On Motherhood and Gratitude

I am in the days of feet pounding on the stairs, of sticky hands on freshly cleaned surfaces, of dogs scratching at the door to go out and then in and then out again.  I am in the days of leaving a store in disgrace, trying to wrestle an uncooperative toddler to the car without dumping the contents of my purse all over the parking lot.  I am in the days of need voiced loudly at all hours, the days of stubbornness and tantrums, of belonging to everyone else first.  This is the season of young motherhood, and the soundtrack is the relentless noise of obligation, ringing off the walls in every room.

In these days, when the silence doesn't arrive if you don't find it, make it, dig it out yourself, all the noise becomes a way of life.  And in these days, even quiet isn't as quiet as it used to be.  Even when the toys have stopped squawking and the dogs are napping on the couch, the should be's are rattling around like tins cans in your head.  I should be starting another load of laundry.  I should be cleaning up the kitchen.

Some days, I think I'm ruined for everything.  I feel stir crazy when I stay home, guilty when I go off to work.  I wish for a night out with my husband but spend the whole evening uneasy when we get a babysitter, my mind still at home with the kids.  The noise makes me jittery, distracted, but somehow it feels that life is supposed to be noisy these days.  The quiet feels false, unwarranted and manufactured.  I am in the season of noise, after all.  What kind of bravado must a young mother show to carve out a quiet space all her own, when she does not really belong to herself in these days?  The noise is too loud and the quiet is not quiet enough.

And truth be told, though it wears me thin, I love it.  I don't want to be able to turn off motherhood like the volume on a speaker.  It is not an inconvenience that keeps me from myself.  It is a miracle, and an honor, and if anything it makes me a more fully realized version of myself every day.

I am in the days of kissing little boys' feet fresh from the bath, as they come to me wrapped in hooded towels, smelling head to toe of some candy-scented soap.  I am in the days of children fighting for a spot on my lap, the days of hearing the chorus of mom mom mom in two part harmony from the back seat.  I am in the days of watching a child learn to speak, hearing the words come together clearer and clearer every day.

This is the season of wiping noses, brushing little teeth with Spiderman toothbrushes, crouching down to dress them and being the shoulder held on to while they pick up one leg at a time and slide it into their pants.  This is the season of breathless stories about sauropods, counters littered with coloring pages, floors sprinkled with a Lego minefield.  This is the season of being someone so enormous to two people, so larger than life, that in some ways they will never get past it.  This is the season of being irreplaceable.

I come to this idea of daily gratitude, constant gratitude, like an eager student.  Tell me how this works.  Show me how to be grateful through and through, how to look at the world through a lens of thankfulness. Show me how to stop taking so much for granted.

But in motherhood, I am an old hand at gratitude.  I cannot look at these boys I carried inside me and see anything but miracle.  Every finger, every toe, every freckle, every hair.  They are wonders to me, wonders that I cannot believe I had any part in creating.  I do not ever grow accustomed to the mystery of life, the miracle of birth.

And I am in the days of new wonder still, the days of kissing tear stained cheeks and rocking tired bodies. I am in the days of clanging noise that sounds instead like a song, a rich and complicated melody that echoes even out into the stillness.  I am in the days of belonging to everyone else first. This is the season of giving life, and then giving and giving and giving life, day in and day out.  This is the season of giving thanks with my hands, of bearing their weight in my arms or falling to my knees before them, anointing them with tears and washing their feet.

{This month, I am writing on the topic of gratitude, keeping a gratitude journal, and generally wrestling with that insidious tendency to think there is always something missing. I hope you will join me in this month of giving thanks.}


  1. Words cannot express how much I love this and identify with it. Loved it.


  2. Spot on and oh so beautiful, Liz. As I find a moment of "quiet" to read this while my girls rest and my son is in school, all of these things you mention fill in the absent noise. A mind that is never quiet. A job that is never done. A heart that is eternally grateful.

    I echo the previous comment. Thank you for sharing this.



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