This First Person piece was written by Sage Yathon, a mental health advocate who lives with her husband and two kids in Regina, Sask.
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If you complain about hating a job, your friends might tell you to quit. If you complain about motherhood, the world will tell you that you’re ungrateful and that children are a gift.
Motherhood is seen as a woman’s choice. If we don’t enjoy it, that’s our fault. Even the woman in the grocery checkout line will go out of her way to tell you that motherhood should be cherished, every moment absorbed with gratitude.
But motherhood does not feel like a gift. For me, motherhood feels like a thankless job that I’ve been tricked into doing for free. I have two small humans running around my house breaking my things, yelling in my face and pulling my hair.
My legs are covered in tiny bruises and scratches. I fight my way through each day, grasping for my sanity, barely making it to bedtime.
Motherhood is not worth it.
This is why I struggle to find the right way to comfort anxious and expectant mothers. I try to be completely honest with how messy and raw motherhood can be. I do my best to deliver the truth lightly, but I never know what to say when they ask, “so why do people have kids?” or, “what makes it worth it?”
I search for the same answers in parents of children older than mine. I’ve asked them and the answer is always vague. They say things like “it’s all worth it” or “it’s rewarding in ways that you can’t imagine.”
What is so rewarding? Why the hell do we do this voluntarily? I beg for the answers. So far, no one has given me a satisfying response.
I’ve been a mother for a few years now and I’ve started to develop my own answers.
Babies don’t sleep, no matter what you do. But that smell on the back of their necks? Holy s–t.
Toddlers don’t eat, matter what you try. But when they tell you how much they love you? Ugh.
Kids don’t listen, no matter what books you read. But when they draw their first self portrait? Damn it.
This is why we do it. We love these little monsters.
The love that lives in my body because of my children — that is my reward as a mother.– Sage Yathon
I remember loving my son so deeply when I first met him that the fear of losing him was overwhelming. If I loved him that hard, losing him would be even harder.
The reward for my hard work is that I get to love someone so much that my heart aches. I swear I would swallow my babies whole if they’d survive it.
My favourite smell in the entire world is my kids’ sweaty summer skin. I love them in a deep disgusting way that most parents just don’t talk about.
This reward is impossible to see when you’re in the thick of it. The benefits are not visible in the day-to-day routine of parenting.
The reason we do it is we get to love our children. We are lucky to have the opportunity to love them. We have been given access to this intense love that is inside of us.
Having kids unlocks a section of your heart that is filled with a thick syrupy type of love.
If you were to hold up the difficulties of parenting to the rewards of parenting, you wouldn’t find balance. They don’t weigh the same. They aren’t even made of similar materials.
In the tiny moments of calm between motherhood chaos, I get the chance to feel the love I have for my kids. It happens when my daughter stops playing to come give me a really long hug, and when my son’s eyes start to fall closed at bedtime.
Motherhood is not equal to the work I put into it. The love that lives in my body because of my children — that is my reward as a mother. This feeling won’t make the hard parts of parenting any easier to navigate but it is my reason for carrying on. This job can really suck, but I know that I would miss it if it were gone.
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