The Badges of Motherhood

As mothers, we walk around with our chests decorated with invisible badges. These badges aren’t recognized or applauded or given any kind of ceremony. But we know they are there, our mothers and sisters know they are there, our closest friends know they are there. Some mothers have just a few, meaningful badges. But some mothers have many; the badges cover their bodies, overlapping each other, fighting for space, each one hard-earned and unseen.

Some badges are earned with two pink lines, those lines that were desperately wanted and wildly fought for.

Some are given with each meal that you are unable to eat, nauseous, sick and swollen, crying pitifully over bowls of cereal.

Some badges are earned with a telltale spot of blood.

Some are awarded with the expansion of skin, the loosening of ligaments, the loss of breathing space in your lungs.

Some badges are given after mountains of paperwork and so much hope and sometimes even travels overseas. And then the badge is pinned to your chest with that first wide-eyed look at the small person that came from somewhere more fragile and wondrous than even your body.

Some are pinned on during birth plans that didn’t go the way you’d hoped.

Some are earned painfully; with your belly being sliced, your body being being sliced, your whole self being splayed out and sliced and then sewn back together again.

Some badges leave physical marks; shiny lines that shimmer like fish on the ocean of your belly. Hemorrhoids the size of Texas. And your breasts, lets not even talk about your breasts.

Some are earned in the trenches of tiredness, while you stumble to the chorus of mewling cries and the scent of milky sweet skin and the tears that inexplicably roll down your face.

Some are given on other nights, maybe years later, when you sleep on the couch next to your small person, propping them up every so often so that they can breathe, worrying when their feverish hand burns your arm. You are awake and alone in the dark of the night, being silently awarded another badge.

Some are earned every time you choose patience when trying to explain why clothes are important or why biting hurts or why candy can’t be medicine.

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Some are earned during that moment when you can’t see exactly where they are. The panic rips through you and you search and run and, oh my god, there they are! and the relief takes your breath away.

Some are earned with their first broken-friendship tears, or their first failures, or their first glimpse of self-doubt.

Some are pinned to your chest while you wipe the table or sweep the cheerios or fold the socks or pour the milk or toast the toast or simply survive the tedium of doing the same exact thing every day.

Some are hard-earned during the eye-rolling, the whining, the screeching, the fighting, the sass, the growing up. Some arrive when they don’t come home. Some when they lie to you. Some when they push you away as hard as they can.

And then you earn the one that shines brighter than all the others, brought with a headful of gray hair and a heart that probably feels a bit bruised and tired from all the other badges poking into it. That one you get when they go out in the world, alone, to hopefully earn their own badges.

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About the writer

@jowisler

Joelle Wisler is a writer and mom living in the mountains who loves quiet Saturday mornings and other mythical things like personal space and time to think. She named her blog Running From Mountain Lions so that if she ever meets up with a big cat, at least she can go down in a blaze of irony. Her writing has been flung haphazardly about the internet, but she writes regularly for Scary Mommy and The Huffington Post. She made The Today Show's List of Funniest Parents on Facebook and contributed to the anthology Scary Mommy's Guide To Surviving The Holidays. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Lala 6 months ago

This one has to be shared with all of my friends!!!
Im still bruised from the ‘4mo in NICU with a 3 yr old at home’ badge being shoved into my chest, the part that moves as you breath. The waiting during a little one’s emergency surgery badge. The standing up for your child and self in the face of determined medical staff filling quotas badge. The invisible badges are bigger and shinier than the ones across my body. To ALL MOMS & DADS – a huge HUG!

sammie 1 year ago

“And then you earn the one that shines brighter than all the others, brought with a headful of gray hair and a heart that probably feels a bit bruised and tired from all the other badges poking into it. That one you get when they go out in the world, alone, to hopefully earn their own badges.”

Dammit, I’m crying. I’m sitting her looking at actual cheerios sprinkled around my dining room floor, my daughter playing teacher with her baby brother…and I’ve got big, fat crocodile tears. It’s so HARD in the every day to remember that this really IS the good stuff. (Most of the time.)

MyLove M. Barnett 1 year ago

"Gray hair"–CHECK! I'd rather trade in that badge for a tiara, instead though, if it's all the same!

Katie | The Surly Housewife 1 year ago

Beautifully written. As mothers, we totally earn our stripes :) Thanks for sharing!!

Taunya Hernandez 1 year ago

Love this! Got me all teary eyed :’)

Mary Schneider 1 year ago

Earned one this weekend- the most hated Mom badge- for taking away my teen's computer after a week of spotty school attendance. *sigh*

This too shall pass… right? Right??

Jennifer Ford 1 year ago

Umm thanks made me cry really good and accurate read

Nikki Fugett Dobens 1 year ago

Beautiful!

Melissa Parrott Kolasinski 1 year ago

Well said. Beautiful.

Annika Miriam 1 year ago

Thank you for writing and posting this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sara 1 year ago

Loved this.

Jen 1 year ago

Beautiful post!

Sarah Colton 1 year ago

I needed this today more than anything, but oh! the tears. Thank you.

Jane Kerr 1 year ago

Wonderful!!! Going to share it with my daughter!!

Shawna Silvers Winans 1 year ago

Beautiful!

Amy Hubbard 1 year ago

Wow, such a great read! Brought tears to my eyes

Mary Paneto 1 year ago

So beautifully written. I couldn’t help but reach out for my children while reading this.

Sarah Sousa Stevens 1 year ago

This is beautiful!

Lana Beier 1 year ago

Thank you, Al. I could relate to quite a few of these “badges”. You, too, I know!

Sarah Krohn Billen 1 year ago

Love this!

Shannon Busey 1 year ago

Well said. Thank you.

Christa K R Miller 1 year ago

Thought of you Shannon Busey and Lynn Watson…

Danielle Polillo 1 year ago

Wow.