you want kids?" "When are you going to pop one out?" I would say things like, "No way! I'm not ready for that yet." Or, "When I'm done with school." I had graduated college one month before we married, and then enrolled in the teaching credential program when I fell into a teaching job. I was not going to say, "Why, yes, I would love to get pregnant, and you should see me cry every month when it doesn't happen. Yay for you and your non-endometriosis ridden body." After two years of this, I basically gave up hope, acknowledging the fact that I was probably going to have to have surgery because of the pain. Go ahead and ask me: "Hey, Karrie! What's it feel like to have your ovaries stuck to your abdominal wall?" Ummm...it hurts. A lot sometimes. Thanks for asking.
We were blessed, and my finishing the credential program, starting my third year of teaching, and enrolling in the Master's degree program in Child Development all led to a focus away from having kids... and I got pregnant. Neither one of us could believe it, so we didn't tell anyone for 14 weeks. I hate telling people that news. I don't know why. I find it a little embarrassing. Like, "Hey! Ryan knocked me up! Go us!" I know, I know. Inappropriate. I think my carpooling buddy/BFF's mom knew, but only because she held my hair out of my face when I puked after the carpooling trips from Delano to Bakersfield.
Kacy was born one week early. A few months later I was pregnant again, and had a miscarriage at 11 weeks. That was fun. Not. I was so mad at my body. The doctor told me to wait two months before trying to get pregnant again. I waited one. Got pregnant with Will. Waited until 17 weeks until we told anyone. No one knew about the miscarriage, and I liked it that way. Sympathy just makes me cry more, and I'm an ugly crier who doesn't really enjoy tears and snot and feeling sad. Of course people thought we were nuts: Kacy and Will are 15 months apart. But you see, my body is funky. It has issues. So, having been told that pregnancy lessens endometriosis for a bit, I only had brief windows of opportunity before my insides would seize up again. Got pregnant when Will was six months old. Ended in another miscarriage, this time at 6 weeks. Miscarriages were becoming normal for me I suppose. I took this one better. Besides, that day, Ryan had a horrible dental experience with an abscessed tooth and some shady dentists. That was more important. I was all logical about it: I have a pattern! Baby, miscarriage, baby, miscarriage... see? I remember it hurt the most when the same week I had my second miscarriage, Jocelyn announced that she was pregnant and due in January... because that's when I would have been due. Of course I was happy for her, but I was like, "Why do some people seem to think about getting pregnant and they do?" Like my sister Kendra! She'll be all, I think it would be good to have a baby next June. What does she do? Have a baby next June. Lucky ducks. Oh ya... I didn't tell anyone about the second one either. Same reasons. I did later though...via a mass email to the girls in the family... and I can't remember what spurred it on. I'm thinking someone joked around about having another, and I just couldn't joke back. So I let them all in. Which is hard.
Forward to Will turning a year old, and I get pregnant again. And I am puking everywhere starting from day one. When they couldn't find his heartbeat at first, and ordered an ultrasound, my sweet doctor told me not to worry, he was sure everything was fine...(he had seen me a lot in the last few years!) and I remember telling him, "I know I'm fine, because I've been puking like no body's business everyday." Nine months later, enter Ed. Ed turns one, and I get pregnant again. I don't tell anyone until my mom thinks I'm getting fat and asks my sister to ask me if I'm pregnant. I was like 16 weeks along. No more miscarriages! Jessie was number four.
Here is where I give my thoughts on the number of children a person decides to have. I really hate (HATE) that we judge each other on this. If we have 18 kids we are nuts. If we have 1 we are selfish. There may be an ounce of truth for some in those statements, but honestly, we don't know the reasons that some families think two kids is enough, 4 kids, or 10 kids. All I know is that your magic number is not the same as my magic number. Yay for you if you are fertile and have the patience of the tides. If you ask me where number five is, and I say two truths for me: my body is worn out (and until your ovaries get stuck to your abdominal wall, and you are prone to miscarriages, just shut up about it), and it's hard to raise children in the looney bin... take my word for it that I am done bearing children. Ryan and I have prayed about it and listened to our hearts about it...and that's why we have four and not three. When four came, we both knew.
I had my kids fairly close together. It is both easy and difficult at the same time. It gets a little easier as they get older. I was literally drowning in toddlers at one point in my life. I look back at photos and think, "Oh, wow! What was I thinking?" We rode that crazy train, and it was fun! Tough, but fun. I tried my best to take the kids out into the world. I would usually shed tears of frustration after excursions out to the real world. I often thought it would have been better to just stay home. Nothing says "Good times" like crowding four little kids and a mom into the handicap stall in the Walmart bathroom while the newborn cries, the almost two year old crawls around on the dirty floor (and then out the stall), the three year old is playing with the lock on the door, and your oldest, who just turned five, tries to help. I can honestly say, I am so glad that is behind me. Sure, it's funny now. But how awesome is it that these little people can go to the bathroom by themselves? And use their own stall? And then wash their hands and wait for me if they are faster than me? And can I get a "Hoo-rah!" that Ed does not flee any more. No more fleeing the bathroom, the store, the church, the car, the gas station, the property... this literally makes me weepy. This huge stress in my life, this simple act of fleeing into parking lots and out of the places we were in, has been extinguished, and I do not have to worry about it any longer. Raise you hand if you lost the same kid twice. And police were called. Twice. If you did, we should have a party together.
Sometimes I feel more like a manager, than a mother. My personality type dictates this, as well as the ages of my children. I often feel like I'm herding the kids. Or rather, herding cats. Sometimes I feel badly that they literally have to take a number to get my attention, but honestly, I only have one brain and just can't listen to them all at the same time. I try not to shoo them away too often. I am trying to teach them to be logical thinkers, and see things from other peoples' points of view. I am trying to teach them the importance of education, reading, and nutrition. I want them to be considerate of others. I am teaching them to put their tooth brushes away when they are finished using them... and I'm teaching them that scum on their teeth is disgusting and brushing is a must. I'm teaching them that screaming in the car is not okay, and that if you have to go to the bathroom on a road trip, a bit of warning before the "I'm going to pee me pants!" is nice. You know, so you have time to find a bathroom and not have to settle for the dirt on the side of the road. I'm teaching them that I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. I'm teaching them our family's faith, and look for opportunities to incorporate it's teachings in everyday situations, so it's not just a "Sunday" thing, or an "organization" thing. I'm teaching them family is important every time we go and visit family, even when it costs us gas money and time. I'm trying to teach them that me loving them is not me giving them everything they want, or letting them do everything they want, when they want to do it. Loving them is more than hugs and kisses. More than the photographic moment of a mother and her child baking cookies together.
There are so many things I am teaching them.
BUT SOMETIMES I FORGET.
Sometimes I forget that I might actually be doing an okay job of teaching and loving my kids. I forget because I yelled at them (again) for not cleaning their room when I asked them to. I forget because instead of feeling highly amused and thrilled with their latest Lego or paper creation, I am annoyed about the mess of paper I know has been left behind, or by the 200 millionth time I've had the creation explained to me. I forget when I see toys strewn about the yard...oh, wait, those aren't toys. Those are tools, building supplies, and other miscellaneous items that have been hauled around and dropped all over the property (usually in the driveway area). I forget when I find myself just craving "me time," and I tell them to go outside or something. This is my biggest fear: that if I shoo them away every time they bug me, pretty soon they will get the message that I don't want them around. And then they'll be teenagers who won't talk to me, because obviously I've shooed them away their whole lives. I don't want that. I try to limit it... but oh, how easy it is to forget. I forget when I am so angry at them for not cleaning up/ goofing off before bed that I refuse to read to them or give them a hug and a kiss goodnight. I forget when I look at the girls' hair and see how messy it's gotten, and that I don't really care! (You should see my hair!) I forget when I try to put my own needs in front of theirs. I forget when I start managing more than mothering.
When I was drowning in little kid-hood, it was hard for me to see the big picture. Now that they are older, the shift from forgetting to remembering what a mother is is balancing itself out. I think. I still don't know if I know what I'm doing. I have this idea in my head of what I would like for them to be as adults... and I'm trying to lay that foundation now. It's hard. It's not for wimps. It can't be handed off to child care workers or Sunday school teachers. (I've been both!) It takes a strong woman to raise a child. Gutsy. And yet, we do. Some of us are more naturally inclined to embrace everything about it. The diapers, the lack of sleep, the endless laundry, and the messes. Some of us are like, "What?!? No one told me about this part!" Some of us will compare ourselves to others, and wonder that because we didn't want to have 11 kids, if we are somehow inferior to those who do. Some of us relish motherhood, while others of us tolerate it. We all have different talents to use in mothering, and I know I appreciate the aunts and grandmas and great-grandmas in my kids lives who bring different talents in caring when they interact with my kids.
I think as Mother's Day rolls around, and we see all the Facebook posts about how awesome everyone's moms are, as we sit in church on Sunday and hear how wonderful children are, and how mothers never raise their voices or get angry... and you did both because your kid went outside in his only white shirt and played in the mud...with no shoes on...and then fell on some gravel and started bleeding out of his face...staining his only white shirt... all because he didn't stay in the house like you asked him too... and your other kid can't find his shoe... and your other kid is still in her pajamas... and you don't have your hair combed yet... we need to remember to set our ideas and expectations high as a mother. Strive to be the best mother EVER. Strive to never yell unless the house is on fire. And them sit back, yell "FIRE" and "Get back in this house right now! Find your shoe! Stop crying!" and wipe the blood of his face, make the other wear ugly school shoes, get your baby dressed in the car, and put your hair in a ponytail. The idea of actually catching something on fire to validate it all? Don't do that. Entertain that thought for about a second...and then throw it out. That's not a good path to take. Just don't be surprised if it appears. You are, after all, only human. And a mother. Then, take your best trying self, pony tail, wrinkled skirt, and half-dressed bloody children and all, and GO and DO. And if you church passes out a long stemmed rose or chrysanthemum, go ahead and give up on saving it until you get home. Give it to the kid who thinks it's a magic wand, and don't be surprised with all that's left is the stem. It's going to happen.
Because, your kids are human, and so are you. And, a human mother does the best she can with what she's given. Sometimes she's a little crazy. That's fine.
To all the women out there who are mothers: be it your children under your feet, the ones who live a thousand miles away, those women whose children are grown, or those who never had children of their own but have inserted themselves into the lives of children: to you, I salute you. Do your best, be your best, and know that I see the good you do. Be honest with your self evaluation, but also be kind. Don't compare yourself to any one else. They are not you, you are not them. Help if it's wanted. Protect where it's needed. Hug who needs hugging.
A quote that hangs at my desk, where I can see it every day, reads as follows:
"The greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your home." (Harold B. Lee)
While I strive to keep balance in all things, this is my reminder of what is MOST important.