Motherhood is easy.
Okay, it isn’t really, but doesn’t it feel so good to hear that it might be? That it could be? That, maybe, it should be? Those words, together, motherhood and easy — just writing them allows me to breath deeper. It gets me thinking that, maybe, things really are all right.
Like many new mothers, before I had my first child I was kind of terrified about becoming a parent. This is partially because taking care of children is legitimately quite hard and partially because most of the discussion surrounding motherhood these days is about how difficult it is and how much sacrifice it requires.
Now, there is a lot to talk about in terms of easing life for mothers from an institutional standpoint. Mothers are still at a great disadvantage in our society and lack support in all directions. We don’t get help from our government in maternity childcare, and we are still doing most of the work at home. But we tend to add to the stress caused by this lack of support by focusing on all the things we aren’t doing well or can’t get around to at all, instead of the ways in which we are actually succeeding.
There is an overwhelming sea of messages out there about the ways in which having kids will make you lose your mind, career, body, friends and chance to watch R-rated movies. And then there are the contradictory and dizzying messages on the best way to raise your kids to ensure their ability to be happy and thrive in this loosening-at-the-seams world we are living in. But it is so rare to hear from anyone, especially us mothers, that things are okay.
So what if, just for a moment, in honor of Mother’s Day, we cast aside all our worries and guilt surrounding motherhood and just focused on the many, many parts of it that are actually easy. Enough with the sacrifice, enough with the work/life balance, enough with the competitive pre-school and college applications and getting your kids to eat broccoli or be nice to their siblings.
For this Mother’s Day, let’s give ourselves and our mothers the gift of just focusing on the joy. And maybe, by spending Mother’s Day focusing on all the ways in which being a mother is easy, we will spend less energy the rest of the year paying attention to the ways in which it is hard.
Joy is the best part of being a parent, and is usually rooted in the stuff that comes most naturally to us. I am talking about the joy of feeling a true and deep unconditional love. The joy of being the hand that pushes our children during their confident moments, and being the hand that soothes during moments of distress. The joy of our lips pressed against their young, soft skin. The joy of knowing that tomorrow morning there will be somebody who (at least eventually) will be happy to see you. This joy, this love, is blissfully easy.
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.