Motherhood has made me stronger. It’s picked me apart, broken me down, torn me to shreds, and spit me back out a tougher, more resilient creature. I am a mom, and I am tough as nails.
Of course, it wasn’t always this way. When I gave birth to my first child, I was green, I was soft, and I was scared. Here was this tiny person, no bigger than a toy poodle, covered in what looked like red jello, wrinkled and helpless, and he was screaming louder than a horror movie victim. Had I just birthed a banshee?
I was tired, emotional and, above all else, completely clueless. I worried about making mistakes. I worried that the baby might cry in public. I worried that the baby might cry at home. I worried that the baby might never stop crying. I was a prisoner in my home, subject to the whims and fancies of a micro-human who couldn’t distinguish me from his own reflection. I was sure my life would never be the same.
And it wasn’t.
Sleep became a mythical creature, showers became public events, and leaving the house became a harrowing and physically exhausting adventure, like a marathon or climbing Everest.
With each child, the list of everyday activities that were now major ordeals grew until one morning I found myself sitting on the floor of the bathroom, my 5-year-old throwing tampons in the toilet and calling them boats, my 2-year-old unraveling toilet paper and my nerves simultaneously, and the baby rolling around on the pee-stained bathmat. I had once again been held captive by my fears.
What if the toddler runs off in the store?
What if the 4-year-old breaks something?
What if they fight?
What if the baby cries?
What if I cry?
Then something inside me woke as if it had been hibernating for millennia, and I stood up. Bent, but not broken, I flushed the tampons, recoiled the toilet paper, and dusted off the baby. I realized that I would have to accept that venturing out of the house for any reason would likely end in chaos, tears, humiliation, or all three. With three kids under the age of 6, it was an inevitability. I had two choices: cower in the bathroom forever and leave the house only when accompanied by a chaperone or accept that my life will never be perfect and orderly, and then do whatever I want.
Accepting that fate gave me strength I didn’t know I had. It was as if someone flipped a switch in my brain and suddenly I was invincible. When I had one child I was timid and shy about taking him to restaurants, grocery stores, or the dreaded post office. With three, I have braved shopping malls, coffee shops, libraries, and dentist’s appointments. I even took three kids to the salon to get my hair cut. They were going to have me tearing my hair out at home anyway, so I might as well get it done professionally.
Now I realize that I might look haggard and bedraggled, like I’m at the end of my ropes. My hair is a mess, my clothes akimbo, snot and peanut butter smeared on my pants, but this is actually what real life superheroes look like. I’m out, getting it all done. No matter what.
Motherhood is not for the weak, but inside every one of us is a superwoman just waiting to burst out from beneath her tattered clothes and flex her muscles. We spend every day of our lives averting disasters, negotiating hostile situations, and repeatedly saving the lives of tiny creatures who’d rather eat rocks than a vegetable. We are beautiful and invincible.
So what if we leave a minor trail of destruction behind us at Target?