This post is part of a series called “Motherhood Mantras.” To read more about the series, and the full list of writers, click here.
When I returned back to work after maternity leave, I was constantly asked the question, “How are you doing?” Now to be clear, I am certain that the people from the congregation which I served had the best of intentions by asking for an update. They had welcomed my son, Jonathan, with open arms and excitedly looked for him each Sunday when he and my husband arrived at worship. But how to answer this question…
On the one hand, things had been absolutely amazing. My husband, Dan, and I had welcomed our son into the world with open arms. We relished the newness of each day. Jonathan’s cries had the power to bring immediate attention from both of us and his smile could melt our hearts and take our breath away. We had created life and that was a feeling no one could have explained fully to us until we looked into our son’s eyes for the first time.
On the other hand, there were moments that made us question if we were capable of caring for such a new, tiny life. Evenings when he seemed to refuse to sleep, wanting to spend time gazing at our bleary eyes that could barely stay open. Times when one thing would work to soothe him only to find the next time that it had absolutely no effect. Frustration. Fear. Doubt. Sadness.
Most times I would just tell people that things were going well. For the most part, they were. But I never felt as though I could share the “darker” side of parenthood that I was learning first hand. It just wasn’t practical since I didn’t have time to unpack those feelings at the greeting line when church ended. I also assumed that people might not really want to talk about these realities when they had concerns of their own to face.
While having lunch with a friend one afternoon, she said to me,
The years are short, but the days are long.
We talked about how it was a blessing to have time together to pass the minutes and hours that filled the days while we watched our kids alone. It was the first time that someone had given me permission and safe space to really share what I sometimes felt at home with my son. I love Jonathan. I couldn’t have asked for more each day: he teaches me patience, points the way to appreciate the world around me that I once took for granted, and can melt my frustration in about two seconds with a laugh or smile. But sometimes the minutes feel more like hours. I start to feel inadequate as if I am not equipped to teach him everything he might need to be successful in the world. I start to wonder if he isn’t better off at daycare with someone who has a masters degree in education than with me, a woman who is just his mother.
I realized that the moments when I was honest about my answer to the question, “How are you doing?” with people in my congregation, it opened up a whole new conversation and safe space for the person asking it. My relationships deepened with parents in the church who could resonate with my feelings and offer their own stories. Our stories became natural emotions, not abnormal and irrational. We were in this together, an unspoken word of support from people who simply understood.
There is so much about parenthood that can be competitive and comparative. To be honest with one another is far more freeing. So the truth for me is that the days are sometimes LONG! They are filled with moments when I wish Jonathan would just nap, eat his meals without making a mess, and sit still while he is playing. Yet all of the days speed by, regardless of what they bring. I wake up one morning to realize that Jonathan is almost ten months old and I can barely remember picking up that same, small baby in the hospital.
I’ll try my best to relish it all. Sometimes that’s the best that I can do. And that’s good enough for now.
Larissa is a wife, mother and pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She and her family live in Chicago, IL and they love to explore all the food that the city has to offer them. She loves reading, writing, cooking and napping whenever possible. By the time this piece is posted, Larissa will be preparing for life as a stay at home mom and discerning what might be next for her professional journey.