“Mom!” The yells of my three-year-old penetrate my brain. He pulls the phone down from my face.
“What bud?” I ask.
“Do you want to play with me?” I take in his grin and his sparkly eyes and can’t refuse.
“How about sleeping monster?” I suggest.
This is met by squeals of delight. I lie on the floor with my eyes closed, arms and legs outstretched. He runs in circles while I try to grab the various limbs that swarm around me. At some point in the middle of the chaos and joy, I snap out of my vague dissatisfaction with my role as a stay-at-home mom. The disjointed thoughts that had been swimming in the back of my mind finally settle.
There are many things I want to do in my life. Most of them are made more difficult by motherhood: write books, travel the world, get a master’s degree, read more, learn photography, take classes in everything from art to astronomy, be more involved in the community, volunteer, read the entire newspaper, go to lunch with friends, eat a meal in one sitting, etc.
But ultimately I realized that who I want to be is more important than all the things I want to do. Later I close my eyes and envision this “ideal” me—not someone else’s ideal of me, but the me that I really want to be and could sometimes feel inside trying to burst out. Not the pleaser, not the me I think my husband, parents, or a friend wants, but the person I really have the potential of becoming: courageous, compassionate, smart, patient, funny, a good listener, organized, responsible, balanced, peaceful, a good friend, patient, fun, observant, informed, hard working, optimistic.
Motherhood is meant to make me become that person, if I will let it. For example:
Motherhood makes me courageous. I hate tubing behind a boat. The water feels like cement as it skims underneath me and the goal of the driver is to get the rider to dramatically fall off the tube. I look into my son’s uncertain eyes and know that if I show fear he will never get on the tube, robbing him of an experience he might have enjoyed. So instead, I smile and whisper to the driver to go really slow, climb on the tube, and show them how much fun it can be.
Motherhood makes me a good listener. “Mom did you know that the Titans were actually the parents of all the other Greek gods? And that some people think there are 346 Greek gods, and some have more than one name and…” All three of my kids can talk. Forever. About. Anything. Too often I say, “Uh-huh,” “Sure,” “Cool,” intermittently without really listening. Now I choose to engage and say, “No way! Tell me more about that,” or “Which one’s your favorite?” I am rewarded with more intensity and interaction with my children and an opportunity to practice listening, instead of telling.
Motherhood makes me an optimist. “Guess what guys! It’s chore day!” I yell and run to hug my kids. This announcement is met with good-natured groans along with: “Will you tell us stories while we work today?” and “Can we play questions?” and “I get to pick the music!”
I tell my kids cleaning day is my favorite day of the week because I get to hang out with them for hours and hours. They believe it wholeheartedly, and I mostly mean it. The house gets cleaner and we’ve found joy in the drudgery.
Motherhood makes me smart. Kids ask questions about everything. Some of our recent favorites have been, “How are buildings made?” “Where do Transformers come from?” and “What’s the speed of light?” A lot of times I don’t know the answer and have to “ask my phone.” Thanks to their curiosity, I know just about everything there is to know about sharks, Greek and Egyptian gods, and a small amount about the earth’s core and astronomy. When I read the newspaper at breakfast my kids always ask, “What’s going on in the world?” As I explain current events to them, the information sticks more firmly in my own head.
Motherhood makes me seek and find. Deeper questions also come, usually as we drive. Something about staring out the window, listening to a mixture of pop and country music inspires deep thoughts in my elementary-school-aged children. Is there a God? What does He look like? Why are some people different colors? Why are some people mean? What happens after we die? Their questions force me to deeply explore my own beliefs. I want to be clear with my children on the importance of equality, faith, freedom, respect for others, and a million other hard topics. Explaining it to them cements it for me. That doesn’t mean I know everything, but I know more than I would. I want them to be open to the opinions of others, but I also want them to have their own.
Motherhood is for me.
It refines me like nothing else ever could.
Motherhood makes me more fun;
more able to love;
more joyful and optimistic;
more comfortable in my own skin;
more courageous, determined, sure;
more organized, hardworking;
more able to listen, to be patient, to appreciate;
more able to see through another’s eyes;
QUESTION: What qualities have you developed as a result of being a mother?
CHALLENGE: Think of the qualities that you want to have. Determine how motherhood can help you achieve those character traits.
Edited by Dawn Wessman and Sarah Monson.
Image from Shutterstock; graphics by Julie Finlayson.
Originally published on May 9, 2016.