If there is any event that would cause you to feel the true weight of motherhood upon your soul, it is going to the zoo in August with a one-year-old. I could go on and on about why this is the case. But I think I'll spare most of those details because anyone who has a child will already know exactly why and anyone who doesn't have a child might just stop reading because it would probably take me three paragraphs to list all of the items that are necessary to bring for such an outing.
A few days ago, Evie and I experienced this very adventure with a group of our friends. There were four of us mamas with our four strollers, which housed our four little ones as we caravanned ourselves through the different exhibits in what felt like 100-degree summer heat, dodging other moms with strollers and pointing excitedly at giraffes and zebras and wallabies (sometimes our babies were excited too). For the record, wallabies are super cute.
It was awesome. And hot.
At one point, I think it was when we were searching for the manatees (and the air condition), I started thinking that this was such a mom thing to do. I thought that, yes, I must really be a mom now because here I am at the zoo with my other mom friends (two of whom are pregnant) and my stroller and my sweaty baby, handing her grapes from a plastic container I brought from home.
But I didn't feel like a mom. Truthfully, most of the time, I just feel like a person with a baby. There are many times I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing, and I feel about as far from that motherly feeling as I could be. On the outside, I must look very much like a mom, what with all the gear I bring everywhere and the small person usually attached to me in some way. But on the inside I really just feel sometimes like I was plopped down here in Motherhood, The Movie, without a script on how I'm supposed to be feeling about it.
As we continued our quest to find those manatees (It was slightly tricky to find the entrance to the exhibit, let me just say), my friend, who is expecting her second child very soon, agreed that she doesn't often feel like a mom either.
And I wonder why this is. Why we are both clearly mothers but don't feel like mothers at all.
I think there is something to the idea that motherhood is built up so much in our heads. We have access to so many blog posts and articles in magazines and stories in books about how profound and wonderful and even spiritual giving birth and raising a child can be. I can scan through so many stunning photographs on Pinterest of mothers in perfectly delicate dresses with flowers in their hair standing in gorgeous nurseries holding their blessedly sleeping babies, motherly feels just shooting out of their eyes. I can also find photos of moms in fantastically rustic fields gazing upon their children, and I just know by looking at them that they feel motherly.
I realize these images are not real life. But something in me still believes I should feel constantly how these people look in the mere second it took to snap their photo- filled with a sense of motherly purpose and satisfaction and beauty.
There are times when I do feel this way, don't get me wrong. I love being a mom. It is filled with so many moments of joy and laughter and awe.
But, as my most current motherly photo shoot hints at, motherhood is messy and hectic and frazzling probably most of the time.
I get poop on my fingers a lot. And it doesn't even bother me anymore. I hardly ever do my hair. I get really, really excited about play dates because I get to interact with people. I often fail in cleaning our house on a regular basis. I often stare at my daughter and wonder why in the world she is fussing at me. I worry I will somehow ruin her without even realizing it. Sometimes I forget the paci when we need it most. I am always learning as I go.
I have a hunch that I feel more like a mom, than I think I do.
After all, isn't this what it's all about? Learning and growing and worrying and doubting and laughing and crying and snuggling and struggling all wrapped up into the jumbled yet beautiful mess that is motherhood. I feel like I want to laugh and sob and smile and pull my hair out and sleep and kiss my daughter all at the same time.
And this is exactly how I'm supposed to feel.
This is exactly how we're supposed to feel.
Women full of beauty and full of mess.
As we left the manatee exhibit and headed to find some lunch, we passed by a mom who had attached a portable fan to her child's stroller.
"Now, she's a mom," my friend said to me as we both chuckled, a little in awe at this mom's stroke of brilliance.
And you know what, we are too.
But we might just need to steal the fan idea.