I've met a lot of moms. I've heard their stories, attended their pregnancies, caught their babies and watched their children grow.
Through it all, I've heard the same declaration over and over and over again.
Sometimes it comes in the form of a wail or a sob. Other times it presents as glazed-over eyes and a third cup of coffee before noon. And sometimes it's nothing more than a deep sigh. The tone is different, but the message is the same—
Motherhood is hard.
Not 'wow this is kinda tough' hard.
Motherhood is raw-soul-baring-ly, down-to-the-core shaking-ly, I'm-not-sure-how-I'm-still-standing hard.
When I talk to women about birth I tell them that there's comfort in knowing that it's supposed to be hard. Nature designed this feat for us to persevere through. No matters how birth happens, we are warriors on the other side of it—I think that's on purpose.
But motherhood is not supposed to be this hard. It was never supposed to be easy, but I don't think it was supposed to be like this. Mothers are exhausted to their cores. They are unsure of themselves. They are scared.
And I don't think it needs to be like this.
What if mothers didn't ever get to the feeling of desperately needing a moment designated as 'self-care,' because self-care was woven into the tapestry of our daily lives, without guilt or even thought?
If we listened when our bodies told us to rest instead of powering through to achieve some notion of perfection that doesn't even belong to us.
If we cut our to-do lists down to the essentials that were actually essential. And if that list left ample room for enjoyment and moments of quiet and nothing.
If we ate food that fed our souls, not calories that don't fill a daily quota.
If we had a glass of wine to celebrate a day well-lived instead of to numb the defeat of a day basically survived.
What if mothers could make choices about our lives without the incessant doubt and “are you sure's" swirling around us and permeating every step, thought and feeling?
If mothers didn't have to choose between a career we love and spending time with our children. If we could choose CEO and PTA.
If we could choose to stay home without the need to defend that choice to the “what do you do all day" side-eyes.
If we could say words like 'homeschool,' 'au pair,' 'attachment parenting,' 'big family, 'only child,' 'me time,' and 'my choice' and have those words just be‚ without question or judgement.
What if, from the moment a woman finds out that she's pregnant, she received health care that gave her the message that she is important?
If she could choose the place and type of birth that she knew was best for her, and proceed with confidence.
If her healthcare providers could have a manageable number of patients, with just a tiny bit of breathing room, so they could spend time talking to her, informing her, supporting her.
If she had access to birth classes, breastfeeding support services, and information that sought to validate and empower her, not to instill fear and doubt.
If she was encouraged to heal after birth instead of to 'bounce back.'
If she wasn't told “yeah that happens" when she complained of painful sex after giving birth, or roaring emotional shifts, and instead given connections to people who could and would help her—today, not “at the next available appointment."
What if mothers were looked to as the voices of love and compassion and reason in a world that's seemed to relinquish those aspects of our humanity?
If mothers didn't have to explain the words 'hate' and 'phobia' to children who don't yet know how to read.
If a mother didn't have to fear for the safety of her child—STILL—because of the color of his skin or the subject of his love.
What if we stopped making mothers feel guilty? About everything.
What if motherhood didn't feel so lonely?
What if motherhood wasn't so hard?
What if we are the generation to stop saying 'what if,' and start saying 'here's how'?
Here's how I am going to weave self-care into my daily tapestry—and encourage others to do the same.
Here's how I am going to make choices the complete me, that serve me.
Here's how I am going to demand access and care and support for the things I need. Here's how I am going to help my fellow women find it too.
Here's how I am going to make sure I am a voice in this world, and not an echo. Here's how I am going to be a voice for those who's voices have been taken away,
Here's how I am going to stop feeling guilty.
Here's how I am going to find my village.
We're not changing the discourse overnight. It's taken a lot to get us here, it's going to take a lot to reverse course.
But by taking one step, by solving one problem, by flipping the script on one dialogue, we can start.
We have to make motherhood better. And we can.
We are here, fellow mothers. Now let's show them how.