Sunday, February 01, 2009

hard things

Being a mom is hard-- a lot harder than I expected it to be. I knew there would be sleepless nights and heavy lifting, tedium and worrying, loneliness and high emotions, messes to clean and laundry to do, books to read and songs to sing. But I figured I could hack it since, hey, haven't I done all that stuff before?

In my life prior to becoming a mom, I knew I was awesome because I didn't shy away from hard things. Get good grades in college? No problem. I'll just sleep a little less, read a little more, and use my God-given talent to scrape by. Get off my parents' welfare? Absolutely! I did everything from manual labor to house cleaning to data entry to research in prisons in a foreign country just to have the satisfaction of paying for things myself. Run a marathon? Sure. With a little discipline and some good shoes, I made it happen. Climb a mountain or ford a river? Do you even have to ask? I love that stuff. So when people said being a mom would be hard, I responded, "Bring it."

True, I shed a few tears during pregnancy. And then I gave birth. But that wasn't so bad. I mean, I didn't even know I was in labor till my water broke, and even though I was up all night before that, I didn't wake up Sam to sit with me and comfort me because I'm not a sissy. True, I had a C-section, so I didn't do the pushing thing, but I have it on good authority that the recovery is harder, and I kicked my recovery in the butt. I was up and exercising within the week.

And then Anna came home from the hospital. And if you come here often, you know what's happened since then. What I thought would become easier with time has actually become a bumpier road. Some days I feel like I rock being a mom-- the house is clean, dinner's made, I've been creative in playing with Anna, and even managed to get out of the house and help somebody else. But most days are just mediocre and the few bad ones are really really bad.

I've wondered why that is. Bad days used to just roll off my back and picking back up was as simple as waking up the next day. Now, after a Friday night of spending nearly two hours awake with a sick, crying baby and a Saturday morning of not being able to calm or nurse or put that sick, crying baby to sleep, I found myself in tears, pleading with my Heavenly Father. When I thought of the verse, "...thine afflictions shall be but a small moment," I thought, "Is that it?! That's the comfort I get? That's not good enough. I don't want to just wait it out. I want something to come of it. There's got to be some reason why I'm going through this."

And then I understood why motherhood has been more than just another hard thing. There are no grades, no mile markers, and no raises to track my progress or my success. I won't receive any diplomas or recommendations for reading another book to Anna or showing her how to stack her blocks. The only applause I get for making all of Anna's baby food are her jerky little claps after I give her a spoonful.

Sometimes I think, "Shouldn't that be enough?" Shouldn't I be satisfied with this growing little life who thinks I'm the best and giggles when I sing to her? Shouldn't I just be happy that she's healthy and strong and a good napper?

Whatever the right answer is to those questions, right now, it's not enough. I need some results, and if motherhood can't provide them, I'll have to go elsewhere. And that is why I'm doing this. Because I can do (some) hard things.


Leslie said...

Heather you are one awesome lady and mom! I say go for it and run your heart out, just picture you are running thru London!

Meg Ruth said...

You are brave to be a mom. All moms are brave. But from what I know about you from your blog...

You are a terrific mom!

Marci said...

I'm WAY impressed by the things you have done! You are a great mom and we all have those days. In the not so distant future Anna will be able to express her love and appreciation a little more and that does help you get through the rougher days. Good luck in your race!

Sarah Louise said...

Oh, Heather. Yeah. Yup. Yes. Yes. Yup. Yeah.

I'm not a mom, of course, but my mom was always pretty open with us about how hard raising children is. And my sister, now a mom of three, calls me when she's particularly frustrated, and asks me to talk about other things, so she doesn't spank her children. And when I was teaching, I used to think about teacher movies and how the teacher would have a hard day, but then someone in the class would do something or say something meaningful and the teacher would feel pleased and touched and think, "Yeah, this is hard, but it's WORTH it." And the scene would fade out. But when I was teaching, it would be hard for so long, and then one of my students would do or say something--just as inspirational and meaningful and poignant as they do in the movies--and I would think, "Yeah, that's awesome," but then the scene wouldn't fade out and it would still be hard and I'd still be there doing that thing with those students having it be hard. And great. Both. Simultaneously. Usually more hard than self-rewarding. And I worried that there was something wrong with me that those small, real moments with my students weren't enough to make all the hard moments easy or to make all the hard moments feel worth it.

I didn't resolve the issue. I cried a lot, loved my kids, and cried more, and then the year ended, and I didn't have to do that hard thing anymore. I still haven't figured out what on earth will happen when I'm a mom.

All I'm saying is, yeah. Yes. I hear you. I think I hear you. And I think I know that what you're feeling is real.

Run in Austin. Austin is great.

lizzie said...

Amen. Go out there and do things for you.

Ben, Amy, Isabelle & Olivia said...

I am only a few steps in front of you but I will echo that being a mom has been the most rewarding AND challenging thing of my life! Somedays we just have to get through and then we've gotten through the week, month, phase, etc.

I hope little Anna gets feeling better right away and you get some rest. I would LOVE to run a half marathon and I applaud you for going for it. I signed up for one last March and then my dad got sick and all hell hit the fan and here I am a year later still making it only 2.5 miles a day. It's so hard since Ben is always out of town and Belle is less than agreeable in the jogging stroller, etc. We do what we can I guess!

kimlis said...

Ask your mom. She has no doubt gone through the hard days with the six of you. I'm pretty sure she is proud of her children and that she believes you are an awesome mom.
Look again at all those beautiful baby pictures you've posted and the others in the album... It shows in her happy face that Anna feels loved. Sure you've posted the good photos but they still tell the story of a family that loves each other in spite of the hard days.
Heather, you are still awesome, and you are an awesome mom!