Monday, August 03, 2009

On motherhood, at one month postpartum

I was thinking about a wonderful family I met with twelve children! The kids bickered about this and that, but they seemed to get along swimmingly and be perfectly amiable when it related to the baby of the family. I mentioned this to the parents and they joked that that's the reason they keep having children-- to give the rest of the siblings one thing about which they are united!

I don't know how much my older siblings doted over me (except I know Christie definitely did), but I do know that this same concept was/is true of the baby in our family. I don't remember anyone ever fighting with Mish, but we definitely fought over her. No matter how old she got, we were all in complete agreement that she was the most sweet and adorable kid, and if anyone would have had a bone to pick with her, he'd have had the five of us to reckon with, too.

I am seeing a bit of that with the new baby in our family. I know it has only been a month, but I am pleasantly surprised to witness how much Ellie and Erik still unabashedly adore their baby brother. When it comes to the baby of the family, we are all smiles, snuggles, and goo goo noises. Yes, having a baby around unarguably increases the spirit of love, cooperation, and peace in our home.

This increase has led to many reflections of gratitude. I think I have always been grateful to be a mother, but now more than ever. I was married quite young and started having children quite young. I think much of the world shakes their fingers (or at least their heads) at me about those decisions. I admit there have been times I have dreamed of doing something easier, like maybe having a career. I am smart, driven, and confident. I don't doubt I could have succeeded at whatever career I would've put my mind and heart into.

I am so glad I chose motherhood. Someone else is being the lawyer/doctor/entrepreneur I would have been, but no one else could have been the mother of my children. Nothing could have been as rewarding as this. Nothing approaches this in importance in the grand scheme of things. Sure, there are daily frustrations that almost give me an aneurysm at times, but when I've actually stopped to observe the proportion, I spend about 20 minutes a day being stressed and/or aggravated with mothering tasks and most of the rest of the day being completely enamored with the funny and delightful habits of my children.

Kyle and I were just reflecting this morning about how miraculous parental love is. We are sometimes flabbergasted by just how OBSESSED we are with our kids without even trying to be, and I'm pretty sure all parents (unless completely desensitized to all things good, warm, and fuzzy) feel the same way about their kin. This is just the way human life and families had to be designed to ensure that as many as possible of us would be taken care of.

I was talking with a stranger the other day who could not get over how cute Charlie is, and in between oohing and ahhing over his newborn sweetness, she kept adamantly asserting that she did NOT want to have kids. Say what?! There was a serious disconnect. As an explanation, she actually came up with this lame excuse of having to babysit for friends and family often, always coming home exhausted and relieved to be done with child rearing. Is this laughable to anyone else? If I had thought I would only love my own kids as much as I love everyone else, I never would've had any. Probably. But the great thing is, I love my kids way more than I love anything or anyone. Waaaay more. (Kyle's right in there, too, but I'm not as obsessed with him.) Babysitting is nothing at all like parenting. The rewards of parenting far surpass whatever mediocre compensation you get from babysitting. Hers seemed a very silly and immature reason to not want children, but then again, after having these kids and loving them so much, I can't think of anything that could stop me from wanting to be a mom.

This third child has presented the biggest physical adjustment, Erik came in the wake of the biggest circumstantial adjustment (living in China, not that it was his fault we were there), but Ellie's birth certainly brought about the greatest emotional adjustment. There were a lot of days just in those first three months before I went back to school on which I wondered if I was doing anything significant with my life. Spending half of the day nursing, burping, and changing that child felt like piddling my life away.

My then bishop's wife must have read this in my face and made a simple comment to me: "No day spent caring for a child is wasted." Hmmmm... could this be true? If I was being paid to take care of a baby, would life feel empty? If I was volunteering to watch a friend's baby to help her out, would I feel my efforts were meaningless? Of course not! So how could caring for my own baby be less important?

Thankfully, I quickly matured in my perspective and now I actually feel my day has been most productive and meaningful if I spent it changing diapers, reading the same book [three times in a row], finger painting, wiping messy faces, and shaking baby toys. I no longer doubt that I have the best job on earth. Grueling at times and often thankless, but so very much worth it. And if I can say the sleep deprivation is worth it while I'm only one month post-partum... that's saying something.

I don't usually blog much about the glories of motherhood, mostly because I don't want to come off patronizing or as gloating to those who, through no fault of their own, are unmarried or unable to have children. But I think they agree with my sentiments regardless of their circumstances.

I just wish the world had a little more of the conviction I have about motherhood. I have a friend who waited several years to have children and after she had her first baby asked me, "Why didn't you tell me it would be this great?" My thought was, "I tried, but you wouldn't have believed me. Nobody really does." Our culture truly devalues the work of a mother, but no matter. I'm not doing this for recognition. I'm doing it for smiles like these.

Hugs like these.

Cuddles like these.

And a whole slew of heavenly intangibles.


Tana said...

Will you write my blog? You always have such beautiful posts that are so well expressed. Love ya Tiff. Thanks for marrying Kyle. Kiss the kids for me.

mmm.chocolate said...

Such beautiful, beautiful sentiments. These children are so, so lucky to have you and Kyle for parents. I'm so glad to hear that three is going well for you. Love, love, love being a mommy right there with you.

blaine and michelle said...

Your thoughts match mine completely. Although I think I spend more like 2 hours a day being frustrated. Parental love truly is a miracle. I'm so glad we had children together....separately :)

Marilyn said...

Just the other day I was thinking about what my life would have been like or could have been like if I had made other choices. What if I had decided to go to Europe and do something wild and exciting? What if I had pursued a career? After I had thought about the final outcome of any alternate choice I just sat there and marvelled at how after 40 years of marriage and mothering I wouldn't change a thing. Being a mother was always what I wanted and I can say now at the end of that career, that being a mother is still the best choice I could have made. I did the right thing. Ain't it great??

blaine and michelle said...

I hope you don't mind I sent the 4 readers of my blog over here to read your thoughts. Love you.

Jeff said...

"I am so glad I chose motherhood. Someone else is being the lawyer/doctor/entrepreneur I would have been, but no one else could have been the mother of my children."

Tiff, I love what you wrote here. It really puts into perspective the importance of parenthood. And your posts are so fun to read.

Kyle, man it was sure good to see you yesterday. We really need to plan sometime to get together again.

Mary said...

I love this post. Way to say my thoughts exactly. Love you T.