Letter #17: To a Child Who Wants to Become a Mother

March 19, 2019

Hello, Lia.

You often tell me that you want kids of your own when you grow up.

I'm here to tell you that everything they tell you about motherhood is true. It is difficult, nerve-wracking, and time-consuming. It cuts you off from the world; makes you feel like an exile. While your friends are talking about careers, parties, casual dates, and other things that do not revolve around parenting, all you can share are diapers, vomit, moving up ceremonies, Saturday soccer games or ballet classes, walking the dog, milestones, and household chores. Because these are things that will dominate your daily life. They will for a very long time. It's normal to hate it once in a while.

I woke up today realizing I haven't seen a couple of my best friends for seven or more years. The last time I saw one was when she got married in 2011. The last time I saw the other one was when she attended your Christening in 2012. We talk on Facebook perhaps once every six months and just pick up where we've left off. We all have kids.

There are plenty of other friends, single or married without children, I haven't seen in a year. Sometimes they have extra time to spare, but as a working mother with a child who constantly tails her and pleads for play time, I have trouble fitting socialization in the equation.

I currently have a whole page of to-do's and deadlines. By the time I cross one out and feel the least bit triumphant, I would've already written an extra line or two of to-do's at the bottom of the list. Sleeping at 11 pm and waking up at 5 to 6 am, you’d think I’ve got plenty of leeway to get those things done, but that is NEVER the case. In the nearly seven years I've parented, I’ve yet to encounter a day when I succeeded in crossing out all to-do’s on a single list.

On work assignments, where I spend weekends in hotels like the one in this photo, I spend most times working and parenting. Mothers don’t take breaks from mothering. You only mother in a different place.

Some people say it’s wrong for a mother to make a child the center of her universe. That it’s too romanticized and oppressive to mothers. I partly agree. A woman must take care of herself too, so she can take better care of people she loves. But the reality is, the moment you become a mother, everything else really comes second including you. You will relinquish your position as the center of you - at least until a child learns autonomy bit by bit. That's not overly romanticizing. That is just the natural state of motherhood.

Loneliness, guilt, doubt, and debility are more real than they ever have been. There will be buckets of tears. In those times, there will be people who would know the chaos in your life, but some of them too won’t be able to comprehend it in full including friends. They will question, in secret and out in the open, “It doesn’t take too much time to do this and that. I got time for this and that and those - and I work and do chores too! Why can’t she?” 

You will question yourself too.

Some of them will stay. Some won’t. Prepare yourself for that, because at the end of the day, motherhood is a decision. That involves deciding what and who you will prioritize. Often, there will be an overwhelming number of matters to prioritize that you will lose people in the process. If you do, don’t beat up yourself for it. Those who do stay not for convenience but for the love of you are real gems. There are only few in this world. Treasure them. Thank them. Profusely.

I know this is all hard to swallow in one read (even moreso without coffee and a decent bath - both likely when you become a mom), but do know this: In between the tears, self-loathing, sleeplessness, and the times you want to give up, there will be unfathomable joy. Humility. A lifetime of learning. Pride. Fulfillment. Purpose - yes, even in those times nothing makes sense. Above all, a sense of belonging.

When friends resent you, everything goes downhill, and no place feels like it used to anymore, you will have one place where you belong. After hacking your way through a maze of a day, you will always end up in a place where you are loved. You will have that place forever, because a mother once is a mother forever. That is a success, a life to be grateful for. Don’t let anyone else make you feel less.

The world may not understand that, but your child's heart and yours do. Mine does. When everything or everyone has emptied the room without the promise of returning, I will always have the certainty that I have you - here or without. One day, when you do decide that you really want to be a mother, I wish the same for you.

Behind your back at all times,

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