It's been a tough week for me. For a lot of reasons I won't get into here, but suffice to say I'm struggling. The other night, when there was a brief moment of respite in between all the kids trying to out-shout and out-cry each other, I looked at my partner and said, "Good Lord, when does it get easier?"
Unfortunately, he didn't have an answer for me. And I keep replaying that question in my head. I remember asking it so desperately when the twins were babies. "When does it get easier?" It's a question I hear now from the new parents I work with, and clearly I haven't found a satisfactory answer because I'm still asking it.
My partner is a physician now, and I remember that each year of his journey through medical school (a journey we started with 10-month-old twins, which is a tactic I recommend to exactly no one) and residency, I kept getting told that if I could just hang in there, the next year would be better. Easier. Similarly, when you have babies, people tell you that it gets easier as they get older. I thought that once we were done with residency, once we didn't have tiny babies anymore, once we had started living our 'real lives' (ha!), life would be so much easier.
I remember once, when my first two were babies, I actually googled the phrase "twins when does it get easier" and found a blog post from a mom of grown twins. It was poignant and well-written (and of course I can't find it again now, 8 years later), and it was a beautiful treatise about how it gets easier when they start going to school, and easier when they'd rather hang out with their friends, and then even easier when they go to college and move out, and how we shouldn't wish this time away when our children are so needy and loving and present with us. And it was beautiful, and it clearly has stuck with me.
It also was not at all what I needed in that desperate moment of bleary-eyed googling. Instead of comfort, what I felt was a crushing guilt: what is wrong with me? Why am I wishing away time with my beloved babies? I knew it, I'm not cut out for this motherhood gig. I am doing it all wrong. I should be enjoying every minute of this.
And I'd bet good money that I'm not the only one who has thoughts like this. I hear veiled hints of it in the words and looks of women I work with sometimes. I hear it much more frankly from women I'm close to in my personal life. And we wonder: when does it get easier? Why am I not enjoying every minute?
One of the turning points in my own parenting journey was reading one of Glennon Melton's posts over at Momastery: Don't Carpe Diem. If you haven't yet, please read it; Glennon beautifully dismantles the idea that you have to love every moment of motherhood in order to be doing it right. There are many, many moments of motherhood that are, to put it mildly, just not enjoyable. And our ability to be good mothers has absolutely zero correlation with our ability to enjoy the work we do. In other words: just because it's hard doesn't mean we're doing it wrong. So much of what we do as mothers, no matter what age our babies are, is invisible. It's background; people only notice when it's not done. We keep the world of our little ones humming along as smoothly as we can, while the rest of the world largely ignores our most elemental of contributions to it. We are, literally, creating the next generation of humans: why would we think that should be easy?
This work of mothering, of raising up our children to be better than we have been, is hard. It's brutal sometimes. And it's so, so very important. In the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, "My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times." We were made to do this work. But we weren't made to do it alone. If you are struggling, if you are suffering, it's time to raise yourself up the same way you would for your child and reach out for a sister. Sister Up; it makes the journey easier.
Another quote I find myself returning to over and over again is also from Glennon Melton: "You are not supposed to be happy all the time. Life hurts and it's hard. Not because you're doing it wrong, but because it hurts for everybody. Don't avoid the pain. You need it. It's meant for you. Be still with it, let it come, let it go, let it leave you with the fuel you'll burn to get your work done on this earth."
And if you're wondering what I tell women who ask me 'When does it get easier?", it goes something like this:
My dear, I don't want to disappoint you, but it never ever does. I can promise that you will get more breathing room; your babies will get a little more independent, they WILL eventually sleep through the night. But the struggles will change. You'll be dealing with different challenges, and they will test you in every way imaginable. But what I do know is this: you are so strong. You will be tested and you will rise above it. And I know, too, that you are not alone. I am walking beside you, and so are your other sisters in this work. We are building a community where it's okay to stumble because your sisters will catch you and swing you back on to your feet just the way you do with your toddler. Where it's okay to be imperfect because everyone else is, too. Where you can rest when you need to because you have help and everyone understands that it's never a sign of weakness to need rest. My dear, it never gets easier, you just get stronger.
Be strong, mamas. You were made for these times. We're here for each other. And with that, I'll leave you with one last quote, the one I turn to in my most desperate moments (sometimes I even sing it to myself): "All will be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things will be well." -Julian of Norwich