By Jessica Rios
I heard it was the best thing ever. The biggest love I’d ever feel. The most challenging thing I’d ever do. “It’s Spirituality 101,” one of my closest friends told me.
All these things are true.
Being a mom is at least as wonderful, challenging and spiritually enriching as anything I’ve experienced.
I also heard it was hard work. Somehow, I don’t see it that way. Although it takes the highest degree of devotion I’ve ever shown, it just isn’t hard work. It’s natural. It’s primal. It’s constant. But it isn’t hard work. It’s literally the greatest honor of my life.
What no one told me was that when I became a mom, I would go from having a considerable amount of time just for me, to giving away about 95% of it for my daughter. Dramatic difference. More dramatic than I could begin to articulate.
I don’t just mean changing a diaper. I don’t just mean holding them when they cry, when you’ve already been breastfeeding and doing laundry all morning while trying to remember to brush your own teeth, and could really use a nap. And I don’t mean “eating Bon Bons all day” which is exactly what I heard from an acquaintance who is a mother herself, referring to what it’s like to stay home with a child. Clearly her family’s nutritional preferences are different from ours, and she’s never worked full-time for an extended period of time, caring for her child at home. Either that or she has, and they eat ice cream all day, and that’s easy for her. Hey, maybe I’m missing something.
Let’s not compartmentalize this.
Every mother I’ve ever spoken with who has been at home all day, most days, caring for her child, says it is much easier to go to work. To a job. These are moms who are comparing the work of caring for a child at home full-time, with the work of going to a job full-time. One mom took it further and said going to work is like a vacation. You get to be in your car by yourself, with no one interrupting you, no one needing you with all they’ve got. It’s just you in the car. Sure there are mothers who’ve worked full time at home — no, not stayed at home but worked at home caring for their child more than full-time, double-full time –who say their job outside the home is more difficult. Some who would really rather be home with their child than at a job. Yet what’s magnetized to me, probably because of simple physics (like attracts like), are dozens of mothers who find the full-time work of caring for children tougher than a full time job.
Really caring for a child — at home, full time — is the most undervalued work of our time.
To fully take care of a child full time, the mother (or father, if/when he is the primary caretaker) must hold the ENORMOUS space of caring, as completely as possible, for the child’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. When this is your work not just during typical working hours (9-5), but from the moment they wake up and during and after dinner until they do go to sleep, and additionally while they’re asleep because you’re primally wired to hear their every move… it’s a lot.
Is it easy to become imbalanced and not take enough breaks? Yes.
Do all mothers deserve far more appreciation than we receive? YES.
Is it up to us to make this happen — to make the world more reverent of women, mothers, children, and life itself? Yes.
I will not endeavor to describe, in this blog post, all that full-time mothering in the home has entailed in my own mothering experience. But I will say it is HUGE, bordering on indescribable, and far beyond the cultural awareness and capacity. Its almost-indescribability is one of the reasons it’s undervalued. Humans have a hard time valuing what we can’t understand or measure.
Can mothering be taxing? I am a case in point. Without great self care: VERY.
Right now as I write, I have a migraine. It’s my 4th migraine and they’ve all happened in one year. Hormones + life pressure + interrupted sleep + less than great physical self care = OUCH. Pain in the head. Pressure speaking through my body saying, “STOP, Jessica. Stop.”
And then I hear the words, in the form of a book title, because that’s how it often goes for me as a writer: A Revolution in Self Care.
I’m writing this piece for women who are pregnant with their first child, new moms, other moms, and myself. Because: self care. Writing is therapy for me. And, as in the spirit of community acupuncture, and in the words of my dear friend Olivia who owns Chico Community Acupuncture, I believe in “taking healing out of isolation.”
If you’re pregnant or just gave birth to new life, hear this: You are a hero. You gave your body over for another life to grow in it and from it. You did or are about to do the greatest thing a human body can do: let new life emerge from your own body.
It is the most natural and wild thing we can do. We were made for this. And it is heroic, all at the same time.