I know a mama who felt complete when she became a mother, even though she thought she felt complete before.
I know a mama who feels lost in her life at home with small children after she gave up her career to be there.
I know a mama who tries every day to be the kind of woman she hopes her daughter will grow up to be and every night that mama lays awake detailing all the ways she failed.
I know a mama who pays for childcare just to get some time alone.
I know a mama who can’t afford childcare, who is launching a small business while her children build Lego spaceships around her feet and watch more TV than she wants to admit.
I know a mama who thinks she’s too tired for sex every night, until he kisses her like that and changes her mind.
I know a mama who hasn’t had sex since before her toddler was born and is relieved that he’s stopped asking.
I know a mama who stands in the world a warrior, who is raising two wild boys with her heart wide open. Those boys will be lucky to find partners who will parent their own children that way, and those partners will be lucky to be loved by those boys who were taught to love with their hearts wide open.
I know a mama who has lost her boundaries and no longer knows how to tell her child, “No,” when he runs wild over her.
I know a mama whose children always play quietly and who taught them to read before they were three.
I know a mama who swallows tears every time she has to fill out a form that asks, “How many pregnancies? How many living children?”
I know a mama who has lost every pregnancy.
I know a mama whose babies were all birthed by other mothers.
I know a mama who considers getting pregnant again, but who has perfectly balanced pro and con lists and each day that passes past her fortieth birthday tips the list more toward con.
I know a mama who had her tubes tied after her third child so she would not be tempted to have more babies.
I know a mama who told me once, sitting in the sand at the park with her toddler, that having two kids is so much harder than she thought it would be, and she wishes she’d only had one.
I know a mama with Multiple Personality Disorder, another who is manic-depressive, and another who wonders, every morning when she takes the three black pills that keep her steady, how her depression is hurting her daughter.
I know a woman who loves her stretch marks because they remind her that she carried her babies inside her body and another who only undresses in the dark because she hates the marks and scars of childbearing so much.
I know a mama who once walked out of the bedroom, through the front door and straight into the street when she felt the urge to strike her child’s soft cheek rising like a tide in her chest.
I know a mama who left her sons with their father on Christmas Eve and never came back.
I know a mama who creeps into her child’s bedroom to stand in the dark and watch her sleep.
I know a mama who took her children and left the house with only the clothes on their backs because that home was no longer safe for them.
I know a mama who wakes in the night and considers dragging a blanket and pillow into her child’s room to sleep on the floor because across the hall feels intolerably far away.
I know a mama who schedules weekends away from her family a few times a year and doesn’t feel guilty about it at all.
I know a mama whose joy lifts at the sound of her man’s car pulling into the driveway.
I know a mama who lives for Monday morning, when her husband leaves the house.
I know a mama who lives for Monday morning, when she gets to leave the house and go back to the world of her professional life and away from the children she loves, but who make her feel out of control and bewildered.
Some of these mamas are me, and maybe some of them are you. These mamas are all of us. The potential for each of them is in each of us. Each of us experiences mothering in a way that is somehow simultaneously unique and universal.
What kind of mama are you?