Emptying That Makes Us Full

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you amazing women who make me both a better mother and a better person! For all of the emptying you do, may your hearts be full today! ~ love, Lara

After the aerobic chase of cajoling my teenager into a 15-second photoshoot to memorialize the first day of his senior year in high school, I comfortably settled myself back into my morning routine. Only my husband kept interrupting my coffee euphoria by lamenting how sad it was that our son had reached this milestone that would leave us empty nesters in a year’s time.

“It’s so sad. Aren’t you sad?”  he repeatedly asked.  Half-jokingly I responded, “I’m always sad.  So today is just another day for me.”

And, while I don’t really think of myself as a sad person, I have long recognized the loss that comes with motherhood. It’s been a long journey in grief that began sometime around the loss of my belly button during pregnancy. I’ve been grieving the first of countless lasts since when only mere days after their birth the umbilical cord, the lifeline that once tied their lives to mine, unceremoniously crusted over and lost itself under the rumple of sheets. From there, the lasts continued without any fanfare of formal goodbyes. There was the last time I nursed; the last time I read them a good night story; the last time they slept in bed with me; the last time I packed a lunch; the last time I volunteered in the classroom; the last time I patiently waited while bored in the toy aisle; the last story time at the library; the last time I carried them on my hip; the last time I spent weeks planning a themed birthday party.

I could write volumes on the lasts of motherhood and yes, it would make me sad. But because I’ve been told that it’s important to get out of bed in the morning, I try not to look back. Still, I recognize the inherent imbalance in parenting. Sometimes it feels eerily akin to a bad middle school crush where you live, breathe, and surely would die for that cute boy across the room. Only he meets your unmatched devotion with a vague and indifferent acknowledgment of your existence that is somehow associated with being fed.

It hardly seems romantic, much less fair. But motherhood was never meant to be a two-way street. It’s inherently a giving away of self. It’s sacrifice and sleepless nights. Motherhood is exhaustive and exhausting. It’s frustrating and formidable. It’s all the scary and confusing words you can muster and then a few more that exist in some unknown-to-you language experienced as stomach spasms, migraines, mental breakdowns, or garden-variety heart attacks.

When your newborn spikes a fever, your toddler crawls out of their bed for the umpteenth time, your middle schooler struggles with making friends, your teenager does something epically stupid that’s immortalized on social media, or your adult child experiences a profound loss that you can’t fix, you realize just how much words fail to capture the spectrum of patience, unconditional love, and black coffee which motherhood demands. Being a mama is not a frilly experience of poetic endearment. I’ve never seen a greeting card that describes the supernatural strength, courage, endurance, and overwhelmingly raw ache that it encompasses.

And yet, being a mother has allowed me to experience the deepest most joyful love I’ve known. The emptying of self we experience in motherhood fills us with something far greater. Mothers embrace sacrifice with an uncanny enthusiasm to unravel the best parts of ourselves so that our children can be wrapped in the silky threads of our love. Becoming a mother fundamentally and unalterably changes our identities. Motherhood isn’t about putting our children’s needs before our own, it’s that inexplicable way that their needs supersede our own. No matter how fulfilling or engaging my other life pursuits are, none of them can erode the core component of my maternal identity.  Foremost, I am a mother.  I have a primal need to nurture, protect, and ensure my children’s future.  Whatever I must lose to accomplish that, I lose with joy. This isn’t an either/or experience of good or bad; easy or hard; happy or sad. It’s ands that go on forever linking the coexistence of love’s joy with the sacrifice and loss it entails.

I may get less of them as they grow older, but they remain the biggest part of me. So, whether it’s their first day of school or their last, I’m used to being sad. But the paradox of motherhood, of love itself, is that in the end, this sadness, emptying, and sacrifice ends up being one more thing to be happy about. So, yeah today is just another day for me.

8 thoughts on “Emptying That Makes Us Full

  • May 15, 2023 at 11:38 am

    Thank you for that. It made me feel not so alone in how I’m feeling.

    • May 16, 2023 at 6:14 pm

      Alexa- sometimes I think that’s why I write. It makes me feel less alone too. I am so blessed that you are part of my village.

  • May 15, 2023 at 8:14 am

    Wow Laura that was a perfect summation of motherhood. Thank you. I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day. But fyi the best is yet to come when you hopefully one day get to hold your first grand baby. 😊

    • May 16, 2023 at 6:13 pm

      Kathy – I hear that is true!! I can’t even imagine! It’s a blessing that God always gives us something else to look forward too!

  • May 14, 2023 at 10:44 pm

    Lara, You move me so and surely help me remember “those days” so many years ago.
    You say everything so beautifully, often times bringing me a smile, and definitely moving
    my heart…BIG TIME!
    Our Lily was confirmed on Saturday by that simply perfectly wonderful Bishop Puhlmeyer (let me not forget handsome and beautifully spoken!) And this grandmother was Lily’s sponsor!
    She took the name Mary Magdalen – my dear Mother’s name (who was simply called
    “Mary”.) I can see her beautiful smile hearing that news from our dear Lily.
    I’m heading to bed, but think I’ll read your beautiful story once again. XoXo

    • May 16, 2023 at 6:12 pm

      Marilou! What a glorious gift that precious Lily has been confirmed! And for you to be her sponsor is beyond a blessing for all of you. I love That she took the name Mary too! And what a beautiful way to honor your own mom. Reading all of this has really made my heart full.

  • May 14, 2023 at 3:19 pm

    Wow! Lara, this is perfection. I’d love to read it out loud to Ryan as we’re on I95 with just the two of us in the car but the knot in my throat won’t let me speak. ❤️❤️❤️

    • May 16, 2023 at 6:08 pm

      Thank you, Lindsey! I appreciate your generous comment and love that you get it. The scope and depth of motherhood is so hard to articulate but it’s so important to know that we all travel in the same glorious and sometimes rocky boat!

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