You know it’s going to be full-time; 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of your life. You know beforehand that no formal qualifications are required, and afterwards you’ll know that many are needed and on-the-job training is certainly provided.
But there’s no position description for being a mother. Nowhere to say you’re going to be tired for five years. No-one tells you that the baby that just smiled at you for the first time is, in a few years, going to make you madder than you’ve ever been. Nothing is written anywhere to say that some days, bed time won’t come quick enough, and once the kids are in bed those evenings, you won’t have the energy even to do the dinner dishes. That every ounce of your physical and emotional being can be consumed until you feel like there’s nothing left for anyone else, not even yourself.
No-one warns you that your children will see you in the toilet or shower as a captive audience. And that if you ever get to the supermarket alone, you won’t be sure whether to go slowly and enjoy it or go quickly to get back.
But if there was a job advertisement that stated all that, there’s no way it could possibly describe the rewards and remuneration. To an applicant, they’d only be words.
How could they tell you about the love you’ll feel for these little creatures that are half you and half the one you love—and the miracle of that alone. The disbelief at how you got the best kids (you know when a Mum sees or hears their child do or say something and they laugh and take a quick look around to see who else saw what a gorgeous/clever/hilarious child they have). The pride at their achievements, the joy at hearing them laugh.
They can’t tell you that the same day you leave the dishes until the morning, you’ll sit at the computer and look at photos of your kids. Or you’ll go in and sweep the hair from their faces before you go to bed yourself and you’ll forget everything from that long day.
Every once in a while those two-curly haired girls suck the life out of me, but every single day they fill it with so much more. They shifted the centre of my universe. They’ve taught me more than I thought there was to know. Shown me love I didn’t know existed, feelings I’ve never felt and challenges I’ve never wanted more.
So whatever it is I’m doing now, washing the dishes, making them finish their meal or hurrying them along at bed time, I can take comfort that I am doing my job. I wanted this job. To be a mother. And it’s only once you have it that it’s possible to see or know why.