As little girls we are given pretty little dolls to play with in order to nurture our natural motherly instincts. Sometimes the dolls would cry, perhaps even wee their tiny plastic diapers. We would nurse them with bottles that magically refilled themselves, feed them with plastic food that never had to be prepared, and bathe them without fuss. Best of all, when we were tired of playing Mommy, we simply put baby down for a nap and walked away until we felt like playing again.
Boy, were we conned!
Betsy Wetsy never had explosive diarrhea that could peel paint from the walls. She never vomited down the back of your silk suit on your way to work. Cute little Betsy never screamed all night while teething or from colic. Bottles don’t magically refill or wash themselves while your sweet little baby howls her sweet little head off; food must be warmed to just the right temperature and even then there is no guarantee that Baby will eat it. And bath time is seldom simple and quiet; no, it is usually a loud wet mess. But, the biggest lie came from the allusion of escape: we cannot walk away when we feel like it; Baby’s naps do not last for days or weeks; we’re lucky if they sleep at all.
We should sue Betsy Wetsy for false advertising.
The reality of motherhood is that from the time we conceive until our child leaves home, we are bound by our maternal instinct to nurture, protect, and love our child, even if they act like the demon seed. When they throw tantrums in the candy aisle, when they scream that they hate us, when they hide their vegetables behind furniture, we still love them and care for them. Our instinct is to protect even when they want to throw themselves in the face of danger, such as trying to fly off a third story balcony. We strive to ensure them that they are loved even when they treat us like the plague of humanity. We provide them with what they need to survive and be healthy even when they are demanding laptops and drum sets and cell phones and $50 for a hoodie at the mall. And we don’t walk away (not that we could) from our role as mother even when we are about to pull our hair out and run screaming from the house because our child has taken up smoking, comes home with multiple piercings, and lies to us about even the most mundane things.
Motherhood is more than the God-given instinct to nurture, love, and protect our young. It is also an innate need for persecution and punishment. We must all have a martyr complex. And strangely, we would do it all over again.