a toast to you

Our house is perched across the street from a delightfully busy playground. It is all screaming kids by day and caterwauling teenagers by night, but I secretly love it. Things are alive out here in the ‘burbs.

My kids are older now, and so my own playground days are over, but I still have clear recollection that being a mom of a small human being is achingly exhausting work. All I ever wanted was two kids’ naptimes to line up, and they never ever did. I felt like those zombies in World War Z, minus the hissing (but plus a soul…).

There’s a weird unspoken law about new moms. There’s pressure to answer ‘How are you?’ with a chirpy, ‘Fine! Fine! Everything’s great!’ I remember how hard it is to be a new mom. I know you love your kid like crazy, but all days aren’t fine. In fact, some days really suck, and that’s a natural part of the whole mama thing. I will never forget the excruciating days with my toddler, waiting for my husband to come home. Watching the time slowly lurch forward, on the edge of unbearable between the post-nap time and dinner-time.

While the mama work continues as our children get older, it never comes close to the neediness of babies and the constant din of pre-school kids. I want to acknowledge the good work you do in bringing the next generation onto this fine Earth, usually with no recognition and a whole boatload of societal grief.

When I see moms with multiple children negotiating the grocery aisles with one kid in the basket and one hanging off the back of the cart, I remember sweating my way through that same shop, praying for a short check out line – and free of tsk-tsking strangers, judging me for bribing kids quiet with Smarties at the till. You are brave women to venture to the store accompanied by small people who become loud and obsessed in the junk cereal aisle. Kudos to you.

Early in my mom career, I survived six weeks of super pain as my newborn son figured out how to breastfeed. Compelled to continue, I sat on the couch in tears, counting down the feedings until my boy mastered this complicated dance that is breastfeeding, and stopped chomping on the end of my boobs. A shout-out to you moms who persevere even when it is hard, sitting for hours on that couch, reading Dr. Sears books and berating yourself for not being able to do the most natural thing in the world – which isn’t that natural at all. And an equal shout-out to moms who don’t nurse, and go the formula route because that’s totally okay too, and an evil stink eye to anyone who dares to judge you.

To those mamas in the playground, I see you applying sunscreen, monitoring sand throwing, extracting large pointy sticks from little chubby hands and spotting acrobatic gangly ones on the monkey bars. Maybe you are watching the sun inch across the sky, you only slept four hours last night, you didn’t have time for a shower, and you drank cold coffee for breakfast this morning. But you got organized enough to bring your kid to the park, and he’s happily screaming at the top of the slide. I applaud you for making time for his fun. I’m here to tell you that motherhood is worth it. It is so worth it.

Thank you for the work you do, and the great leap of faith all parents take in the decision to have children. You are unsung and undervalued, but I see you. From my veranda, I see you pat down cowlicks and administer random kisses, and watching you love your children is a beautiful thing. A heartfelt cheers to you.

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