How do you explain an experience to the uninitiated? I use analogies.
I grew up in San Diego. The weather was glorious, but every December I wondered about snow. Snow, and other seasonal trappings, were not a fixture of my childhood. I saw snow romanticized in many books, movies and holiday specials. I saw Olympians playing in the snow. I heard stories from my mother and grandmother about snow. Occasionally classmates would tell me about ski trips that were SO FUN.
I’ve managed to dodge snow pretty solidly for most of my life. Sure I’d seen it. I even tried cross country skiing a couple of times in college. I thought I knew enough about snow to form my own opinions of it.
Then my family of four moved to Colorado. Snow has become a regular fixture of our winter and spring. Yes, snow can be pretty magical. Waking up to three inches of snow outside is beautiful, even exciting. Playing in the snow can be fun–sledding, forts, snowballs are all good times. Snow feels festive for celebrating many winter holidays. Valentine’s Day has 10x the warm fuzzies when snow is falling. Good times and good memories are had in the snow.
But now I also know that snow is exhausting. It’s often disgusting–muddy or yellow. Shoveling snow is back breaking work. The gear required to play in the snow can be a nuisance to find every time. Something is always missing or someone is always growing out of something. And after people have lost their third pair of waterproof gloves, it can start to get expensive. Snow is uncomfortable–it’s cold and wet, at times dangerously slippery. Driving in the snow makes me anxious and takes so much longer. Some might say that I’m missing an opportunity, but I’m not about to put chains on my tires and sit in hours of traffic, trekking into the mountains to risk broken bones in ski classes. We Trents are not a coordinated bunch, and we’ve already broken plenty of bones learning to ride bikes.
By this time every year I’m over snow. I’m ready for sun and shorts. I fantasize about scorching hot days, and eating ice cream. Catch you later, snow flakes.
Motherhood is like snow. It has its moments of magic, but the day in and day out involves a lot of extra work and extra gear. It is exhausting. The realities (which can be muddy and yellow and all kinds of ew) of motherhood are glossed over. The entire prospect of mothering is often highly romanticized (Don’t get me started on what a “mother’s love” is supposed to be able to accomplish). It is stressful. It feels like it will never end. It’s meant to be a season not a life sentence. Like snow, some people enjoy mothering more than others. And like snow, shelter and respite are essential to its enjoyment.
Motherhood is like snow.
Even if you enjoy snow, there is a limit to how much time you can safely spend out in it. We don’t sleep, and eat, and live in snow drifts. You come inside and cozy up, eat good things, and rest after a full day of snow play. No one says this is selfish or a luxury. This is just what must be done, if you want to continue to enjoy the snow.
I feel like modern mothering is akin to being outside in the snow 24/7. Modern life has stripped us of resources that are essential. I know there used to be villages that pitched in to raise children. I remember the village I was raised in–the support my mother could lean on. That village has been replaced with the belief that I can be everything and everyone for my children (or I can buy my way there).
So when I say, “Hold on. My hands are getting numb. I don’t think I’m supposed to be out here in the snow indefinitely,” I’m told, “No, this was your choice! You can come inside after you’ve been in the snow for 18 years. By then you’ll actually miss it!” Or “You are enabling the snow. Teach it independence and then you won’t feel so cold.”
I love my children. I am proud of them. They, like all children, deserve a village. I am their village despite my attempts to build them something better. I haven’t given up, but I am tired and crying foul on the sentimentality that abounds on days like Mother’s Day. Stop giving moms a single Sunday heaped with romanticized nonsense and start bringing your snow shovels to this problem. Because for some of us, mothering is not a simple snowstorm, it’s a freaking blizzard, followed by an avalanche, followed by more blizzards. Stop romanticizing the work we do, and help us figure out a way to come in from the storm on the daily.
What do you think? Are communities doing enough to help moms? Are you a fan of Mother’s Day? Leave a comment below.