This week, my two year-old daughter and I went over for a play date to the house of a friend from my theater days. She was always a professional dynamo, but, as you might expect of someone in the arts, her personal life had whirled in disarray (think Holly Golightly getting dressed). Yet here she was in the playground with a plethora of healthy snacks organized in mini-Tupperware. Back at her house, she swiftly prepared dinner for everyone -- big and small -- including a chicken she had poached that morning and whipped into some of the best salad I've ever had, complete with fresh Tarragon. The house was clean and bright. And no stockings were stuffed behind the couch pillows.
Another friend of mine was chronically, epically late to everything in her twenties. We could only meet for movies where they'd let you leave the ticket at the box office. She only saw the second acts of plays -- and forget dinner. One of her less charitable friends said they'd have to start her funeral an hour late or she'd miss that, too. And then she became a mother, and abruptly after that, a single mother. She was working full-time and taking care of an infant on her own. When I went to visit I asked her how she did it. "I lay out everything the night before so we just have to step into it -- Jetsons-style. Her diaper bag for daycare is packed for the day. And we are out the door by 7:30. Because I have to be."
A third friend of mine had a beloved disregard for her appearance. Always lost in her head, she might not change shirts for several days, and was usually sporting enough stains to make bullion. Not anymore. "It was good enough for me," she said. "I didn't care. But I couldn't let my daughter's mother walk around like that."
I share these stories for the women out there who wonder, "How will it all work?" Who think, "I can't be a mother, I can't even remember to water the plants."
I killed a lot of plants in my day, but my daughter is very well hydrated.
Which goes to show that there is something magical about motherhood that expands us. Expands our definition of ourselves. The impossible becomes possible. We thrive on less sleep, less sex and fewer breaks than we ever thought we could. That same force that enables a mother to lift a car off her child also gets you through singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider for the three-billionth time.
In the years leading up to motherhood my partner, Emma, and I wasted a sick amount of time worrying about child-rearing breaking us apart, destroying our shared career -- or our friendship. If someone had told us that becoming mothers would make us more efficient writers we never would have believed them. Yet, in the last fourteen months we've written three books. Because we had to. And we're closer than ever because we're bonded by the same exhaustion -- and the same joy.
So, if you're wracked with apprehension because you fear some lack within yourself, I would encourage you to take a leap of faith. I think you'll amaze yourself.