Motherhood is the Job I Choose
My 6-year-old son makes defiance his job while I feel like I’m failing at mine. The job I swore to do my best at. The job that I felt my mother had failed at with me. The job that no one teaches you how to do. The job that has the most How-To books on shelves and probably the one that has the most searches on Google.
The job that seems more difficult each day, not easier.
The job that you love and hate, embrace and fear, all at once.
The job you cannot and should not quit.
I can choose to be self-defeatist and say that I failed. Or I can say, I failed today, I will do better tomorrow.
I can choose to look at my child and say he is defiant. Or I can say, he’s strong-willed, and someday this defiance will hold him in good stead. He will stand up for himself and for his beliefs.
I can choose to tell my child to “Stop talking for a minute, please!” Or, I can ask him more questions and nurture his curiosity and need to connect with others.
I can choose to tell my four children to stop touching me. Or, I can choose to remember that they will not always be small enough to sit on my lap or to want me to hold their hand. I can choose to allow them into this space I built over the years because I was not held, hugged or kissed when I was a child. I can choose to change from the outside by letting them hold me.
I can choose to tell them to stop fighting, or I can stop what I’m doing to pay attention to what they need from each other and from me.
I can choose to tell them to stop running, calm down, be quiet. Or, I can choose not to break their spirit and nurture it instead.
I can choose to complain about hearing “Mama! Mama! Mama!” every two minutes. Or, I can choose to be grateful that I am blessed with the privilege of carrying and birthing healthy children.
I can choose to see the good in the people I created. The love they have for each other. The small moments when the little one cuddles up with her big brother or one of the boys hugs his baby brother. The times they say please and thank you. The daily forgiveness they have for me when I am not my best self.
I can also choose to tell my children to stop. Stop, and give Mama a moment. Stop and listen to yourselves. Stop and think about what it is that’s bothering you. Is it really about the red cup you MUST have because your brother is using it? Or is it because you need attention from someone? Do you need a hug or a listening ear? Do you need to feel safe? Do you need to know that we love you? Do you need to connect?
I have to choose to listen to myself. This job is beautiful but ugly. It’s heart-lifting and soul-wrenching. It takes so much away but gives more back. I need to listen to my body. Do I need more rest, more water, more nourishment? Do I need space or affection? I need to speak up too. I need to choose me too.
This job goes both ways. In mothering my children, the cracks in my experience as a child close. In learning to be a good mother, I learn to be a better daughter. By listening to my children, I listen to myself.
Today, I choose my job, and I choose to love it.
Alison Lee is the co-editor of Multiples Illuminated, an anthology by and for parents of multipes, a writer, and publisher. A former PR and marketing professional, she is the owner of Little Love Media, specializing in blog book tours. Alison’s writing has been featured in Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and Club Mid. She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends (Fall, 2014), and has an essay in another, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood (Summer, 2016). She is also an editor at BonBon Break. Alison lives in Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).