The Big But

Sometimes it’s hard. No, I mean really hard. Take what you think hard is, multiply it by thirteen, and then imagine that you are in charge of – oh, I don’t know – curing cancer in the space of an afternoon. And that afternoon, you happen to have the world’s worst migraine. Just for fun, let’s also add that you’re probably hungover too. That kind of hard. Or thereabouts. I wouldn’t technically know because my cure for anything involves ibuprofen and maybe some special Kleenexes with aloe on them if you’re seriously ill and the outlook is grim.

There are weeks where I think that I might actually lose it. I remember bringing C home from the hospital and feeling like having a baby was the most epic mistake I had ever made. It wasn’t just a what-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-do-now type of problem with motherhood. It was an existential dilemma. What kind of world is it if I am made to want a baby, actually manage to make one with a person I love, and then the instant that child who is deserving of all my love arrives, I become delirious and have waking nightmares about dropping her off the balcony of our apartment?

It was hard. Hard in the kind of way that I understood for awhile the mentality of people who are suicidal. To be sure, I never was, but I had some dark days.


It got better. And it got easier.

Did it stay easy? Hells no. It got hard again. And I was actually surprised! This was all the more hilarious because I thought it would stay easy that first time around. Sometimes I catch myself believing that there is an age continuum with babies where the older they get, the easier they will be for their parents. As if diapers and handing fecal matter was the absolute rock bottom I’ll ever hit. Honestly, I would change her diapers until she was nine if in return I could permanently feel secure in my role as a mother.

I remember going to school dances that were held in the cafeteria of my school. All through the night, the overhead fluorescent lights were turned off and the room was lit with Christmas lights and disco balls. It was so pretty. At the end, though, the lights came on and I could see the giant trash compactor and puke-orange chairs around the room. Parenthood is a lot like that. You take yourself so incredibly seriously, but then the lights come on slowly and you realize you’re just in a cafeteria dancing around to Cotton Eyed Joe while wearing a dress with puffy sleeves.

But it’s worth it, this hardness and this ridiculousness. The last month or so has been really unpleasant for me, but now that I’m coming out the other side of it, I am more aware of the beauty of my child. The last couple days, she has been taking my breath away constantly. I am smitten with her in the same way that I was when she was about three months old and starting to do things. She’s talking SO MUCH and she actually kisses and hugs me back when I embrace her. She sits in the car quietly when we drive to storytime on Thursdays, lost in her own thoughts. She does funny walks and can sit on the bench at the park in the shade with me. She can do high-fives. It’s freaking amazing. I am in awe that I love her so much.

There are not enough days in my life to ever learn to truly appreciate the miracle of her. That’s a good problem.

Oral hygiene is best practiced in the middle of one's room on a stool.

Oral hygiene is best practiced in the middle of one’s room on a stool.


  1. unfetteredbs · · Reply

    A+ post.

    1. Thanks, Audra. xo

  2. I am so glad you get a win-moment!

    1. I really needed one. ;D

  3. And the best, (and worst), is yet to come young mommy.

    1. I had a feeling of it. Bring it on ;D

  4. OH my god. The school dance metaphor. And then the last two sentences. Those two sentences took my breath away. Seriously.

    And I had to laugh at this: “Honestly, I would change her diapers until she was nine if in return I could permanently feel secure in my role as a mother.” That would be a great deal, except that it would be self-defeating because you would eventually start doubting yourself since your kid would be the only 9 year old in her class pooping her pants. “What the hell am I doing wrong? Why is my kids still dropping a deuce in her drawers? I suck at life.” :)

    1. I agree with the school dance!

      1. I’m glad you could identify with it! ;D

    2. Ack! I wrote a good long reply to your comment and then WordPress ate it. Grrrrr. But thank you.

      1. Aw. WordPress stole my comment. It’s like when someone eats the last of the chocolate covered potato chips from Trader Joe’s. Bummer.

          1. Um, yes. I just bought two bags yesterday. Only one bag remains today. Just sayin’

  5. Good Lord woman, do you know how many giggities and that’s what she said went through my head as I read this?? Sorry, I ain’t right in the head I guess. Parenting isn’t that hard if you don’t care whether or not your little one grows up to hate you and everyone else in the world as a bitter adult. Trying to do it right is pretty intense though. I can agree with that.

    1. LOLOLOL You are my mind of people, Don. When I titled this I had this clip from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure in my head ;D

  6. I chose not to have kids and now I watch my friends’ kids growing into adults and I grow ever more intensely jealous of their relationships.

    You did the right thing. Don’t ever doubt that.

  7. Oh, yeah. I’ve been meaning to ask. What’s a magic talking stick?

    1. Good question! When I was teaching kindergarten in Korea, sometimes my students all wanted to talk at once so I had to create the magic talking stick. Only the student who was holding it could speak. It worked when they were having a hard time remembering to raise their hands.

  8. You made me smile and laugh. I totally get this post – it is what I needed to read right now.

    1. Thank you, Deb! You have a beautiful blog. Thank you for finding me!

  9. sidney austin · · Reply

    Your words took my breath away…

  10. That does it. Now you HAVE to come visit. I will trade diapers for your contending with my fourteen year old who has just mastered fine the art of talking back, and then your blogging about it like this and applying it to the teenage years. God help us all – he’s about to get his driver’s permit, to boot! But that’s another blog…

    1. I will gladly come on down! But I have to warn you that my child’s diapers are truly alarming. I often question my decision to cloth diaper her. Potty training cannot come soon enough. I am pretty good at talking to teens, since I was such a bratty one myself.

      1. You’re on. Cloth diapers are just fine, talking back is not. Tell ya what, I’ll potty train C in 3 hours while you cure mine of comeback-city (he did get better in the last 24 hours when we curtailed all manner of fishing trips).

        Say, you’ve inspired me to craft a potty-training post. I can only hope it doesn’t go the way of the “what’s in the diaper bag at church” post, which succumbed to old age by the time I sat down to write it and the details evaded me, only the vague horror remained. Maybe the potty training post will jog my memory.

  11. Em, what a heartfelt, honest post. I’m not a Mom but I do know how difficult and demanding it can be from observing my sisters and then how incredibly heartbreakingly beautiful it can be that it takes your breath away — in a good way. So glad to hear you good and your little Cee, she’s a lucky little girl.

    1. Thank you, Brig! Lately I have just been stunned at the transition she’s making from a little baby to a little girl. She actually *likes* to hold my hand now. I have to remind myself to write this stuff down because there will come a day when she’s not so keen on me.

  12. The cuteness, brilliance and perfection just keep on coming. From both of you!

    1. Awwww, thank you! Wouldn’t it be cool if one day she likes me the same way Cameron LOVES you? ;D

  13. You’re absolutely right though – just when you think everything is slowing down and going great, that’s when your daughter breaks up with her boyfriend for the 15th time.

    1. You speak from experience, methinks ;D

  14. Em, you are an amazing mom. We all have our ups and downs, but watching your child grow and learn new things is not a privilege I would trade for anything. Children are amazing.

    1. They really are. Sometimes I have to remind myself that we are only at the beginning of her life. Hell, she doesn’t even really talk yet. I mean, she has a bunch of words that she can say when she needs something, but we have so much to look forward to when she can really tell us what’s on her mind. It’ll be hard, but it’s pretty awesome. Thanks, TD.

      1. It’s VERY awesome…and I know you’ll do great.

  15. Here’s my philosophy – some days are great and some suck. But in the end we all still love each other – even though I want to change my name from “Mom, mom, mom, mommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmy, mom, mom, mom” ….I see the miracle especially when they do something quite extraordinary. And sometimes, that’s just being alive and themselves.

    1. EVERYTHING that you just said. Truth.

      1. But it doesn’t mean we don’t want to scream with frustration at times…and many times…and much of the time (at least when the drama begins!)

  16. It’s a marathon… a long haul, with many, many rewards and beatings. Mine are 23, 21 and 17 now, and some days still take my breath away.

    1. That post that you wrote awhile back about them is still very vivid in my mind. Absolutely beautiful.

      1. Thanks Emily. Not sure which one… seems they pop into a lot of posts… a marathon, for sure. ;-)

  17. Do you know what your triggers are? One of mine is hormonal changes and I am just about to try going back on progesterone only contraceptives to stabilise my hormones (having other issues in that department as well). This has worked for me in the past but the side effect was weight gain. I have decided that I am prepared to put up with the weight gain now if it means being migraine free. I get them at least once a month and sometimes they last for 5 days or so. That is too much time to be miserable.

  18. They need “like” buttons for the comments…..some of these are keepers….I especially LIKE that you can quote Pee Wee….quoting funny movie lines is a great way to connect with your kids. My boys are all grown now and in almost EVERY situation, one of them can come up with a movie line. It keeps me on my toes.

  19. Thus, my picture you see here….bet you don’t recognize me. ;)

  20. Beautiful! My husband described our daughter as a miracle just a couple of days ago. They (our kids) both are, but I know exactly what he meant. And, thank you for being brave enough to admit that you have feared dropping your kid off the balcony, or whatever “oh, my god, i could accidentally kill this kid” vision you used. And the comments you’re getting on this! Wonderful.

  21. This post was so rich. I have the feeling that you have more in you around this topic, and I’d love to hear more.

    1. Thanks ;D Ideas like these are bouncing around in my head 80% of the time. I am floored with how hard but beautiful parenthood is.

  22. I love this so much! I have days where I am seriously considering running away from home. It is so hard and so ridiculously frustrating sometimes. And then I pause for a minute and look around at these two beautiful people that I MADE out of thin air, and I can’t help but think, “Holy shit! This is the best thing EVER!” And then someone throws a tantrum. But…I mean, in the overall scheme of things, a tantrum is not so bad. It is a BIG, BIG love, isn’t it?

  23. Thanks. I really needed to hear about the non-sucky parts of parenting.

    And that’s totally sincere, even though now it’s sounding sarcastic in my head because I’ve been so miserable lately that I’m permanently sarcastic now.

  24. Hi there! I am so glad that I discovered your blog. Well, I didn’t really discover it. WordPress news just put out a post and your blog was included. I saw that you blogged about parenting and family, so I was interested to see what your blog was all about being that I am a busy mom as well. That being said, I love the way you write! I have felt the same feelings that you described and parenting is one of the most difficult yet rewarding job on planet earth!!

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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