Dear Atticus, the myth of motherhood

Dear Atticus,

It is not bold, in these days of reality television and online confessionals, to express discontent with motherhood.

And yet, if one is to dare to say that she does not enjoy every single minute of motherhood, she is likely to be disagreed with violently by people who claim otherwise. The things I find so hard–sleeplessness and spit-up and the lack of independence–were apparently enjoyed by the seasoned mothers who cannot resist telling the new moms that they meet to enjoy every minute.

Of course they didn’t enjoy every minute. But for some reason, they have forgotten, or decided to whitewash the truth. This is part of what our culture seems to ask of women, that we make nice in certain ways. And one of them has to do with this idea of the mother cradling her child, that that image cannot have anything but a rosy glow that is far from the fatigue and stress that is part of the reality.

I have not enjoyed every minute of this year, Atticus. It has been hard. I believe that it is okay to tell you that, because I hope that I am teaching you that difficult things are worthwhile. That relationships are not easy. That life involves both beauty and terror. I love your dad, but I can’t say that we enjoy every minute of being married. I have a great job, but every minute is not a joy. Your Uncle Joseph is a great ally of mine, but we have had some difficult times in our relationship. I am not ashamed to say any of that, because we take the good with the bad here in this world. I would be ashamed if difficult things made me quit, and I would be ashamed of myself if I didn’t tell the truth.

I think this is what Eef Barzelay meant–possibly what he took from last year’s letters–when he put things in your song like, “How I ache at the thought of all that’s in store for you,” and, “It pains me to say that to never know suffering, well, there’s really no way.”

Being able to say that I have not enjoyed every minute frees me up to see what I have treasured about your life so far: the bright smiles, the joys of watching you learn, watching your personality and independent streak develop. I have loved the moments (few and far between) when you consent to snuggle with me. I am grateful for the times when only I can calm you down. My love for you is fierce and protective, and I have made decisions that have made things harder for me because I am trying to do the best for you.

This is what love means to me, Atticus. Not romanticizing the past, but choosing to love even when it’s hard and being honest about that. I learned at a young age that it was good to wrap up life’s stories in a neat little bow. What I want to teach you, instead, is to tell the truth about life. That is part of what this project, this month of letters, is about.

I know you won’t enjoy every minute of being my son, Atticus. But I believe our relationship is big enough to encompass those kinds of days, not just the ones where we are all smiling and have our hair brushed. The Love I believe in has a place for the entire spectrum of life and emotions. I can’t wait to share more of it with you.


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  1. Great post Kari… so much of this is true about being a father as well.

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  2. Thanks, Jeff. I really enjoyed seeing you with your girls last week. I know you have been tired, but you are great with them.

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  3. how grateful I am for your bold truth. It is life giving and full of freedom, and I am so thankful for that. Can’t wait for the rest of the days.

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  4. sarah

    I’m not sure how i bumped into your blog, but I did, a while back, and today, i’m really grateful i did. this post is exactly perfect.

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  5. Kelli

    I really like this. It’s not exactly the same, but this is how I feel about college a lot of the time. Everybody has thoughts on how it’s supposed to be, and most of them indicate that college is this fantastic, wonderful, amazing time. Sometimes it is. Sometimes I hate it beyond the telling of it. But what I’ve learned, and what this post has helped me put into words, is that it goes better if I’m honest with myself instead of trying to force an experience that just isn’t my reality.

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  6. What a beautiful, realistic view of parenthood! No one can enjoy every minute!

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  7. @Melissa: Thanks! I am nervous about having enough to say this year.

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  8. @sarah: Thank you, Sarah. I appreciate your kind words.

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  9. @Kelli: Oh, people do talk about college like it’s the best. And if college was like it is on TV, maybe that would be true. But it’s not as awesome as people “remember” it to be. Thanks for saying I was able to teach you, you know, anything.

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  10. @CJ: Thanks, CJ! I see you are a fellow NaBloPoMo participant. Here we go. 🙂

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  11. Beautiful… I agree about romanticizing the past. It is easier to remember all the good things. But it makes people feel bad when they hear those happy-happy stories.

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  12. @kristen: That is exactly right. It made me feel so bad as a new mom to hear that sort of thing.

    Posted 11/1/2011 at | Permalink
  13. brandi

    Thank you for being honest. It makes me less scared of this whole thing.

    Posted 11/2/2011 at | Permalink
  14. I am one of those people that is sometimes afraid to tell the bold truth about motherhood- mainly because I don’t want anyone to be afraid to jump in. But you describe it so well here, that I can’t imagine it scaring someone away. And really, having a fuller, more realistic picture is so much better for everyone. So glad you’re writing every day of November.

    Posted 11/4/2011 at | Permalink
  15. oh, dear kari, you don’t know how i appreciate you and your transparency. and atticus (LOVE his name btw) will thank you one day. because this admitting, as you say, frees you up to love more deeply. bless you friend. i would like to say it only gets easier but the 2’s are tricky… but again, there are blindingly beautiful moments that redeem it all. love you.

    Posted 11/5/2011 at | Permalink
  16. Breanna


    I just found this part of your blog and as I read it, I realised I needed to read this a looooong time ago, when my daughter was a baby and I was having a hard day. Like you, I loved fiercely and passionately and still do but back then I didn’t feel the freedom to admit that being a mother was much more difficult than my Mother had told me.

    I look back now and say that Motherhood was the most wonderful and terrible thing all at once. It changed me a lot but I believe it was for the better and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

    Thank you for your writing but especially for sharing and blessing strangers… just like me. *hugs*

    Posted 4/9/2013 at | Permalink

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