“So, is motherhood worth it?” asks my colleague somewhat skeptically from across the round cafeteria table. We’re both sitting on tall bar stools – her – as obliviously as someone would in their natural habitat, me – painfully aware of my status as a temporary uninterrupted meal haver and bar stool sitter.
See, I’ve only been here for two months and she doesn’t know that much about me. I am, at this point, a bit of a patchwork quilt displaying patches of 5am wake ups, occasionally stained blazers and usually uneventful weekends. Peeking from behind these patches is the quilt itself, which is everything else that makes you-at-work: personality, work style and known biography.
“But is it worth it?”
I am searching for the words I want to tell her – you — but they form into a ready-made, cookie cutter answer and slip out of my mouth before I can stop myself.
I could tell that you weren’t convinced. Who could blame you.
I’ve never had the courage to revive this conversation, but what I should have told you was that YES, it’s totally worth it but not because it’s the best thing ever. Not because I smile whenever I suddenly catch myself thinking of something my kids did or said while sitting at the computer at work, but because of all the things I wouldn’t know about my kids if I didn’t have them. Doesn’t make much sense, I know, but just bear with me for a second here. What makes it worth it is knowing all those little things that I know about them. The little things that make them them and which make ME the expert on THEM and which I would never ever have known had I not had them. I know that this comes across as some kind of a nonsense Alice in Wonderland type logic, but I know this with every fiber of my being: making these discoveries about your kids and curating that knowledge is motherhood’s greatest reward.
What makes it worth it is finding out that I would have a five-year-old son who simply refuses to sleep with his socks on. He never tires of acting out the same elaborate scheme, night after night as he first worms his way under the blanket then starts deceitfully wriggling and eventually triumphantly tucks his bare feet in the space just above my knees holding his breath and awaiting to burst out laughing as I dutifully play my part and reveal my recurring shock…
Knowing exactly what he means when he asks “mama, please give me a dream” or when he refers to someone as his “baddest chap”.
And if we didn’t go on to have our second child (and who could have guessed that our strikingly blond son would have a dark, curly haired younger sibling?) would I have known that at two my little dark-haired curly boy would only want to fall asleep on a blanket carefully laid out on the floor, neatly stacking up his soft animals in the bottom right corner of it, and covering them with another blanket, his own, first? I wouldn’t know that he would invite me to “fweep” beside him on the floor, and that he would never develop as strong of an attachment to any stuffy he owns as his older brother did to blue Bear and that the closest he would come to it, would be his on and off curiosity toward his miniature horsey, whom he calls hersey. I wouldn’t know that he would teach me what it meant to have the element of fire in your personality, through his intense facial expression epitomized by his clenched teeth, as he prepares to charge at me for a passionate embrace or a game of row row row your boat. I didn’t know I would come up with the game of row row row your boat.
I would never get to experience the bitter sweet sense of bereavement that so many parents talk about which, as it turns out, is such an integral part of the territory when it comes to watching your kids growing out of the different stages of childhood.
Hell yeah, it’s worth it.
You’ll become a Columbus, charting unexplored external and internal territories with your stroller and heart. You’ll be amazed at the discoveries you make, like the fact that you created the mould instead of the cookie, the vessel, not its content.
Look at him. You could never imagine that your younger one would be so meticulously lining up toy cars to form a row. That he would get so upset if someone or something slightly moved one of them. That he would grin at you and declare with such pride “look I did!” emphasizing the “I” but moreover you would never assume that that mere act of toy car lining had the potential of filling you up with such a weird combination of intense wonder, curiosity and strangest of all – unexplained pride, too.
You didn’t know that you’ll be punched in your heart and gut daily and that that is what makes it worth it, because you never cared so much about anything else in your life.
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