When I look back at my earlier years of motherhood, I smile and reminisce at countless joyful moments: when my children took their first steps, when they insisted that we read aloud the same books every night, when they looked so adorable in their tiny swimsuits as they splashed in the pool. I remember the fun I had swapping stories and photos with other young moms about sleepless nights and breastfeeding, about labor nightmares and preschool triumphs. Of course, there were many times when my mommy friends and I were physically exhausted or mentally spent. But we had our families, we had our beloved little children who gave us hugs, depended on us and kept us going. Somehow, we always found ways to make things work, to keep our families happy and healthy.
Years later, I find that my mommy friends and I are perhaps in a transition stage of motherhood. We are older; our children are older. We have teenage children who seem to need us less and less everyday. We have arguments with our kids that aren’t easily fixed with hugs and kisses. We feel the cold silences and the pained looks. We aren’t always the fun company we were to our kids back then.
And for many mothers, life starts unfolding in darker, more mysterious ways. We deal with serious illness, whether ours, our partner’s or our children’s. We struggle with financial debt. We face betrayals in marriage and in friendships. We cope with long distance families. We mourn suicides. And slowly, the cracks in our image of blissful mothering start to show.
After all these years, we are faced with the reality that mothering doesn’t always feel like a joyful and noble calling. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel happy. Sometimes, it’s all too much for us to handle. But we refuse to let it show.
We are fatigued but we refuse to sleep because we need to cook dinner or clean the bedrooms.
We eagerly buy our children the things they need for football training and art class, and we refuse to spend for a replacement for our tattered slippers.
We dutifully drive our children to school in the morning and stare blankly on the road as we drive home.
We put on a calm and loving demeanor as we comfort our sick children, and weep silently in the bathroom when everyone else is asleep.
We are mothers. We love our families, our children more than life itself. In our desire to be the best mother for our kids, we become our worst enemy. We act like martyrs and deny that we are. We put the needs of everyone else above our own, at times to our own detriment. We expect to be masters at multitasking and knowing what is best for our children, and we cannot disappoint. So we put on that brave face, while we slowly crumble behind it.
Each mother has her own way of dealing with crisis and grief. What I am thankful for and what I believe to be one of the most accessible ways of coping is by talking to one another. I’m thankful that mothers can talk to each other about our deepest fears and gravest pains with acceptance and empathy, without judgment or advice. I’m thankful that, even for brief moments, we can embrace our sorrows and let our tears flow without the fear of letting anyone down.
Then, stubborn with love and duty, we put our brave face back on and be mothers as we know best. And we hope and pray that we are good enough.