Motherhood: A gift which comes with unexpected challenges
Motherhood is full of blessings, but it's also not short of challenges. The perfect family that you dreamed of before you became a mom oftentimes doesn't align with reality. However motherhood is still a gift that should be cherished.
Contributed by Sylvia Forrest
My husband always knew I wanted children, but even he was shocked at how loudly my clock started ticking (bonging, actually) after we bought our first house. He tried to delay the inevitable by offering me a puppy. We ventured out to see some standard poodles, “just to look,” and drove home with two pups who proceeded to get sick all over the backseat of his beloved Volvo.
After the puppies had destroyed the legs of our antique tables and dining room chairs, it became obvious that only an infant would satisfy my longing. I had to raise a child of my own.
Dreaming of perfection
We got pregnant almost immediately. I am a big planner, so we filled the house with books on pregnancy and child-rearing, and had the baby’s room ready before the end of my first trimester.
Still, no matter how prepared you think you are, motherhood can knock you flat on your back. It’s not just learning about diapers and homework, either; life can throw all sorts of curve balls. Before Andrew was born, I didn’t worry about the unknown. I dreamed of the mother I would become and the child I would raise. He would be happy and outgoing. He would love sports, and we would spend hours playing catch in the backyard. Every day would provide hours of bliss, because I would be the perfect mother to the perfect child.
Life throws some curve balls
Of course, I had no idea that I was about to give birth to a brilliant, sensitive child who not only hates sports, but also suffers from learning disabilities, ADD and clinical depression.
My dream did not include years of not being a “normal” family, years of Andrew understanding all too well that he was not a “normal” kid. No pain could have cut deeper than when my son told me he didn’t know how it felt to be happy, when I was doing everything in my power to give him the best life I could. You just can’t prepare for that.
We managed to get through the worst, and eventually found the medications that enable him to embrace life for all of its possibilities. Andrew is happy now. He has friends and hobbies. He is polite, helpful, kind and incredibly funny. His smile lights up a room, and I’m so grateful to see it, so grateful to be able to love this incredible, complicated, darling boy, and to have the opportunity to watch him grow into a man.
Motherhood is a gift, even when it’s tough
It teaches us patience, sacrifice and perspective in a way nothing else can. I would not have chosen to go through those tough years any more than Andrew would. My job was to love him desperately and never to give up hope. I did the best I could.
Not all families experience such challenges, but all parents have their crosses to bear and lessons to learn.
My advice for mothers everywhere
- Accept your children for who they are. Maybe your husband is a golfer, but your son prefers to dance. Maybe you were a great student, but your daughter struggles with dyslexia. Love them anyway and make sure they know it! Support them, encourage them, help them find things they enjoy and are good at.
- Let them express themselves. I recently heard a mom tell her 11-year-old son, “You don’t love that girl; you don’t know what love is yet.” This boy will either grow up to distrust his own emotions, or to avoid confiding in his mother. Likewise, don’t tell your daughter that her dream of becoming a ballerina is ridiculous. We all deserve a chance to dream! When your children share with you, be grateful, shut up and listen.
- Teach your children to respect others. Cute and spoiled at age 2? It’s not so cute at age 20. Make sure your children learn manners. Teach them to be kind by showing them acts of kindness. I’m never as proud of my kids as when I see them going out of their way to help others.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Jimmy got sent to detention; it doesn’t mean he’ll never graduate. Kids are going to make mistakes. We are not here to prevent them from ever messing up; we are here to help them avoid the worst mistakes and not to repeat the small ones.
- Take time to make memories. Every day is a blessing, but only if you make it so. When the kids get home from school, end your work day and give them your full attention. Put down the phone, leave the dishes in the sink, and go blow bubbles in the backyard before they get too old to enjoy it. You may even feel young again yourself!
Motherhood is an awesome, overwhelming, and often thankless job. It’s also the best one out there. Be the mother you wish you’d had, and you’re on the road to greatness.
Happy Mother’s Day.
About the author
Sylvia Forrest holds a BA in Philosophy from Wesleyan University and an MBA from Emory University. She proclaims, however, that she received her best education from her grandmothers. Forrest currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky where she is happily married, a mother to two beautiful children and a dear friend to many. Her book — A View from My Window - REAL STORIES for REAL WOMEN — can be purchased from Amazon.com, through Createspace.com and local bookstores such as Reader’s Corner Bookstore.