Motherhood. Some days, it's not what it's cracked up to be. Especially when you happen to be the mother of teenage daughters. When raging hormones collide in the kitchen at 7 a.m. before school — this could be a WWF spectacular: Adolescence vs. Menopause, battle of titans — well, look out.
Being a mother is a tough job. It's the hardest thing I've ever taken on in my life, much harder than publishing newspapers — and often a lot less fun. To all you new mothers out there, I'm sorry to tell you that pregnancy, childbirth and infancy — even with all those sleepless nights — are the easy days in this odyssey called motherhood. Just buckle your seat belts. Babies are so uncomplicated. They eat. They burp. They soil their diapers. The colicky ones, like my older daughter, are more of a challenge. (If she's any indication, the challenge of colic may be a precursor of challenges to come.) But babies are relatively easy to keep happy — and entertained.
In hindsight, even the rough spots in infancy and early childhood really aren't so rough. Looking back, they can even be funny. Like the time when I picked my crying daughter up from her crib just in time to experience projectile vomiting for the first time — square in the face. I wax nostalgic for the days when my biggest struggle with my daughters was whether they'd wear their Barney or Mickey Mouse T-shirts to preschool.
Teenagers are much more complicated beings. I once saw a bumper sticker: "Adolescence is the reason some species eat their young." I can relate. Teens are totally self-absorbed. Sometimes I'd swear if I dropped dead on the kitchen floor, they'd step over me on their way out the door, peering down long enough just to see if I happened to be clutching cash in my hand.
Motherhood is a euphemism for indentured servitude. Heavy labor from dawn till dark, no pay, little notice or appreciation, and frequent abuse.
So why is it I wouldn't trade this vocation for anything? Why, no matter how hard the days get, or how hurt I feel, or how crazy they make me, why would I do anything for those two girls I call my daughters? Why do I feel so blessed just to be their mom?
Actually, I don't really know. It's completely illogical. Call it love. Call it the deepest, most abiding, life-changing love imaginable. Call it motherhood, because that's as good a word as any. And it certainly sounds better than "indentured servant."
Maybe it's because I remember how it felt to carry their developing bodies inside me, to feel those magical movements in my belly. Or because I remember the texture and scent of their soft baby skin and the fierceness of the grip of their pudgy little hands. Or the first time they looked at me and smiled — and it wasn't gas. Or what it was like to hold their hands and walk on the beach, gathering shells and trying to find answers to their impossible curious questions. (How do you admit to your 4-year-old that you don't know why the sky is blue, or how planes stay up in the air?) Or watching their eyes wander off to sleep during our bedtime story ritual.
I remember all the little miracles along the way, and without fail, I fall in love all over again.
And I know if I endure these difficult years, I'll eventually get my daughters back. That's what the parents of 20-somethings reassure me. "You'll get them back." I usually joke in reply, "If I live long enough." But in my heart, I'm only half-kidding.
Meanwhile, I'll watch the 200 videotapes on which my husband and I recorded much of the first decade of their lives. And I'll thumb through their baby books and photo albums and reminisce.
Until then, every now and again when they reach out to me — for a hug or advice or a shoulder to lean on — I'll be there. Remembering, waiting, and looking forward to 2017.