Not everyone wants to become a mother and that’s all right. But for those who do, or who are thrust into the responsibility of raising children, it often becomes an all-consuming role. From pregnancy to giving birth and motherhood, women often feel the push and pull of what they want to do and what needs to be done. Most societies have long expected women to give up everything for their children, to always prioritize their wellbeing and livelihood. Feminism has changed this outlook, given others the chance to seek out careers and other paths to self-fulfillment, but it has also somehow warped and added to the expectations of mothers: you have to be both—a great mom, an excellent career woman, an extraordinary wife, and the list goes on.
Ask any mom and there’s bound to be at least a moment or two of bittersweet sacrifice on their end. You can have it all, but not all the time. We often celebrate women who seem to have the latter in spades, but never talk about the times when the burden becomes too great or when the guilt kicks in. You’ll never feel enough,” a friend and mother of two told me once. When you’re in the office you feel guilty for not being with the kids, but when you’re home, you feel guilty you didn’t work enough.” The words of wisdom and the commiseration go on ad nauseam—we certainly will hear it a lot when Mother’s Day rolls in—but here’s the sobering fact: it’s going to bug you all your life, so you better learn to live with it or become at peace with the fact that the picture-perfect ideal are fleeting moments that fly away as soon as you realize it’s happening. Like the softness of an infant giving way to hard edges of childhood, and on to the uncertainty of adolescence, motherhood too changes, ebbing and flowing, insanely joyous one moment and then despairing the next.
You become more of who you are,” is a statement my mother friends and I throw around a lot. Sure, you’ll learn new things, and some things will mellow like a stone overrun by the river and some things will be honed to a knife’s edge, but if you were always bubbly and cheerful—as Kelly Misa, one of our featured women here, is—then you’ll be a sweet-natured mom who always turns to the sun. And if you find yourself constantly challenged and hunkering down with a can-do attitude—as model mom Sam Lewis tells us—then so you will become the mom who can—and will—do anything. Motherhood doesn’t become you, it simply becomes a part of who you are, stretching you out in a ways you didn’t know you could. And when the days seem bleak, check out Celine Gabriel, whose journey to becoming a mother was long and arduous, the stuff of legends. Her simple, wisened, serene approach to balancing motherhood and the rest of her life is something hard-earned, but well worth the effort.
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