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What we don’t talk about when we talk about becoming a mother

We shouldn't stop talking about the hard parts of motherhood. But we should also talk about the fun parts.
If I had a thousand lifetimes to live, I would choose to be their mother in every one.
If I had a thousand lifetimes to live, I would choose to be their mother in every one. TODAY Illustration / Courtesy Rebecca Dube

You’ve heard about the bloody nipples from breastfeeding, lack of sleep, hair loss, stretch marks, crying (yours and the baby’s), judgment from strangers — and then, if you get through all that, you get a teenager who’s addicted to their phone, right?

I mean, yes. Valid. But shhh, lean in close, here is the REAL secret about motherhood that no one tells you:

It is so much fun.

It’s true. And I’m not in a post-childbirth endorphin haze. My kids are 10 and 14. We’ve been through some stuff. And still, in addition to being the hardest thing I’ve ever done, being a mom is the most fun I’ve ever had.

We talk about the hardness, in blogs and social media posts and TikToks. I’m not sure people know about the fun. I hear from young people who are scared to have kids; and yes, it is scary and hard and awful. And then at moments, it’s wonderful and fun and pure joy. Sometimes it’s all those things at once. It’s confusing, to be honest.

Do you know that feeling, when you were a little kid, of laughing so uncontrollably that you would literally fall down? If I explained it now it wouldn’t seem funny, but there was a time when one of my kids could shout “chicken nugget!” in any context and we would just die laughing. Laughter that makes your knees weak and your face hurt from smiling. I didn’t get that super-often in my adult life. Until I had kids.

My kids and me when they were younger.
My kids and me when they were younger.Courtesy Rebecca Dube

Do you remember the moment, as a child, when you tried to play dolls or army guys for the last time, and you realized you were too old for it? The magic had gone. And as much as you might want to disappear into that world of imagination and make it fun again, you couldn’t.

Having kids means you get to go back. The door opens again for you. You get to see through their eyes, and it’s surprising and bizarre and yes, magical.

The amount of things kids don’t know is endless. You have to teach them how to pee in the toilet (that’s hard). How to use a spoon. How to put on pants. How to say please and thank you. When they get older, how to drive (really not looking forward to that one). 

But you also get to teach them what a sunrise looks like when no one else is awake. How to dive under a wave at the beach and pop up, salty water dripping off your face in the fresh air. How good it feels to sing along loudly to your favorite songs in the car with the windows down and the stereo cranked up. How nice it is when your dog is curled up on the sofa sleeping and you go curl around him like a big croissant. You get to share all the things you love with them. And they’re not going to love all of them. But some of them, they will.

My family at a New York Mets game.
My family at a New York Mets game.Courtesy Rebecca Dube

And then, one day, they’ll discover their own things that they love, things that you couldn’t teach them. They’ll play a new Taylor Swift song on their guitar. They’ll draw something spectacular and weird in art class. They’ll pitch in the big game against some 6’4” 12-year-old called Moose. They’ll do things that you can’t do. And you’ll think, “That’s my kid.”

A generation or two ago, it was taboo to talk about the hard parts of motherhood. Women were shunned if they said true things like “breastfeeding is hard” or “having a baby is often mind-numbing boredom mixed with moments of terror.” That’s why we talk about the hard stuff, and it’s important that we do; we shouldn’t stop talking honestly about motherhood.

I just want to make sure people know it’s also really, really, really fun.

We shouldn’t stop talking honestly about motherhood. I just want to make sure people know it’s also really, really, really fun.

Recently I drove my son home from a sleepover, white-knuckling my way through sheets of heavy rain, and he fell asleep about 30 seconds into the ride home. I looked in the rear-view mirror and thought, wow, to be 10 years old, asleep in the backseat with Mom driving you home, comfy and warm as raindrops drum on the roof of the car — that is some top-tier sleep. 

The memory of falling asleep in a different backseat as my mom drove home washed over me in a soft wave, and then I realized: I’m the mom now. I’m the one giving him that feeling. He won’t remember this moment, but 40 years from now he might hear raindrops on the roof of a car and for reasons he can’t quite explain, he’ll feel happy and safe and content. I gave that to him. I am responsible for that feeling. And that feels pretty great.

Being a parent is chaos, but a lot of times it's fun chaos.
Being a parent is chaos, but a lot of times it's fun chaos. Courtesy Rebecca Dube

Please don’t take any of this as me telling anyone they should have kids. God, no. If you think you don’t want kids, or you think you do, you’re right. It’s such a personal decision, and I can’t tell you the answer any more than I could tell you what you want to have for dinner. Honestly, I am still not sure what I’m doing with my own life — I definitely should not be in charge of yours.

And I know there are systemic barriers to motherhood in the U.S.: the maternal mortality rate, the lack of affordable child care, the shoddy support for mothers. That’s all terrible, and we should fight to change it. But this isn’t a campaign speech; this is how I feel going through the world as a working mom of two kids.

Moms are not sugar-coating reality anymore, and that’s a good thing. But part of the reality is that motherhood actually is sweet. Let’s not hold back. For me, it was worth it. It is all worth it.

If I had a thousand lifetimes to live, I would choose to be their mother in every one.

It’s hard, and I mess up every day, but I know one thing for sure: I love my children more than anyone in the universe. There’s a power to being loved like that, and there’s a power to loving like that. No matter what happens, I loved them well. And I’m glad I did.

Bloody nipples and all.