This year marks my tenth Mother’s Day. It’s also my very first without my primary maternal figure, my grandmother whom we recently lost. While it’s a very sweet day, the touch of bitter that it comes with is never lost on me, I honestly deem the day bittersweet. While I am thankful for the glorious blessings that children are, and the even greater blessing of being an adult who still has a healthy, living mother – it’s a reminder of how huge a sacrifice being a mother is.
Don’t get me wrong, children are genuinely a blessing from God, to see your children happy and healthy, to hear their laughter, is for me to see the grace that God bestows on us. My beautiful children remind me daily that God is with us and even at my worst and absolute lowest, He continues to be there.
I distinctly remember my mother’s reaction to news of my first pregnancy, it took long to understand that it was not disappointment at the actual pregnancy, but rather, a deep sadness at the sheer hard work that comes with raising a child. I was 22 when I had my first and for the life of me, I was not afraid – despite all circumstances, I was completely looking forward to having the guy. What I now understand in hindsight is that the decision to have a child was also the decision to put on ice several dreams and aspirations.
While the career happened and the relative success, a young woman’s trajectory is significantly reduced in the corporate world when she opts to have children, let alone having them alone and out of wedlock. While those that have raised children do have candid talks about the difficulty that is raising children, few tell you of the career and social limitations that accompany it.
The judgement from married women and other parents with partners. The lack of empathy and sympathy from bosses who don’t understand why your day must stop because you’ve received a call that your child is ill. Nobody tells you that at some point you’re going to have to choose between the most important meeting of your career and the most important sporting event of your child’s year. Nothing prepares you for the sleepless nights at the emergency room or the sheer fatigue that comes with working, making sure the household is running seamlessly, showing up EVERY single day in every way for your children and carrying on like it’s the simplest thing to have ever been done.
Not a soul prepares you for the fact that while you do incredibly well raising them, you will be reminded that the other person who helped create these perfect humans is living their best life after voluntarily opting out of active parenting.
When I say nothing prepares you I mean just that.
I look back now and understand that look on my mother’s face, it was sympathy and pain, that her little girl will not sleep without worrying ever again. Worried whether the kids are happy, or full enough, or not in pain? Worried whether the children are warm or if they are safe when not with you. Mind you, that worry does not end, it starts the day a child is born until either of you passes on, I remember my granny upset because my aunt had gone out and it was the early hours of the morning and she wasn’t back. I pointed out to her that she’s lost sleep over a 60 year old grown woman and she simply pointed out “she’s still my child and her safety and well-being matters to me”. That’s the reality of motherhood, the child is the centre of your universe.
I often wonder how life would’ve turned out if I’d opted to not have children, or to wait until I was older and had achieved what I set out to achieve in my career… I’ve made peace that I’ll never know, that what I have is now and I owe it to myself and my children to continue doing my absolute best and remembering to be kind to myself and remembering that I’m still me. Before I became a mother, I had plans for life and despite the children’s presence, there’s room to bring the plans into fruition.
I look at my friend’s who didn’t have children as early as I did, or those that have opted to not have children with great envy, to be able to wake up and only worry about my own well-being and do what I want to at a whim, is an experience I’ll never have. I am also aware of the countless women who would do anything to have children, but are unable to and my heart breaks a little on the days when I’m not interested in being a mom knowing that it’s their deepest desire.
Alas, on this Mother’s Day, during a difficult global pandemic I salute the women that soldier on as mothers. I salute those that raise children they’ve not carried, that love children born of others. I salute those are steadfast in being awesome parents despite the circumstances that life has presented. I sincerely hope that we are kinder to mothers, they really are trying their best and I implore that we are even kinder to those that parent their children on their own, the world is tough and kindness towards them is critical.