Look, I hate clichés as much as the next person. There are few things that get under my skin more than when I am dealing with a crisis and someone throws out some cliché like, "this too shall pass," or "what's meant to be, will be." With that being said, becoming a mother has opened my eyes to a world of experiences that sometimes, for better or worse, can only be summed up with a cliché.
Motherhood brings about an onslaught of emotions that cannot be defined. At the risk of sounding cliché, it is unlike any other feeling that you've ever experienced. I realized the true complexity of these emotions the other day while in the car with my husband. We turned our daughter's car seat forward facing for the first time, and the subsequent car ride went something like this:
Me: Can't you feel that?
Husband: Feel what?
Me: Can't you feel the difference in the car since she is forward-facing? I swear I can sense that there's a change.
Husband: Sure. I can see her when I look back, is that what you mean?
But it wasn't what I meant, and it wasn't what I felt. I could sense, in my insides, that she was more vulnerable. Every time we braked, or stopped, or came close to another car, I felt it. It had nothing to do with the physical change in the car, but everything to do with the change in her vulnerability. I could sense that she was more exposed. There is no name for that feeling. There is no official word that describes how a mother feels when their child is vulnerable. At the risk of sounding cliché, it's as if everything she feels, I feel three-fold. If she feels vulnerable or is experiencing a change in routine, I feel that three times over.
Maybe there should be a separate dictionary for all of the feelings, emotions and actions that a mother goes through, beginning with a revamp of these four words:
Love. The first word that should be redefined is love. I love my husband. I love my friends. I love my job. But to use the same word to describe how I feel about my daughter seems to almost trivialize the feeling. The way a mother looks at her baby is the only way that love is ever really understood by others, and even that leaves way too much out. At the risk of sounding cliché, you really don't know love until you hold your baby in your arms for the first time.
Worry. Ever worried about something until it completely took over your thoughts? Typically, you are able to turn that worry off at some point. Not when you're a mother. "Worry" takes on a whole new meaning when it is referring to your children. At the risk of sounding cliché, it's like that old saying, "When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child."
Sleep. It is not so much the lack of sleep that is bothersome as the type of sleep a mother gets each night. Ideally, when your eyes close, your body slowly drifts into a deep sleep, REM cycles begin and you wake up feeling refreshed. Not a mother. A mother closes her eyes and though her body may be at rest, her senses are certainly not. Every cough, sneeze, wiggle, moan or grunt a child makes throughout the night is heard and sensed by a mother. You never really "sleep," you just sort of exist in this in-between sleep and awake state for a few hours. I have forgotten what true "sleep" feels like. At the risk of sounding cliché, a mother truly sleeps with one eye open.
Multi-tasking. Not only can a mother multi-task, but she brings it to a whole new level. It's a juggling act of making lunches, driving carpool, running errands, being in several different places at once and not missing a beat. At the risk of sounding cliché, there's an old Yiddish proverb that says, "God can't be everywhere, therefore he made mothers." Mothers have mastered the task of not only being everywhere, but being everywhere and doing everything at once.
A dictionary of terms associated with motherhood would not be complete without the loving nicknames we all give our children, the words they make up that become part of our daily vocabulary, and, of course, certain expletives that fall out of our mouth when we think little ears aren't listening.