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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