4.43am. Rain pelting the roof stirs me from deep sleep. The sound reminds me of one of my favourite Powderfinger songs… the tapping of the rain beats a corrugated drum… the lyrics float dreamily in my mind as I attempt to register what day it is. Most days I’ve been venturing out of bed around this time to take advantage of some quiet hours to write before I get swamped with the busyness of the day. For a non-morning person it has been a harsh adjustment, but it has now become my favourite part of the day. This morning however… my mind relaxes as I remember it’s Mothers Day. I can’t remember the last time I had a sleep in. My body is still recoiling a late night and a couple too many reds. Relief floods me to the core as I drift effortlessly back into sleep, anticipating more blissful hours of dreaming ahead.
6.00am. Heavy footsteps thud into the bedroom, followed by the loud slamming of the bathroom door and the infuriating sound of someone messing around for like an hour trying to lock the door. In the unlikely event that someone else is going to barge in at this unearthly time of morning, obviously. The sound of this sends my mind firing. Frigging hell, there are two other bathrooms in this house, why is she using ours?? Why is she awake so damn early?? Doesn’t she know it’s Mothers Day and all I wanted was to sleep in this morning??
Immediately I feel guilty. Yes, she knows it’s Mothers Day. Because yesterday she kept winking at me, blowing me kisses and saying, “It’s your special day tomorrow, Mum” with an excited glint in her eye. So when she crawls into bed and pries my eyelids open, desperately keen for me to be awake so she can lavish her seven-year old love and affection on me, I can only smile and kiss her forehead as I pull her in closer for a cuddle. The battle between my selfish needs and sacrificial love has raged, and love wins.
Ultimately, this is my entire experience of motherhood.
See, I’m just not one of those women who have taken to being a mother with ease. Honestly, for me, most days this whole parenting thing just blows. For those that don’t know me very well and are reading this thinking I must be the most loathsome woman for saying this out loud, let me clarify that this isn’t about whether I love my children or not. I love them with a love that I never believed was humanly possible. The love where you know you would die for them. There’s simply no question of the unequivocal love I have for them. But as an inherently flawed and broken human, being a mother nearly kills me most of the time. Love doesn’t come easily to me. Nor does being needed and depended on all the endlessly-exhausting-and-demanding day long. I’m still trying to work out how I’m supposed to grow people from infants to adults when some days the decision over what to eat for breakfast is so overwhelming that curling into fetal position under the kitchen table seems like the most reasonable preference.
People talk about children being a blessing. And they ARE. My children captivate and amaze and leave me breathless with who they are and the things they do. But the biggest blessing for me comes through the suffering. My children have challenged the person I am and the tendencies I have to be selfish, disconnected, inward, capricious, flighty. They are the ones that take me out of my comfortable, insular mind where I’m happy to dwell and bring me into the moment that I may experience life with them. They are the ones that force me out of my selfish ways and teach me how sacrificial love makes me a better person. They are the ones that make me choose patience when everything in me is ready to scream at them for not tying their shoelace fast enough. They are the ones that ground me when life gets tough and flight wants to trump fight, they teach me of resilience and strength and courage and perseverance to stick it out. When I was so sick with chronic fatigue, they are the reason I forced myself out of bed every day when the exhaustion and depression made me want to never get out of bed again. Why I fought so hard to find answers that doctors could not give me, why I fought so hard to get my health back and why I still fight every day to stay strong and healthy. They are the reason I understand unconditional love, how to give it, how to receive it, and what it means in my life.
My children have saved me in ways they may never realize.
I can’t give them a mother that has it all together and knows what she’s doing all the time. But I hope they can one day appreciate they had a mother who loved them fiercely and did the best she could with who she was and the life she’d had. Who taught them to be true to who they are, even when the world tells them otherwise. To be both courageous and vulnerable. To not allow mistakes to define their worth, but embrace them as catalyst for becoming a better person. To know they can rise above their circumstances. To know they will always be enough.
But mostly, to know that they can always pry my eyelids open at 6am anytime they ever need me.