Today, I’m kicking off a series on the topic of “The Surprises of Motherhood.”
I’ve lined up some amazing guest writers who will be sharing on this topic over the next few weeks, starting today with Anna Trivits, a dear friend from my childhood. Anna somehow found time to graciously gift us with a blog post. Between taking care of her three young children (born within 3 years of each other!) and supporting her husband Kevin and their newly planted church, The Well, Anna’s life is very full.
Grab a comfy blanket and a cozy beverage and settle in to hear what Anna had to write on the surprises of motherhood. And once you’re done reading, be sure to share this post with a mom (or soon-to-be-mama) friend.
All of Motherhood is Suprising
All of motherhood is surprising. There’s no amount of training or reading or babysitting experience that will fully prepare you to be a flesh-and-blood mother to flesh-and-blood children. So narrowing it down to what surprised me most about motherhood was a task and a half.
At first, I wanted to communicate something lighthearted and funny. Like one time, when I was finally getting a shower during the babies’ naptime, I heard my three-year-old daughter shout, “I’m putting myself in time out!” only to discover afterward that she had eaten an entire stick of butter, and was obviously aware that was not okay. It’s surprising how simultaneously precious and naughty a child can be.
Then, I thought I’d write about struggling to conceive. It took us over two years to get pregnant with our first, so we anticipated that it would take that same amount of time to conceive again. We were wrong. Somehow, the floodgates of fertility were opened and we wound up with a three-year-old, a twenty-month-old, and a newborn. Biology is surprising.
As you know, or can probably guess, there are plenty of surprises in being the mother of three young children. I’m surprised by the amount of times I’m able to watch (and enjoy) the movie Moana. I’m surprised by the ability of an infant to remove her diaper in the middle of the night. I’m surprised by the tenderness of my oldest caring for her two younger siblings. I’m surprised by the power I have to heal any booboo with the simplest of medicines: a kiss and a bandaid. I’m surprised by the fact that I still attempt to vary their diet when all they’ll really eat is “chicken and hot fries”.
However, when I sat down to write, my mind kept circling back to one topic. It’s one we moms don’t talk about nearly enough. Fear. I wish it were something humorous, or biological, or hormonal, but the thing that has surprised me most about motherhood is my fear. “There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable,” says CS Lewis, and I agree. It is profoundly risky to open your heart to anyone, even and especially the little ones who demand your exclusive attention and constant protection. My love for my children is fierce. It is fiery. But it is also fearful.
I constantly fear for their health, their safety, and their development. I constantly fear I’m messing them up, that I’m not treating them as individuals, or that I’m not measuring up to the other moms around me. I constantly fear for the world they’ve been born into. At times, it’s overwhelming.
This is the most surprising part of motherhood. This is the part no one tells you about. This is what’s missing from What to Expect When You’re Expecting. That life is hard, and there’s so much outside of your control.
This fear is isolating. Although I have the advantage of an incredible community that loves me and my children really well, I tend to internalize and introspect rather than share my emotional burdens. I’m not good at asking for help. Let me rephrase: I don’t ask for help. It’s surprising how much easier it is to convince myself that my fear is trivial or, to the other extreme, too messy. It’s surprising to me the healing power of a community to speak truth, comfort, and love to me when I’m fearful. It’s surprising to me how much I need other people.
Ultimately, though, this fear is a faith issue. I cannot have faith in myself to manage and mend and maintain these little lives, because I simply cannot measure up to this impossible standard of motherhood that I have in my mind. It’s a bit cliché now to say God is a good (good) Father, but truly the only way I can sleep at night, despite my imperfect motherhood, is by submitting to his perfect Fatherhood. By realizing and believing that each of my children is first a child of God and second a child of mine. That he loves them more than I do. That his heart is broken more than mine could ever be over the sadness and injustice and mess of this world. My fear of any and all of the things my children will encounter in this life will no more make me a good parent than it will keep them safe. The only Good Parent is the one who is completely perfect, able to sympathize with me in my weakness (read: fear), and that I can wholly trust him when he says he loves me. That is a surprise to me, too. The only antidote to fear is faith. I’m trying to rest in that today, despite my fear. Imperfectly, but I’m trying.
And isn’t that just like motherhood?
Written by Anna Trivits
New to this series?
Check out the other guest blog posts on the topic of “The Surprises of Motherhood”