Motherhood is an interruption.
I was young and running regularly when I first got pregnant. I thought for a hot minute that I was just going to keep on running through the pregnancy and let this whole baby-growing process interrupt my life as little as possible. But then we lost our first pregnancy to miscarriage. I knew it wasn’t my fault and that running didn’t cause the miscarriage. But it shifted something in my heart and mind: I suddenly *wanted* to have my life interrupted by a baby. I gave in to the gradual slowing down that comes with being pregnant. I enjoyed it.
Little did I know, this was just the beginning of the interruption. Babies interrupt sleep, meal time, leisure time. They turn into kids who interrupt conversations and any plans that involve leaving your baby-proofed house.
And then all of a sudden I found myself willing to interrupt my career. I loved teaching and had finally gotten to a point of real confidence in the classroom because I could see how my influence was helping students grow as writers and readers. Then I left.
And even after I thought I’d given up quite enough, thank you, my children continued to interrupt my plans. I sit down to write or read or think or eat and then… well, you can probably guess.
As a stay at home mother, my job is mainly to be available. I think frequently of the Room of Requirement in the Harry Potter series, which transforms into the room you need it to be at the moment. I am the Mom of Requirement and I shapeshift throughout the day. I need to make meals, so I become a chef. I need to keep chaos at bay, so I become a housekeeper. I need to restore peace, so I become a referee. Some days I need to drop all my other plans and be a nurse to sick kids. Any plan I make for the day is always subject to dramatic interruption.
It’s not easy. I don’t have the “stamina for being overlooked” (as Zack Eswine calls it) that seems to be the most important character trait for contentment in motherhood. I’m driven by a restlessness that tries to offer me ways to escape the mundane work I do at least once an hour.
Rather than coming to terms with this over the years, I began to grow more frustrated. When was I going to get back to the other life? My real life? In my mind, I still saw motherhood as just a brief detour before I returned to being who I’d been before.
This year has been a slow revelation that there is no other life to which I can go back. I will likely work again full time, but it will never be like it was. I think I’ve spent six months trying to put this into words and this is the best way I know how to say it: what I thought was the interruption has become my life.
I love my kids. I have no regrets in any of the choices we’ve made in the last decade. And yet I realized I had to let go of some little private dream I had that we were all going to adjust so I could just go back to being myself.
Someone told me motherhood was like a little switch you didn’t know was in you. All of a sudden, the switch flips on and you’re a mother. If you’re anything like me, you scramble furiously for mothers to model yourself after, picking and choosing through memories of your own mother, grasping at advice from friends or authors or strangers on the internet. You surprise yourself with what you already know. You become a new version of yourself, with traits both familiar and unfamiliar.
I know there will never be another decade as precious as the one I just lived where the lives of my four babies simply revolved around me. And I know that I can’t flip the switch off and become the version of myself who had never been a mother. My children have added complexity and richness to the narrative. They were a plot twist I chose even though I had no idea how that would change the plot arc of my life, really. But now as the hands-on years have begun to come to a close, I find myself, with both a sense of excitement and a little existential dread, wondering “Who am I now?”
All the little interruptions have accumulated into joy. The children who disrupt my plans have become more important to me than the plans. All the planning and all the interruptions to the plans led up to this moment.
I’m taking time to look at the pieces of my life and try to figure out what the plan is from here. All the interruptions led me down a path I didn’t plan for myself. Because I trust he Lord, I trust that all these interruptions were given to me as a gift. I accept again the wisdom of Proverbs 16:9, that “The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.” All of the interruptions brought me here, so the path I followed must be the one the Lord has established.
My plans will continue to be interrupted; but that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to make them. Somewhere between the plans I make and the interruptions the Lord allows lies the path forward. And along the way I want to find joy in my ordinary life like my Grandma, who learned as an adult how to paint scenes of her life and scenes of beauty she imagined. I want to be a passionate amateur like a friend’s mother, who made a life for herself as a poet after all her kids were grown. I want curiosity and an appetite for beauty to interrupt the mundane. I am learning a creativity and flexibility from all these years of interruptions that will serve me well for years to come, I hope.
Motherhood is indeed an interruption and may there be many more like it.