Motherhood is is both enormous and tiny. It is made up of emotions so unwieldy that I can’t put them into words, and of moments so small I would miss them if I blinked (and I’ve surely missed millions). Sometimes the feelings are so giant I feel swollen with them, taut, tight, very much like I was in the last trimester of pregnancy. Sometimes the minutiae is so small that it seems impossible to hang any meaning onto it, and every time I am surprised when somehow, the hook actually holds.
For me, motherhood is more than one facet of the human experience.
It is the prism through which all of life is seen.
In my struggle to make sense of the moments of emotion so overwhelming I feel as though I’m jumping off a tall pier into the ocean, or ducking through the heavy downpour of a waterfall, I turn to the page. I read the words of others and I write and write and write, circling the same topics, over and over again. I cannot fit my arms around the enormity of it, no matter how I try. And as soon as I think I have, it expands, changes shape. Motherhood is a balloon expanding all the time and floating upward; I watch it above me, face tipped up, standing in the shadow it casts.
For the tiny, the minute, I don’t have to look any further than right here. The moments flutter like magnolia petals around my feet, stunning, short-lived, and quickly turning to brown mush. When I write about them I’m trying to memorialize them in their pink beauty, their spring perfume wafting off of them in waves. Motherhood is running into Michaels in a suit on the way to a meeting to grab a gingerbread house kit so that your daughter can make it that afternoon. It is sleeping on the top bunk on robot sheets because the resident of the bottom bunk was having a bad dream. It is muting your conference call to advise on a homework question about fractions. It is rushing home from visiting your mother in the hospital to have your daughter confront you about not spending enough time with her. It is losing track of time while writing your son a birthday letter and then hurrying to a meeting with red eyes and the sheepish look of someone who’s clearly been crying. It is missing your children with a visceral ache while they are at school and then, within five minutes of their reentry to the house, snapping at them to “keep it down!” with a surge of aggravation.
Big and small. Tiny and huge. Overwhelming and underwhelming. Tears and laughter. All of these tensions, some of them cliches, exist in every single day for me.
Some parts of this post were originally written four years ago.