08 May 2011

On Motherhood: Loneliness

Young motherhood is a lonely time. There are incredible husbands and fathers, there are millions of women doing it at the very same time, there are play groups, there are girls nights outs, but ultimately, we do it on our own.

No one but you understands your own child. We relate, we empathize, we listen, but we can't really understand.

No one understands the very real challenges we currently face. Not our dear friends, our family, and sometimes not even us. We handle it as gracefully as possible, but there are things that cause me to cry and worry into the night. There are times when I doubt the spiritual promptings and confirmations I've received because well-intentioned friends say, "It's not that bad" or "I don't see anything wrong" or "You're a good mother; it will turn out just fine" or "I don't know why you're worrying about that" or "That's perfectly normal" or "This too shall pass" or... "Your kids will grow out of it" or ...

(And I am most assuredly guilty of uttering or at least thinking all of these statements in regards to other mothers)

No one understands the constant struggle it is to give another child what they need when your other child has more needs than any 20 people can physically and emotionally meet. The guilt that comes along with that, the occasional resentment, followed by the shame and regret for harboring such feelings.

I watched Parenthood for part of the first season. In one episode, Max was recently diagnosed with autism. Hattie (the older sister) is asked to be patient and understand that this particular situation is about Max. Hattie retorts with something like, "It's always about Max. It's always been about Max. Face it. Ever since he was little, everything has been about Max."

This scene haunts my mind several times a week. I can't remember if that's exactly how it went, or if that's what my brain has spun it into, but it doesn't really matter.

Perhaps there are women out there saying, "Yes. I do understand. I am going through/have gone through the same thing." To which I reply, "No. No, you haven't."

I don't respond that way out of disrespect; I recognize I am not the only person in the world to have two children. I am, however, the only person in the world to have my two children.

You see, motherhood is very individual.

There is no one like me, who responds exactly like I do. Another may have similar feelings, but our life experiences are different, which ultimately affects how we process things. The same goes for my children. There may be similarities with other kids; that does not mean they are the same.

If I had twins that were just like my Mimi, I truly believe twins would be easier (as does my husband). And before any of you mothers with twins scoff, saying, "You have no idea how much work it is to have twins!" let me stop you right there. Because you. are. right. I have no idea. Just like you have no idea what it is like to have an anxiety-riddled two-year-old.

And that, in essence, is my point. We can look at the lives of other mothers, assess what they are doing right and doing wrong, and decide what would be "easy" for us and say "I wish I had that." But we don't really know.

Based on my limited understanding of what I think twin Mimis would be like, the physical work of twins appears easier than the emotional work of our current situation. I don't know if it is easier, nor will I ever know.

In General Conference, Elder Holland (?) said perhaps we need these children just as much as they need us. When I heard that statement, with my baby attached for a feeding and my son running around like a maniac throwing train tracks and screaming for strawberries, I said, "I already know that. I know this is what I need to develop long-suffering, charity, and all the other Godlike attributes. But it's haaaaaard."

That's not to invalidate what was taught. My challenges are tailor-made for my specific spiritual needs. And realistically, when my head is clear and I can step out of myself for a moment, I do indeed love this stage of our life, just as it is, challenges and all.

So during this Mother's Day season, my present to myself is to STOP.
  • Stop judging my situation against other mothers' situations.
  • Stop caring that other people may be judging my situation.
  • Stop doubting my decisions. I follow the Spirit and I know it.
  • Stop being embarrassed or apologetic because of my "strange" choices.
  • Stop forgetting that there is, indeed, one person who understands. That is one of the many purposes of the Atonement.
  • Stop viewing things so short-sightedly and underestimating the eternal partnership with God: motherhood.
I think that's a pretty good start. Happy Mother's Day.

Motherhood: An Eternal Partnership with God


Kali said...

I like your thoughts. And I like you:) Happy Mother's Day Jen!!

Ali said...

I hear ya. We're each on our own journey, the likes of which no one else can ever completely get (except Jesus, but he "gets" everything, right?). You are amazing. I love that you aren't afraid to share how you really feel--I guess we could all benefit by doing that. Ah, the joys of motherhood! Thanks for keepin' it real.

Sarah said...

I really love this post Jen! You are such an amazing mother and I think that any one who is a mother can totally relate to this. By the way, I was looking through some pictures the other day and I came across some of you, Allyson and I at Girls Camp.... it made me smile!