I think I was around twelve years old when I first pictured being a mom. The typical one boy, one girl scenario. I picked out names, chose their eye and hair color. Very much like a designing your own Cabbage Patch doll.
Now that I have been married for nearly a year, the question has started to repeat itself ad nauseam: “When are you having children?”
We have talked about it. We have considered schooling options. Where would we raise them. Where would I give birth. My 12-year-old self is picking out paint colors for a nursery. Meanwhile, however, my 29-year old self is wondering if I have lived life fully enough without children.
My husband is a traveler. I had only been out of the country once prior to meeting him and in just four years, we have visited three continents together. Our last trip was to the Philippines. A 36-hour journey from our home in Puerto Rico. We spent most of our trip on boats, motorbikes or on foot. It was on our nine-hour flight from Tokyo that it hit me: Would I still get to do this if I had children? Would I still get to travel? Would I still experience adventure? Booking a flight on a whim, figuring out where you were sleeping that night just hours prior, meeting new people from around the world. Would I be missing out? Was I ready for a child? Could I handle it?
As I begin to think about children, carrying a new addition in my belly for nine-months and welcoming them into the world, I wanted to know what makes motherhood worth it. Would the blessing of being a mother overshadow any regrets or fears that I may have for my career or traveling the world? So I asked mothers within my family questions about what it was like to be a mom.
My sister-in-law is a blessing to my brother. She has truly brought so much light into his life and has welcomed two beautiful girls into their family. As a new mother and one fairly close in age, I wondered how her life as a career woman has changed with the birth of her daughters. I asked her what made her happiest about being a mom and she responded with what I can only read with a smile:
“I have a new feeling of happiness as a mother. It happens when I witness my daughters having an epiphany, experiencing unfiltered joy or excitement, and expressing love. It feels like a rush of heavy happy hormones in my chest; oxytocin.”
I have struggled with happiness for much of my adult life. The pressure of “finding” happiness as if it is under a rock somewhere. It gives me excitement and hope to experience the true heart warming feeling of witnessing the happiness of your child even in the simplest, everyday occurrences.
My godmother was my mom’s best friend in college. She has four children of her own and a steadfast history of providing me with notable advice on the occasions we get to catch up. I asked her, what her favorite part is about being a mother:
“I love the people my children have grown into. I bubble up with pride and awe over their depth and curiosity and compassion. I am completely fulfilled as a mom knowing that I am blessed to have had a part in their lives and in instilling the value of family, community, respect, tradition, generosity and work. Being a mom makes me happy to my core. It's a forever calling and I am very happy I haven't been fired yet! I am happiest when I am connected to my children and they are well, safe and content.”
Fulfillment as a mother. I have always defined myself by my work. I realize now so many flaws in that rationality. Being a mother is a calling. It takes work. It takes more dedication than I know and it takes the utmost amount of selflessness that is truly humbling to witness.
Finally, I asked my own mother about being a mom. I know that when my mom had me, it was in her vision to be a stay-at-home mom. Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) the universe had different plans. In the end, it wouldn’t have worked out any other way. I asked my mom her favorite part about being my mom:
“Knowing that I did an acceptable job when given the honor and responsibility of caring, protecting, teaching, and loving a new addition to this planet, and watching them become a positive contribution to the human race. Most of all, I felt needed.”
Acceptable is an understatement, Mom. I have always struggled with the notion of feeling a part of something bigger than myself. Feeling needed. I could think of no better way to leave a lasting impression in the world than in welcoming life. Truly embracing the gift that is childbirth and the honor and privilege it is to shape the life of a child. If that isn’t living life to it’s fullest, I’m not sure what is.
My aunt recently shared a black and white photograph of my great grandparents on a road trip along the west coast from Washington to California with their two young sons. Their 1910 Model T had a pop-out cover where they would cook their meals and they wrote each day in a travel diary that my dad still has today. I suppose if they could handle that journey 100 years ago with two children, I should be able to manage any adventure travels still on my list with my child on my back.