Motherhood is a Marathon

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I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood. Perhaps because it’s Mother’s Day. Perhaps because lately, motherhood has absolutely been kicking my bootie. If we’re keeping it real, because that’s what I do, I just spent a solid fifteen minutes bawling my eyes out on my closet floor. Why was I on the closet floor you ask? Well, because my kids kept knocking on the door so it’s the only place I could go where they couldn’t hear me. That’s motherhood—sobbing on the closet floor trying not to let your kids hear you while the knock incessantly screaming things like “Mom what are you doing in there?” and “Mom, the boys are fighting AGAIN!!” and “MOOOOOOOOMMMMMM, let me in! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THERE?!?”

Lately, I find myself thinking on the daily— Wow, I had no idea how hard this would be.  Like, I literally absolutely had NO idea whatsoever how painful, heartwrenching, confusing, overwhelming and utterly exhausting this marathon we call motherhood would truly be.  Now, before you get out the pitchforks and want to burn me at the stake for “complaining” about being a mother, please promise you will read this to the end. Because I promise you, there is far more to the story than that. Motherhood is sacred. It’s the ultimate blessing and one I hold sacred above all else. But it’s also all of the things I mentioned above—heartwrenching, confusing, overwhelming and utterly exhausting. And I would be remiss if I did not mention that I was completely unprepared for what motherhood would truly be like on that day, in my very early 20’s, when  I held that little stick out and saw two pink lines.

The other day I was reading through one of the millions of forms I have to fill out for my children for various activities, enrollments, camps, doctor’s appointments, etc… and started laughing out loud. I’m sure the people in the waiting room thought I was certifiably insane, which, in thinking so they would most likely be correct. But I just couldn’t help myself. I was thinking about how I have to check all these boxes and initial them that I’ve agreed to the terms of service and understand this or that. And for some reason, a picture flashed in my mind. The picture was of myself, sitting in a doctor’s office as a 23-year-old graduate student. I was going to be a mother. How beautiful! What a dream come true. What a miracle. BUT OH MY GOODNESS THAT GIRL HAD ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE WHAT SHE WAS GETTING INTO.

Right after I had that vision of myself as a 23-year-old soon to be mother, I thought to myself  —where was the “I agree to the terms of service” boxes in that moment? Why did no one prepare me for what I was getting into before I had a child? Why did no one give me a detailed list of exactly what I was agreeing to? Just think about it…What if, before becoming parents, someone would have sat you down and had you read through a document that would just lay it all out there what you were about to get yourself into and you had to “agree to the terms of service” before becoming a mother.

  1. I agree to put another human beings needs above my own in every single way imaginable and to sacrifice everything that I have for said human being.
  2. I agree to never again know what a full night’s sleep is for the next twenty years.
  3. I agree to sacrifice my body, my finances, my time, for whatever this tiny human being needs for the rest of my life.
  4. I agree to be a human taxi cab and drive kids around to various activities at all hours of the day and night and put 90K miles on a new car in less than 3 years (yes you read that right, that’s how many miles I’ve put on my car running to basketball and baseball and football and dance and voice and school and sleepovers and parties….)
  5. I agree to do 72 loads of laundry a week and never again be able to see the bottom of a laundry basket.
  6. I agree to never again be able to take a trip with my husband without coordinating a million different activities, drop-offs and pickups, and leaving a 7-page document that details the comings and goings of the kids while being gone. Oh yes, and I agree to facetime with them the entire time I am in a foreign country because they miss me and I miss them and you know what, because I quickly realize that there is just no such thing as traveling without a care in the world once you have kids.
  7. I agree to bear said children’s every burden and feel it as if it were my own.
  8. I agree to pay a small fortune for my kids braces, activities, schooling, clothes, etc… and go without things that are important to me so that they can have what they want and need.
  9. I agree to _______________ (fill in the blank here with a million other sacrifices that parents will make for their children)

 

Now maybe at this point in the blog post, you are beginning to see why I started laughing out loud in the middle of a doctor’s office when I had this thought—Wait a minute, why did no one make me check the boxes and agree to the terms of service for becoming a mom?

The older my kids get, the more and more I realize how truly unprepared for motherhood I was. To be honest, sometimes lately I’ve been feeling sorry for myself, perhaps even a bit indignant. Like, what in the heck. Why did no one tell me how hard this would be? Why didn’t my mom prepare me? Why didn’t they make me read a book? That’s what I was thinking that day in the doctor’s office when I filled out form after form and “agreed to the terms of service.” Why didn’t someone lay it out for me how hard parenthood would be and make me agree to the terms of service before I became a mom. It just would have been nice to know before.

But right after I had that very thought, I came to another crashing realization —nothing or no one can prepare you for motherhood. Reading through a document that tells you every single sacrifice you will have to make, every sleepless night you will have to face, every time you will shed tears of agonizing pain or indescribable joy —nothing can prepare you for that. You just have to live it.

And that’s what all mothers are doing. We are living it. We are doing motherhood. We are running this marathon and it’s excruciating and painful and hard and beautiful and tragic. It is the highest of highs you will ever experience and the lowest of lows.

When our child hurts. We hurt.

When our child succeeds. We rejoice.

When our child is rejected and treated poorly, our heart breaks into a million pieces and we wish we could take their pain from them and pile it all on ourselves instead.

When our child falls. We wipe them off and pick them back up again.

When our child messes up. We want to pull our hair out and scream out of frustration, but then we again, pick them back up and hug and kiss them and tell them we love them, unconditionally.

When our child is up all night puking their guts out. We sit with them on the cold tile floor and hold their hair back. And we wish it was us who was sick instead of them.

Because that is the “terms of service” of motherhood. Whatever our child needs, we do it. Whatever our child feels, we feel it. It is an all-consuming, never-ending love that can never be explained until you’ve lived it. 

Nothing can prepare you for that kind of love.

I remember when I was pregnant with my first child. I asked my mother what to expect from labor and I’ll never forget what she said: Labor is the hardest and most painful thing you will ever do in your life, but the quickest forgotten. I didn’t understand what my mom meant until I went through it. Until I labored and felt the pain of contraction after contraction; Until I ran that marathon of giving birth, I didn’t understand what she meant, until I lived it. Labor was hard. I thought I couldn’t do it at times. It was the hardest thing I had ever done, but the second they plopped that pink little crying bundle on my chest, I completely forgot the pain. It was replaced with this unconditional undying love that trumped all pain, all hardship, all anguish. My love for that child, made me forget the pain of childbirth almost instantly.

That is motherhood. All the pain and the work and the sleepless nights and the tears shed and the worry and the anguish and confusion and exhaustion, all forgotten in one second when you look at their face, that beautiful little (or not so little anymore since my thirteen-year-old is pushing six feet tall now) miracle that is yours and yours alone.

You know what they say — mother knows best. My mom was right about labor but I would say that her statement applies to more than just labor but the entire phenomenon that is motherhood.

Motherhood —It’s the hardest work you will ever do in your entire life. But it is also the most beautiful and the quickest forgotten.  I’ve found that to be true about life the older I get. It’s the things that are the hardest, that we have to work for with our whole hearts and minds and every emotional, spiritual, and physical part of our being, that end up being the most beautiful.

Marriage. Labor. Motherhood.

The hardest work we will ever do in our lives, but the quickest forgotten. Because yes, there is pain and confusion and anger and exhaustion in motherhood, but you know what trumps them all: LOVE.  And there is nothing, I do mean nothing, like a mother’s love.

One day, one day all too soon, my children will be all grown. I will have run my marathon of motherhood. My children will be off to college, married, working full-time jobs and even having children of their own. And when I look back at raising them, I know that I won’t care about the sleepless nights or the times I cried on the closet floor because I wanted to take away my child’s struggles and couldn’t. All I will remember is the undying love and the blessing of motherhood.

To all you mother’s out there running your marathon: I see you. Keep running your race. I know it’s hard. I know it’s excruciating. You will question and cry on the closet floor and trip and fall and want to scream and pull your hair out at times, but you aren’t alone. That is motherhood, the ups and the downs and the highs and the lows. We are all just trying to navigate this race called life. And we are putting one foot in front of the other every single day, even when it’s hard, for the love of these little (or not so little anymore) human beings who have our whole entire heart for life.

Easton, Emmy, and Cohen. I love you FIERCELY. I am flawed and imperfect and a hot, scatterbrained mess, but there is nothing, NOTHING, that I would not do for you. You are the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life and you are THE BEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL thing I will ever do in my entire life.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone. All you moms outh there, may you run your race with perseverance.

And may you run it with plenty of coffee and wine readily available
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6 Comments
  • karen a Sunday
    Posted at 22:49h, 13 May Reply

    very beautiful pictures!!

    • Carissa Miller
      Posted at 16:31h, 14 May Reply

      thank you!

  • Cyndi Kane
    Posted at 01:00h, 14 May Reply

    Your kiddos are so blessed to have you as their FIERCE mama! Thanks for this beautiful post that captures the agony and, ultimately, triumph of motherhood!

    • Carissa Miller
      Posted at 16:30h, 14 May Reply

      Thanks for being my friend and helping me run this marathon. Love you!

  • Liz Gardner
    Posted at 16:54h, 14 May Reply

    Absolutely beautiful and absolutely true!!

  • Elane Crosby
    Posted at 19:55h, 14 May Reply

    Truer words have not been spoken! Loved the “take” on labor to motherhood being the hardest thing we ever do/accomplish! Grandma Mac (the originator of that phrase would also approve. ) Love YOU fiercely…….and you can come cry on my shoulder and always receive a big hug ANYTIME.

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