When you’re pregnant with your first baby, you think you’re in for a world of rainbows, unicorns, and magical fairy dust from the minute he or she is born, and then for the eighteen years that follow. It’s not until your baby has finally arrived that you understand the sadness that only a mother can experience. Often, the first wave of sadness comes right after the baby has been delivered and you realize that the sweet time of pregnancy has come to an end. Not many women think they’ll miss being pregnant, but it can truly be one of the greatest times in our lives. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.
But honestly, there is a sadness, or perhaps more appropriately, a bittersweetness, that comes with every stage of motherhood. For the sensitive and sentimental mother, these dark emotions can sometimes be crushing to their very spirit. I happen to be that type of mom, so my maternal feelings vacillate wildly throughout each day of parenting my three daughters. It can be exhausting, and I try to control my emotions instead of allowing them to control me, usually to no avail.
You see, this sadness I speak of haunts me like the three spirits from A Christmas Carol. The Ghost of Motherhood past, the Ghost of Motherhood Present, and the Ghost of Motherhood Yet to Come. Each new day brings a full range of feelings that sometimes catch me off guard and can launch me into a state of melancholia. Not to say that it’s an undesirable state of being. I’ve grown very comfortable with it and embrace this part of motherhood fully as a necessary element of who I am. After all, going with the flow is one of the key ways to fully enjoy motherhood.
Somedays I’m so wistful and spend hours reminiscing about how my kids were once sweet, little babies. I miss the delicious smell of their peach fuzz-covered heads. I long to hold them in my arms and feel their soft breath on my neck as they sleep. I wish I can go back for just one day and experience it all over again. I’m consumed by regret for ever hoping the long, hard days of their infancy would go by faster. Looking through old pictures leaves me feeling solemn and remorseful, rather than happy and contented. They exist simply to remind me that time flies by far too quickly.
Sadness in my present state of motherhood comes from watching my children struggle. Whether it’s with sickness, or bullying, or bad grades, my heart aches when my girls encounter hardship of any kind. Each day they grow more independent of me, and I can’t simply kiss their booboos and make their pain go away like I could when they were little. Everyone has to overcome obstacles in life, even our kids, but even knowing that, it still sad to see them hurt.
And the future? I literally cry over the future events of my motherhood. The major milestones my daughters will reach like getting a driver’s license, going to the prom, graduating from high school, and then college, and then getting married?! Be still my heart. And if my daughters and their husbands decide to move more than two hours from where we live, all bets are off. I’ll be a little more than just “sad”.
It’s hard to think past that time in my life, but I know that once I have grandkids, I’m sure to experience some sadness related to them and their lives as well. Past that, I may encounter some sadness in my later years if my kids are too busy for me. I never want to be a burden to them, or at least, I never want to feel like a burden, even if I’m not. I try hard not to think that far ahead into my future. There are too many uncertainties on the road ahead to be able to predict what my future will be like with any kind of accuracy.
All of this to say that I’m not always sad. Obviously, I experienced sadness before motherhood, but it was very self-centered and focused purely on myself and my own life. I also didn’t experience the same level of joy that I now do in my role as a mother. The joy that pride in our children brings is indescribable. Only other mothers (and maybe some fathers, too) can understand what I mean. The happiness of motherhood (almost) makes the sadness of it bearable.
Sadness is a part of life, for mothers and for everyone else. But, I truly believe that mothers feel ALL the feelings a little bit stronger than most. Our children are born of our flesh and blood. They are a physical part of our being out walking around in the word. Their pain is our pain, just as their joy is our joy. We forfeit our autonomy and somewhat live vicariously through all of our children once they’re born. Our feelings are magnified and intensified, good or bad.
If I’ve learned anything as I’ve gotten older, it’s about the importance of living in the moment. We moms can get bogged down if we spend too much time reminiscing about the past, or worrying about the future. There are enough emotions in the day to day ins and outs of life to keep us busy for now. I think it’s also so important to teach our kids to live the same way. Living in the moment is the best way to achieve a content life. If they witness us obsessing about their early years too often, they might feel guilty about growing up. And likewise, if we spend all of our time fretting and wringing our hands about their future, they might end up terrified to grow up altogether.
Yes, so much about being a mom is very sad, but so much of it is magical, and unicorns, and fairy dust. And that’s something we can be happy about.