A week or two ago, I was chatting with some colleagues about our work schedules and the busy season that is coming. One of my younger, single, childless coworkers said, "I think I should rent a kid for a few weeks so I can demand to be able to go home by a certain time every day."
She was joking, but I was taken aback. Was getting to leave work at 5 every day all she took away from the harried lives that I and our other working-mother colleagues were trying to keep in balance?
I didn't really respond -- it was just too complicated. How to explain what months of sleep deprivation feel like? And the feeling I get when I look at Johnnie and am convinced she is the most beautiful creature on earth? How to describe the rushed process of preparing (what I think will be) a home-run dinner for my child while she fusses at me in the background, only to have her refuse to eat it?
How to tell her that most days I don't actually love being a mother?
It's true. Often, the only thing I really love about motherhood is Johnnie.
Maybe it's wrong to say this out loud, but I don't love that she woke up crying at 4am twice this week, in pain from her latest teething adventure and unable to go back to sleep. (Really, are all these teeth necessary?) But because I love her, I held her and comforted her until morning.
I don't love sitting cross-legged on the floor, my ankles going numb, when there's a perfectly good sofa 6 inches away. But because I love her, I spend hours down on that floor with her, tasting her fake food, reading her stories and counting her toes.
I don't love folding all her endless tiny laundry, spending hours researching and preparing healthy and toddler-friendly food, sacrificing workouts/reading/hobbies/husband-time/friend-time/me-time so she can have a bigger piece of me, watching Caillou (he's the worst), sweating through nightmares that something bad will happen to her, trying to teach her patience while I'm growing impatient myself, or -- of course -- changing her diapers. But I love her, more than I could ever really explain, and there is joy in knowing I'm doing each and every one of these things for her.
On its own, "motherhood" kind of stinks sometimes. There is much unpleasantness and sacrifice. It knocks the wind out of me regularly. I even almost lost a tooth once.
Fortunately, there's a cute, sweet miniature person involved who is usually just looking for a hug, a cookie and a good time. And, also fortunately, her joy and belly laughs are contagious. She is both the cause of and the reward for all of it. I wouldn't trade her for that big raise I'll probably never get since I'm out the door by 5 every day. But I'm much richer (and considerably more tired) because of her.
It's hard to explain that to someone else, because I really don't understand it myself.