Monday, February 27, 2017

Love is Not a Victory March: When motherhood means defeat

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One of my favorite songs is Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. But I hadn't ever given much thought about the meaning of the line "Love is not a victory march".  And then, a few weeks ago, it hit me.  It hit me hard.  I'm talking... crying, gasping for breath, and wondering where it all went wrong.  I don't know how I feel about writing what I'm about to... But it's been weighing on my heart for so long.  Maybe some of you will stop reading after this.  Maybe some of you will see some of yourselves in my words.  I don't know... But it's the chance I have to take.

As a little girl, I played house with my dolls.  I fed them their bottles, put them in cribs, and happily played the "mommy". Through my teen and young adult years, I watched tv shows and movies that depicted motherhood as a somewhat stressful, misadventure-filled time full of laughter, joy, and problems that always got resolved in 30 minutes to an hour.  But once I became a mother, the truth was revealed.... The world had lied to me and all those other little girls through commercials, ads, movies, and television shows.  We were brainwashed into believing in fairy tale endings, where husbands do an equal part, mothering comes naturally, and children are uniform in their creation and governed by a universal user guide. 

Having a baby changes everything. People want to know if she sleeps in her crib and refrains from crying like a "good baby" does.  Your baby does not. Enter the fear that you are doing something wrong.  Your toddler throws tantrums because he lacks emotional regulation and does not have the verbal capacity to speak his frustrations. Insert you leaving the store, red-faced and embarrassed that you cannot control or "train" your children to behave. 

There's so much pressure on mothers.  And Pinterest and Facebook don't help.  But I've already shared with you my thoughts on why we apologize so much as mothers, so I won't ramble on that. But it's not easy, this mothering thing.... Sometimes it feels like we make more mistakes than we do positive impacts.  The night I truly realized my defeat in motherhood was a horrible one. Without going into details for the sake of my son's privacy, it was a situation where I reacted to his misbehavior in a way I thought I never would.  I betrayed myself as a mother.  I let my expectations of how my child should act defeat who I tried to be as a mother.  And I'm still grieving and ashamed of my choices that night.

So how do we recover from moments like these? When we literally lose our $h!t and enter into the scary-mommy zone.  When we break the guidelines of motherhood that we've set for ourselves? The answer is... I don't know. We can't redo these moments in a more appropriate manner. So all we can do is apologize to our children and move on, praying we'll do better the next time we're triggered.

There are moments where our mothering means we have to accept that we are imperfect and screw up sometimes.  That we have off days. That we have failures alongside our successes. That it's okay to admit when we are at our lowest and are on empty.

Sometimes mothering means making mistakes and failing so we can do better next time. Sometimes it means we have to suck it up and carry on as if we aren't ready to collapse from the huge weight of shaping tiny lives. Sometimes our mothering means we have to accept defeat as we realize that we can't do it all every second of every day. What matters is that we win the war against the world. That we succeed in raising children who are loving, compassionate, and kind. We have to make sacrifices for our children. We have to accept our humanness and imperfections.

Since that night when I realized what "love is not a victory march" actually meant, those six words have become my momma mantra. Our jobs as mothers is not always about the good and the glory. It gets raw, and real, and ugly at times. It's no parade, but it's worth it in the end.


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