When our first daughter was a baby (14 years ago—WUH?), I was ready to rock motherhood. I was going to be an AWESOME mom. I imagined I would stand high on the mountain of motherhood, plunge my victory flag into the soil, and spend my days in blissful joy.
Just as soon as my little angel slept through the night.
Everything else about motherhood was blissful at that point, but holy cowpies, that sleep deprivation about killed me. Our precious baby just didn’t like sleep at night. Since that was our only issue, I thought that motherhood would be a piece of cake once she started sleeping longer hours.
She did sleep, eventually—but then she started crawling. And walking. And putting up God-knows-what from the floor into her mouth at record speed. Our nights were easier, but our days grew more and more challenging. Delightful, but challenging. At that point, I just knew that motherhood would get easier once we were past the toddler stage, once I didn’t have to watch her every second, once she could communicate clearly.
We got there, eventually, and I was ready to claim my victory. But then came potty-training hell. No worries, I thought. Once she’s potty trained, I’ll be golden.
Then I got pregnant with our second child. Then our third. There were always new challenges, but I still kept looking for those “onces.”
Once I’m not pregnant and dealing with a preschooler.
Once I’m done breastfeeding.
Once I don’t have a kid in diapers.
Once we’re past the Tyrannical Threes.
Once I don’t have two kids in carseats.
Once they can communicate their feelings.
Once they can clean up after themselves.
Once they get over their fear of the dark.
Once they can get themselves dressed.
Once they can make their own meals.
Once we reach _______milestone, THEN motherhood will be easier.
I know it was foolish, but what can I say—I’m an idealist. I’d set out on a years-long search for my ideal version of motherhood, looking for some Golden Age when all of the challenges of raising children would suddenly melt away and life would be smooth sailing.
But I’ve learned an important lesson after being a mom for fourteen years—probably the most important lesson for moms to learn: It doesn’t get easier—it just gets hard in different ways. There is no holy grail of motherhood.
Motherhood has been compared to climbing a mountain, but I think it’s more like crossing a mountain range. Ups and downs, peaks and valleys. If you expect to have “arrived” each time you reach a summit, you’ll be disappointed—there is always another hill ahead of you, often taller than the last. It can be disheartening. Exhausting. Seemingly impossible at times.
But eventually you reach a summit that offers a clear view of where you’ve been and where you’re going. You can see the mountains you’ve conquered, and you see the hills still stretching out before you. Once you realize that motherhood is a journey and not a destination, you figure out how to find joy and triumph in small bits and pieces. The key is to pause at those peaks and see the beauty of the scenery around you before focusing on the next climb. Grab onto those moments of joy and hold them while you can. Those moments ARE the holy grail. They’re fabulous, but fleeting. And if you don’t appreciate them while they’re here, even if they only last a matter of seconds, you miss out on the true treasure of motherhood.
These days, I still have my victory flag, but now I know that it belongs with me, not on some mountain peak. Triumph is not a destination, but something we moms carry with us through motherhood, moment by fleeting moment.
We may start out seeking the holy grail, but eventually, we discover that we’ve had it with us the whole time.
© 2015 Annie Reneau, as first published on Scary Mommy