the duality of motherhood

{photo credit: my mom, June 2008}

A dozen mothers sat in a circle on the floor, toddlers bounding from laps to toys and back again. Pregnant with my second child, a daughter who was at that time the size of a watermelon in utero, I juggled my son who, at a year and a half, clung to me and my belly like glue. His chubby arms were around my neck, his head under my chin. That summer the heat was overpowering, and the whir of a window fan was the only source of relief until we mothers mustered the energy to get the children into swimsuits and outside to the kiddie pool. Toddlers stuck to sweat covered mamas, water bottles in a rainbow of colors sat between us as we took deep breaths of sticky July air and Cheerio dust.

I remember catching every single one of the mothers sighing deeply. We all commiserated with exhaustion, talking about how DONE we were. With motherhood. With sleepless nights. With dinner time battles and temper tantrums and not having a moment to ourselves. And yet. And yet every one of those mothers - myself included - had in their eyes a look of love held only for their offspring. A softness when their child came up to them needing something. A kindness reserved for boo boo’s and pouty lips. A well of patience that, as any mother will tell you, never truly runs dry.

I've never been a group person, and my time in mommy groups was short lived. However, I received a priceless gift from those playdates: the knowledge that I wasn't going crazy. As mothers we live with duality every moment. The intense love you have for a child still exists in the moments that you want to pull your hair out and walk out the door. The utter disgust that runs through your mind as you change a messy diaper, while at the same time gushing over the cuteness of a baby bum. And also the feeling of isolation that comes with the constant chatter of a child, constant movement and needs to take care of. The isolation that comes from never being alone. Duality, every moment of the day.

If I hadn't seen other mothers live first hand with these dual feelings, I would have thought I was the only one. I would have thought I was going insane. But with connection and conversation came the unspoken acknowledgement of the complicated and gray lives that mothers lead. Nothing is black and white. Nothing is simple. Everything is layered and changes moment to moment.

Outside the air hung around us, toddlers splashed and sat in the kiddie pools that were laid out in our hosts back yard. My son clung to my leg as I tried to inch him closer to the pool, hoping desperately that he would find a place among his peers. Wishing for a bit of space between our bodies to cool my skin, and at the same time praying that his body would never be far from mine.


  1. These words exactly capture the essence of motherhood. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wonderful words, so thoughtfully expressed.. and yes... amen sister. Thank you xox

  3. I managed all the way to the last sentence and then I came undone with your last words.

  4. I read this before bed last night and it knocked the wind out of me a little. Duality...yes, indeed. I'm left spinning sometimes by my "Ugh, I don't want to help with homework/make dinner/tell her to pick up her socks AGAIN..." and the "Oh my goodness, she is such sweetness and light and how do I get to be so lucky to be her mother?...." all taking place within the same moment. You capture it so well here. (And I'm not a group person either!)

  5. I remember those days well,and I remember how exhausted I was while pregnant with the second one! I joined a library group and met three other women there who embraced me with their friendship and through them I found happiness and didn't feel alone. I since moved away to here and remember fondly how that little group shaped me.

  6. Oh I can relate to this so much. I feel like I still live this every single day. The best part of homeschool- they are with you all the time! The hardest part of homeschool- they are with you all the time!

    Beautiful words, as always.

  7. Duality, yes. You nailed it, sister. And I could *feel* that summer heat. I mean, the dust of cheerios? Brilliant. Thank you for these words.


Post a Comment

Get in Touch


Email *

Message *