When the Rose-Colored Glasses Come Off

When you are young, as with so much of life, you look to motherhood with a strong shot of romance and a healthy side of idealism.

mom and babyA co-worker brings a new baby into work, and everybody crowds around, oohing and ahhing at that amazing little miracle of life…and all you see is chubby cheeks and warm baby snuggles. (Not the tears–your own not the babies–and the 10th dirty diaper of the day or the growing mound of poo bespeckled laundry–again, not just the babies.)

You see the proud glow of a mother who watches her child achieve the winning goal, the special award, the winning medal…and you think of how brilliant your child will be and how proud he or she will make you. You see the look of pride you will wear and the look of envy the other mothers will shoot in your direction. (You don’t see the stress of playing chauffeur, the many dinners eaten in the car, the tears and arguments when said child doesn’t want to go to practice or is over-tired when practices translate into late, late nights of homework)

crying-babyYou see the mother soothing an adorable toddler’s tears away…(aww…isn’t she cute? —No, not really. After the fifth meltdown of the day, that cute baby voice is starting to sound like nails on the chalkboard and that little, red, howling face is the thing of nightmares)

To the young (and naïve) all of these inspire feelings of longing, a desire to be a participant in that moment, to be the mother, to feel the tenderness and pride. The rest of it is unknown or ignored. The rose colored glasses are on and the pictures of family bliss overshadow the known realities.

Maybe not everyone feels it, but many, even most, do. I sure did.

Outside_Looking_in_by_M_photographyI remember, before I was a parent, the longing I felt for a child. I remember the fear that I would never find a man I wanted to marry, or who would want to marry me, and the fear that I would never experience that–that I would be left on the outside looking through the shop window at what I couldn’t have, watching other women experience those moments. I would be on the sidelines–watching, wishing, but not participating.

For me, I got to experience this not once, but twice. I did meet a man, and we fell in love, and we had a beautiful, gorgeous, perfect little baby, and I felt the joy, the tenderness, the rush of pride, only to bury my beautiful little girl a year later.

Those moments on the outside looking in were all the more painful after that. Those mothers had what I had had, only it had been stolen away from me, and I feared that I would never have it again (the risk involved was just so great). I felt by turns angry and bitter, but most often, I despaired. What if, having known what being a mother was, I never got to be one again?

I remind myself of that frequently these days, so many years of chaos later. I remind myself of how much I wanted this, and how I almost didn’t get it.

When I lost Serena, I thought I knew what being a mother was. In fact, I thought I had a better picture than most, because I had experienced the joy being a mother was, but also the devastation it can bring. But the truth is, I didn’t really understand what being a mother was at that point.

look_at_life_through_red_tinted_glasses_by_andela1998-d68zvuuDespite losing Serena, I still wore rose colored glasses. My eyes and my heart were full of the tender moments, the warmth. My mind was filled with remembered snuggles, and the memory of that unique baby scent, the soft cheeks and that perfect little nuzzle spot just between the edge of the jaw and the neck…

I had not yet experienced the daily grind of parenthood. I hadn’t faced the discipline and arguments, the tears and “I hate yous,” the endless emails to teachers to try to turn zeroes into passing grades, the wrappers on the floor and bookbags in the doorway. These were not something I knew.

I didn’t yet understand that to be a mother was to put one’s self in the back seat, to place another completely and entirely above oneself. I did not know that it meant that my life would be filled with mundane moments of caretaking, or that the peacefulness of silence would be something I only fondly remembered, but never experienced.

I did not know that my wants, my needs, my own desires would be in such subjugation to the needs and wants of others.

I didn’t understand.

I wish I could say that I always handle it with grace, but I don’t.

I wish I could say that losing Serena makes me always remember to appreciate the gift I have in my children, but it doesn’t.

I wish I could say that I never feel angry, or bitter, or resentful of all that I have given up for this dream of motherhood, but that would be a lie.

I do feel resentful sometimes. Sometimes I’m angry. Sometimes I lose patience. Sometimes I wish that I could travel the world like I did before. Or I think fondly of a time when my to-do list wasn’t so long that it went straight out the door and wrapped around the block. There are those moments.

mom-daughter-share-ice-cream-607496-printBut there are also the other moments. The love, the tenderness, the laughter. There is the knowledge that I finally understand what the Bible is talking about, to truly put someone above yourself, to be willing to lay your life, not your death, but to lay your life down for another. That is so much harder.

That is motherhood–day in and day out.

It is grace. It is selflessness. It is sacrifice.

It is not perfection, but being able to admit when we’re wrong, and to keep trying when we want to give up, and sometimes loving the unlovable until they are lovable again.

I am not a perfect mother, but my children are perfectly loved, and everything I gave up cannot come close to everything I have gained from having them in my life.

I am lucky to be their mother. It is a privilege–sometimes I have to remind myself of that, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

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12 thoughts on “When the Rose-Colored Glasses Come Off

  1. This is Elizabeth from one of your psychology classes.
    Seeing as I am still in the phase when I’m wearing those glasses, this definitely scares me. I mean, I’m a nanny so I experience the ups and downs of children, but I didn’t bear them or live with them. I’m constantly thinking, “wow, I would love to have a child call me mommy and love me like that”. However, I’ve seen how hard it is to be a mom. You lose the ability to be selfish for a day and you’re never really alone. Your romantic life can easily disappear if you’re not careful, and your social life follows the same trend. There are so many things you give up to be a mother of father, but I can’t imagine my future without having a child.
    Yes, children are difficult, annoying, selfish, disrespectful, and exhausting. However, they are loving, resilient, giving, innocent, and a blessing. I understand why some people don’t want children, but I think they’re missing out on something that is uniquely wonderful.

    1. I completely agree! They are the best thing in the world even though we have to give up so much to do it right. I think we learn and grow so much through the process. Definitely worth it–even if we sometimes have to remind ourselves of that! 😉

  2. This is Elizabeth from one of your psychology classes. MWF 12:00-12:50
    Seeing as I am still in the phase when I’m wearing those glasses, this definitely scares me. I mean, I’m a nanny so I experience the ups and downs of children, but I didn’t bear them or live with them. I’m constantly thinking, “wow, I would love to have a child call me mommy and love me like that”. However, I’ve seen how hard it is to be a mom. You lose the ability to be selfish for a day and you’re never really alone. Your romantic life can easily disappear if you’re not careful, and your social life follows the same trend. There are so many things you give up to be a mother of father, but I can’t imagine my future without having a child.
    Yes, children are difficult, annoying, selfish, disrespectful, and exhausting. However, they are loving, resilient, giving, innocent, and a blessing. I understand why some people don’t want children, but I think they’re missing out on something that is uniquely wonderful.

  3. Good morning Professor Graham, wonderful blog, this is Lloyd Jacobs General Psychology C05. I am not a woman, but I am married to one. We have been married for three years. Day in and day out I see the way my wife looks at newborns, the way my wife watches a new mom, and the way my wife watches me play with my nephews and nieces. My wife and I definitely want a family, but never see eye to eye when the opportunity arises. We can never find the time, we could never have enough money, and the world around us is never fit. I long for the day to become a father, and be the one supporting my wife through the entire process. Life changes equally for mother and father, and both need to have gone through these changes equally together. I can relate this blog to Chapter Eight when it deals with mental image. I have never had a child, nor have i ever had a tragic experience when it came to losing one, but my mental image from others who have, is very humbling. Knowing what can happen scares me more than what will happen.

  4. Haylee Guerra
    Gen Psych CO5
    I can relate to the happiness and deep love that you have for your kids because of my daughter. I have never lost a child, and thankfully I was blessed with a healthy baby. I guess we just take having a healthy child for granted because there are so many things that can be wrong and go wrong. I couldn’t imagine losing a child and I applaud you for being able to go through it with such strength and grace. Being so young and seeing my friends go out and have fun does make me get jealous sometimes, but then I turn around and see my little girl sitting there and I remember why i’m going to school and keeping my priorities straight. This was an amazing post!!

  5. I want to say that I never had those rose- colored glasses because I would look at a baby and think of all the sleepless nights and dirty diapers and constant back pain. No, thank you! I don’t want to be dragged down by children but on the other hand, wouldn’t it be amazing to have a small version of yourself? People always say the sacrifices they made were worth it to be a parent. I don’t see that way. Maybe once I’m lonely and all my friends are married maybe I’ll buy a pair of those glasses but till then it just gives me a headache to think about all the stress. Those rose-colored glasses you talk about is similar to an illusion in psychology to where it’s a false sense or misleading perception of being a parent. There are always those few that see the reality.

  6. You could say that I am that young -never been a mother- women who swoons over babies in the grocery store (I admit it). I adore them, but leave me to babysit for more than a few hours and you can bet I’ll be texting the mother every five minutes asking when she will be home. I love the idea of bringing life into the world with someone I love. To pass on our genetic inheritance to another offspring and give them 26 of my chromosomes. I think the idea is beautiful. Emphasis on “idea”. Luckily because of today’s society through social media, family, friends and shows like Teen Mom I’ve come to understand that motherhood is of nothing in the rose colored lenses. It’s actually terrifying. Mothers are not only here to pass on genes but they’re here for us through every up and down to provide their maternal instincts for nurture and guidance. Like my mother and grandmother always say, “I would walk through fire for you”. – this I believe to be an example of Genetic Memory.

  7. Hi professor this is Madisen Lorenzo.

    This has been my favorite blog to read so far, because it is true for so many. I would say I still have on my rose glasses, however I do understand the challenges that come along with children as well though I do not have any of my own. I am the oldest sibling of two boys, who are currently 10 and 6 years old. While I am only 17 I still live at home for about 4 more months. This means I do get to experience some crying over going to practice, backpacks on the kitchen table, and endless papers everywhere that teachers send home in their yellow folders. I do remember growing up with them and even as a big sister having to change many diapers because my step-mom was in nursing school and my poor dad could not handle child poop. Of course I know my place of just being a big sister but I can say I’ve put them to bed and changed their diapers. This small experience for a while made me never want to have kids. I’ve seen the tantrums that go on for no reason, no thank you! However just recently I was visiting with my aunt who just had a newborn in January, has a 2 year old, and another 20 year old. She taught me that it is almost like an instinct, as a mother you just know what to do in hard situations. She also said she felt as if she relearned to be a mother since her first 2 kids are so far apart in age. As I have gotten older of course I want my own kid, I do have that joy to be a mother some day (years from now). I also do understand that mothers are human too, there is stress and mistakes but that is ok to grow and learn more with a child. The accomplishments seeing their child succeed, are rewarding for the mom.

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