You know how intensely irritating (read: soul-sucking) it is when you’re barely surviving the raising of little littles and you’ve been covered in spit-up and boogers and yogurt and poo for days, and you’re praying for just three hours of uninterrupted sleep (or a terrible car accident that will put you in the hospital for at least a week where soft-spoken nurses will bring you soup and say, “there there” and hit you with a shot or twelve of morphine every couple of hours), and so you post a cry for help (or at least for sympathy) on Facebook – “SO TIRED!” – and some mother / soon-to-be-former friend who’s apparently FORGOTTEN EVERYTHING about the early years of child-rearing says something like, “Oh. You think you’re tired now?? Just wait ’til you have teenagers. HAHAHA!”, and then, to rub it in extra hard, she adds a winky face, and you want to unfriend her but that’s not at all homicidal enough?
You know that experience, mamas?
I just want you to know that Not Every Mama of Teenagers a) thinks that, much less, b) says it aloud. REALLY. I SWEAR IT. LOTS OF MAMAS OF ALL AGES ARE UNITED.
In fact, I was just expressing sympathy to a Mama of Teenagers who was at the hospital all night with her sick husband, and she responded, “Meh. Being barely functional works out just fine when you only have teenagers. They can fend for themselves.”
Oh my goodness. It was such a hope-filled, gorgeous thing to say in the midst of her own exhaustion that I felt I SIMPLY MUST share it with you so we all might feel the warmth of hope together.
P.S. THANKS TO ALL THE UNITED MAMAS OUT THERE! Really. You make a WORLD of difference.
I shared that run-on gem on Facebook last night.
And it would be enough to put here all by itself because it’s true.
But it generated a question that captured my attention. A mama of teens wrote this in response: “I have to say that sympathy is what the young mommas need, not one-upsmanship. But when they ask me, with desperate faces, if it gets easier, should I lie and say yes?”
SUCH a good question. Really. SUCH a good one.
What do we do?
What do we say?
What do we mamas who’ve run and run and run our race on the Mama Road say to our newest members? What do we say when they’re tired? What do we do when their confidence is shaken? How do we help when they’re faltering and wobbly and certain that this race was the worst idea?
Oh, mamas. How do we run this race together? What do we do to become friends and not foes? How do we offer sympathy and share our pain and still encourage each other?
Well, I don’t know – not all of it, anyway. But I know a piece. And I will give you that gladly.
Here is what’s true in the truest way I know to say it.
Mothering is a breathless endeavor. It’s breathless in the running. Breathless in the wonder. Breathless in the pain. And breathless in the joy.
Mothering is a race. Make no mistake. It’s a marathon and more. An epic story that moves, mile upon breathless mile, and coast to coast, and then even further, where no roads exist.
Mothering is a breathless endeavor. And that is a Not Lie to share.
Mothering is a breathless endeavor because mothering changes as soon as we figure it out. And then it changes again, and it changes again, and we mamas keep running. We run no matter the weather, no matter the season. We run when we’re aimless with exhaustion, and we run when we’re sure of our purpose. We run when we’re desperate to sit and to quit, and we run when we’re sure we can go for eternity.
Mothering is a breathless endeavor which is why it’s so strange and abrupt when we find rest in the running. Rest that looks like no rest we’ve ever known. Rest in a sigh. Rest in a triumph. Rest in a cup of coffee or a friend’s kindness or our baby’s first steps. Rest that’s always more fleeting than we’d like, but rest we learn to catch in fits and starts. In split seconds and pauses, we learn how to make the little bits enough.
Mothering is a breathless endeavor, but, oh, the strength! What strength grows from the stretching and the pulling and the soreness of prolonged mothering. New mamas, you’re earning your strength right now, at this very moment, on the altar of weakness, like every athlete that has come before you. You’re winning your strength during every long night as you discover your mama self and forge your resolve and become dependent on the Divine.
This is the Not Lie, new mamas – this is the mystery of the Breathless Endeavor – that strength comes from weakness and that we, the most reluctant of the runners, somehow fall in love with the sacred ground we tread.
No, friends, mothering doesn’t get easier. That’s the Truth. Mothering continues to change us and to challenge us. Always. It moves us and it shapes us. It pains us and it soothes us.
Mothering doesn’t get easier. It gets stronger.
And therein lies our hope. Not in ease. But in strength.
Strength in weakness. Joy in the journey. Rest in the running.