Recently I’ve seen an influx of blog posts celebrating the “reality of motherhood.” They have been showing messy houses, dirty little faces and frazzled mamas struggling to cope with it all. I can’t tell you how much I support the sharing of these stories of motherhood “in the trenches.” But one thing that I’ve noticed is that most of the photos that accompany these posts are INCREDIBLY curated. Sometimes the pictures are posed to re-create those moments of mayhem. They have an impact, but they are not REAL. Others are photos that are taken in the moment, but they are carefully edited to show mom from the best angle or with the best lighting.
I will be honest – while I support the idea behind these photos, and I love that they are going viral, I do think that if we want to show the “reality of motherhood,” we need to… well, be REAL. Not all of us are cute women who effortlessly adorable in our messes. Our “reality” is a little more gritty. We are the ones who don’t wear makeup because we literally do not have even five minutes to put it on. We’re the ones who have been up all night with a pre-schooler who is afraid of the dark and thinks he can only be safe when cuddled up underneath his mother. We’re the ones who have a toddler up at the crack of dawn jumping into our bed with us, despite the fact there are two other kids there, already. We’re the ones who always have one breast exposed because our babies need constant access.
I’ve debated about sharing this photo for a while. My husband took it at 6:00 AM after a rough night. I’d been up with a cranky nursing baby for hours. My two year old thought I was his pillow, and my four year old was huddled up so close to me that he was half underneath me for the majority of the night. I was exhausted physically and mentally, and I knew that I had a full day ahead with three little boys who all have way more energy than I do.
It is not a flattering photo. In any way. But it is real. It is me… being a mom. This is my reality. This is my struggle. I have kids who need me, want me, love me, and I give myself to them heart and soul. I make myself completely available to them at all times. Some people have scolded me, saying that I am spoiling them by never telling them no. Some say that I need to be tough and force them into their own beds, never let them come into my bed and ignore them if they cry. Others tell me that I’m doing it right. That I chose to be a mother and need to put them first at all times.
I think the truth is somewhere in between. I don’t often put myself first. I do live for my kids. I want them to be completely confident in me and know that they can come to me for anything at any time and have 100% of my attention and support. If I don’t create that confidence now, I worry that they will never come to me when it’s important down the road.
But at the same time, I need to help them understand that mama needs time, too. A happy, well-rested mother is more likely to be able to think logically how to help them. I can spend all the time in the world with them, but if I’m half asleep and stressed out, it is not QUALITY time.
I grew up being taught NEVER to ask for anything or impose myself on anyone. To this day I struggle with knowing how to go after the things I want without feeling like I need to apologize. I don’t want my kids to feel that way. I want them to be able to ask for things and to know that they are worth enough to deserve the things they want. Even if all they want is their mother at their beck and call 24 hours a day.
This is motherhood. It is a daily struggle. It is learning with your kids. It is love – unconditional and everlasting.