“I need a break,” is a recurrent echo in my thoughts, bouncing around when my joints are achy & my feet are grimy from floors I haven’t washed.
To stop. To breathe. To take time for myself; it is both encouraged and discouraged by the sphere of women, universal.
And there have been moments when I have articulated my secret ache, only to find myself shot in the heart with an arrow of shame.
“They are only young once.”
“Remember, they are a gift.”
Stating a sharp truth to a hurting mother is not a balm to her heart. It is isolating & guilt-ladening. It is neither freeing, nor inspiring.
They are only young once, that is true… Any mother with a child over 2 knows the adorable, quotable, slightly-garbled variations of vocabulary sharpen every day. Every human knows the ache for yesterday. For Should Have. Would Have. Could Have, & the bulging swallow of guilt that is “…but didn’t…”
We know they are gifts & are not to be taken for granted. We know Mothering is an honour, & that life is fragile & children are precious. Many of us know, intimately, the bloody tears of a hollowed womb shed for the baby it should still be growing, protecting; & the dryness of eyes too worn to produce more tears, mingled with a heart so bruised it shocks us at its ability to beat. We’ve known the face & shape of the child delivered, but never born.
As a culture of women, we need to stop speaking out of both sides of our mouths. We say Mothering is the Hardest Job, but inwardly shame those who are struggling in its trenches. We say take time for yourself, but make cruel statements about those who do. We need to stop compartmentalizing one another.
It is possible to be Grateful For & Overwhelmed By at the same time. Every soul knows this, & we need to stop pretending this isn’t reality.
Life is too complicated for poorly-timed clichés. I am beginning to understand that most sharp truths are to be given only after much thought & prayer; from one close friend to another & delivered with much love.
We need to remember each of us is vulnerable. To another’s opinion, yes, but mostly our own.
If the culture of women were to shift its gaze away from the mirror & off of the clock, we could stop choosing self-protection in preference of solidarity. When we meet another in her weakness, with gentleness, love, & compassion, we are given the honour of truly knowing her, and helping her live more freely in skin, knowing she is, finally, understood.