The other day I saw a friend for the first time since having my baby. After the obligatory congratulating and cooing, he asked, “So how’s motherhood? Loving every minute of it?”
For the past nine and a half months, whenever I’ve been asked that question (which, for the record, has been entirely too much), I’ve smiled and vaguely nodded. I’m not sure what came over me that day, but I decided to tell the truth: “Well, not EVERY minute.”
You would have thought, by the look on his face, that I had just confessed to committing a heinous crime. He then proceeded to tell me that through the crying and sleeplessness and spells of sickness, he “Loved. Every. Minute.”
Instead of responding how I really wanted to — “Easy for you to say now that your child is an adult!” — I found myself rationalizing my previous statement: “I mean, I don’t always love it when he spits a mouthful of oatmeal at me. But, of course, his hugs and kisses five minutes later make up for it.”
Why did I feel the need to justify myself? Maybe it’s because up until recently I couldn’t admit, even to myself, that there were minutes — many of them, in fact — that I didn’t love. There were women struggling to conceive who would give anything to be in my shoes, even if that meant being up all night with a sick baby. I know; I was one of them.
I easily equated minutes of frustration (that I’m sure, by now, have added up to days) with being ungrateful. Whenever someone asked if I was “loving every minute” of being a mom, I felt increasingly guilty that I didn’t. And so, I lied to myself and to others: “I’m loving it!” I became a fast-food jingle.
When posed with The Question the other day, I realized that by continuing to lie I was perpetuating this vicious, unhealthy circle of “mommy guilt.” Perhaps hearing the truth will cause my friend to think twice before asking another new mom the same question.
It’s impossible to love every minute of parenthood. Admitting it doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. It doesn’t mean you don’t want your child. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother or father. It means that you understand that, as with any job, there are ups and downs.
Do I love every minute of being a mom? No. But is my child worth every one of those minutes I don’t love? Absolutely. And would I go through every minute I don’t love all over again for him? Of course. But that doesn’t mean I have to love it.