> Family > Heart of Matter

What Motherhood has Taught Me

May 9, 2021 | by Debbie Gutfreund

Becoming a mother is the hardest choice I've ever made. And by far the best.

Despite counting my mom and my daughters as being amongst my closest friends, we once had a Mother's Day fiasco.

We were at a beautiful restaurant in Manhattan for brunch. It was a gorgeous day. But I had teenagers at the time who were unhappy and complaining about their phones, their schools, their clothes etc. My mom was sympathizing with them as any grandmother would. And then a few different arguments broke out at the table just as the waiter was approaching to take our order.

One adult made an insulting comment about another’s career. One of the kids declared that he wasn’t hungry and just wanted a soda; one of the grandparents told him he needed to order a meal anyway. Then another adult ordered a margarita even though it wasn’t yet noon which earned him a look of disapproval from his parent across the table. “I’m an adult, I’ll order a drink when I want a drink,” he announced as the waiter stood helplessly by, not knowing what to write down.

Then one of the teenagers piped up, “And I'm almost an adult and should be able to buy the phone I want.”

I apologized to the waiter. “Mother’s Day brunch isn't usually like this. You must think we’re crazy.”

“No worries," the waiter said. "I've been seeing this all day today. Must be something in the air.”

It took us a while to recover from that brunch, but we were fortunate because we had solid relationships that could withstand a stressful Sunday morning. Family was family even if it was sometimes challenging. And I didn’t expect motherhood to be about bouquets of flowers and champagne brunches. I know that becoming a mother is the hardest choice I have ever made. But it’s also by far the best choice that I have ever made.

At the worst times of the pandemic, there were days when I questioned almost everything. I questioned my career choice. I questioned where we lived. I questioned beliefs and ideas and assumptions that I had made long ago. But there is one thing I never questioned through the hardest of days and that was the love and gratitude I have for my children.

Watching all of my children playing and laughing in the kitchen after dinner wasn’t something to take for granted.

During quarantine I whispered a heartfelt thank You every morning that all of our children were home again. In a world full of so much uncertainty and pain, there was one thing I knew for sure. Watching all of my children playing and laughing in the kitchen after dinner was a miracle. It wasn’t something to take for granted. And it has made me think about what motherhood has taught me over the years.

Humility. You can do everything right as a parent and still have everything go wrong. You can also do everything wrong as a parent and have everything go right.

Parenting has taught me the real meaning of humility. I make mistakes and I learn to admit when I am wrong. I learn to say I don’t know when I don’t know. I learn to let go when life can’t meet my expectations. I learn that I can’t control what happens but I can control myself. I learn that I can’t always make my children feel understood but I can try my best to understand. I can’t always make them happy but I can always let them know that they are loved.

Humility is learning to cherish our relationships without needing them to be perfect.

Endurance. In the final miles of the Boston marathon, I didn’t know how I was going to take another step. It had already been three hours of running in the freezing rain and the last of my energy was slipping away. But the inner strength that got me to the finish line wasn’t from the months of training that I had gone through before the marathon or from the early mornings that began at 4am. Instead I found myself thinking of the birth of each of my children.

The newborn wonder in their eyes. The awe I felt looking at their tiny fingers and toes. I had five miles left to go, and each remaining mile I dedicated to one of my children. To the babies they were and the amazing children they had become. To their first steps and first words. To their first days of schools and graduations and all the other milestones in between. For them I could endure a thousand sleepless nights and a thousand miles to reach any finish line. More than anything, motherhood has taught me that when I think I cannot go on, I can.

Gratitude. Being a mother has taught me a very special kind of gratitude. It’s gratitude when I first wake up in the morning and have the privilege of making a hot breakfast for my children. It’s gratitude when I pick up the phone to hear my daughter’s voice from college. It’s gratitude for being able to create a home that isn’t perfect, but that is safe and warm and full of love. Being a mother has taught me that these are not small things. Having your family all together is not a small thing. Having healthy, growing children is not a small thing. Having both the privilege and responsibility of raising children in this world is not a small thing. It’s a miracle so astounding there are days I cannot even begin to grasp it.

I thank God for my mother, for my children, and for the miracle of motherhood. I thank God for the miracle of family, even if it means some crazy brunches, with or without flowers.


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