Rachel Jankovic wrote a wonderful post with a helpful mothering metaphor here. After thinking about motherhood for a while, I thought of another metaphor, one that initially struck a tiny bit of fear into the humanities-loving heart of mine. Motherhood is like math. Not in the sense of counting the days’ dirty diapers, totaling hours spent nursing that week or how much coin operated laundry is going to stretch our budget, though these things do happen.
Ever watched a five year old working on addition? The average newbie is probably going to have a hard time lasting long. They’ve never been tested before. Everything seems really, really hard and traumatic and they would much rather go back to playing with trains and blocks. Tears may come after five minutes. And then, just by the time they start to understand this most simple form of mathematics, BAM! Subtraction hits them out of the blue. But eventually, over the years, a mathematics student learns how to sit still. They learn how to figure out a problem. They learn more complicated problems, word problems, algebraic formulas. They think back on how easy addition and subtraction actually were and laugh at how worked up they were over simple multiplication tables. But that doesn’t mean that those problems weren’t hard in the moment. Less complicated, sure. But still hard. And these lessons learned were necessary before moving on.
I’m only on my first baby, but from things I’ve observed I think motherhood is a lot like this. I’ve received several well-meaning comments to help or readjust my perspective, something along the lines of, “You think one baby is hard? Try a newborn AND a toddler!” I have no doubt that I will face a whole new set of even harder challenges if God blesses us with more children down the road. But that doesn’t lessen the intensity of what is happening for first time moms. We are learning simple addition, and that can be a huge challenge.
It is tempting to get overwhelmed while thinking about things getting harder in the future. It seems hard enough right now to make it to the store with just one baby. But I’m still working on 1 plus 1. By the grace of God (and the encouragement of my husband and friends), I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, it’s all in a days’ work to rejoice over these “simple” days. Calculus can wait.