How’s Motherhood?! Did you really just ask me that?

I wrote this a few months ago but was too shy to share it. Maybe these particular nerves feel less raw this morning. For some reason, today, I feel like parading my naked self around. That will pass and I’ll soon be struck by a wave of publishing-remorse and go searching for the Great Undo Button in the Sky. Then more time will pass and I’ll turn 70 and no one will really care.  I read a post today that said the big fear gap we need to cross is not between doing bad work and doing great work, but doing something instead of nothing at all. For some reason that inspired me to stretch…

People ask. “How’s it going? You know… How’s motherhood?”

My responses change, depending on how well I know them, how much sleep (or wine) I’ve had…Sweeter than I expected, goes one. Too complicated to have distilled into a 2 sentence soundbyte yet.  Steepest learning curve ever. Boot camp for Buddhists. Can’t believe I ever thought a zen meditation retreat would be fun. I thought I’d come up with the perfect answer the other day: like learning to see in the dark. But when I sobered up, even I didn’t really understand what I was getting at.

Lost and Confused Signpost

I’ve been trying to pin words to this experience for eight months now…

and last night, sometime between 1 and 2am, this occurred to me.


I am continually perplexed by what a slow learner I am. I think I know something, and yet it keeps coming at me, and I’m all “I know, I know,” and the universe is like, “yeah, but Lisa, you don’t really KNOW this yet.” Oh, cellular adoption required. Okay. As you were.


So, this is another one of those. Becoming a family, becoming parents, becoming a mother… all these things for me have been like an immersion program in learning another language.

Like being dropped in the middle of Paris with a 25 year old guide book and an impractical pair of shoes (that seemed “Paris” worthy at the time.)

Yes, I was woefully underprepared.

It has been foreign. Daunting. Dizzying. Brain-melting.

But also, an adventure upon which, I have discovered, I didn’t need anything apart from myself. My Self. Whatever I’ve managed to pick up along the way thus far.

It’s stunning, glorious, mindblowing, unexpectedly romantic.

My eyes are drying out because they’re peeled back so wide just from the wonder of it.

(And maybe the sleep deprivation contributes. But even Paris at night is wondrous, right? And you know you’re not going to be here for long.)


Now and then, it makes me head hurt. Every now and then, it’s like, holy shit, this is hard, everything being so new and foreign and strange and difficult to translate. Every now and then, I have moments where I’m like, god, could I just go somewhere quiet and safe where everyone speaks English. Where I am fluent. (I miss being fluent.) Instead of grasping for the right word, all the freaking time.

(And there are places like that… I think they’re called mother’s groups. I haven’t hit one up yet. But I suddenly get it. And I also get why new moms always seemed to have the most inane conversations about diapers and feeding and sleep and schedules… because SO FUCKING MUCH has happened to you, so much is swirling, so much is transforming, that you just grab a safe anchor. And poo is safe. Whereas the way your marriage is shifting around, the way your relationship with your own mother or your self or your body is shifting around, is moving and mysterious and hard to put a finger on and changing every day and you suspect it’s deeply different for everyone, but you’re pretty sure it’s all up for grabs, and that all makes them tricky things to talk about. At least, they have been for me. So, diapers and sleep schedules offer a kind of a safe place for conversation…)


I’m also discovering that every now and then, like learning a language, something suddenly clicks and stops being hard. It happens so seamlessly, you don’t even realise that suddenly, you’re able to order meals. Or suddenly, you’re able to read all the street signs. Or suddenly, you’re dreaming in another language. You don’t notice, I think, because you’re onto the next big learning. But every day, you’re becoming fluent, you’re being transformed. It just, for me, takes a while. (I know, I know. No, Lisa, not yet.)

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Caroline says:

    My mom, in her 70s, gave me a a simple but incredible gift when I was pregnany with Liam.
    A rock with the word PATIENCE on it.
    Sometimes I’d like to throw it through a window but whenever I pick it up, I smile, breath, count to ten.

    1. Lisa Richardson says:

      This is my new mantra, Caroline. “Think of the windows. Think of the windows.” (Some fanatic installed soft-close doors and drawers in our entire house, so a person can’t vent their patience-loss by slamming a single thing.)

  2. Anik Champoux says:

    No one has described this experience for me better than this post. When I was 16 years old I plopped myself in Austria to attend an all German Austrian high school for an entire year not knowing a single word of German or anything about Austria. One would have thought that I would have prepared beforehand… but I didn’t. As the months trickled by suddenly slowly and thankfully things became clearer, the language, the culture, how to get around, how to look less foreign.

    Now exactly 20 years later I’m faced with another foreign cultural, linguistic experience (motherhood) that I had at the very least 9 months to prepare for…but I didn’t. (Actually had to learn that it’s not 9 months but 40 weeks).

    Anyways, everything you described is what I have been feeling but couldn’t quite explain? It’s the hardest most magical thing I’ve ever been through. I’m glad you decided to stretch and share. Thank-you! Looking forward to some diaper chats, or maybe even God forbid something deeper….

    1. Lisa Richardson says:

      Anytime you want to talk poo (in German or otherwise), I’m all yours. So excited for you. And thanks for taking the time to drop a line. And read the post. That would be your entire allowance of personal time today. My God. Thank you.

  3. perrine rhodes says:

    I hope you don’t find the delete burron. This is just right. You nailed it. I still look for my words in english every day, I still try to understand whatvthe heck is in a 5 year old mind. And when you think number 2 will be easy because you’ve been there done that, you get crushed by a giant boulder with “did you really think you had it all figured out?” written on it! I don’t think it will ever be easy but you have to appreciate these moments when everything goes so smoothly and use them as stepping stone.
    Shey just turned 2 and is a little terror. I had one of these moments tonight. He was overtired, screaming, not wanting to go to bed or do anything. I just wanted to shove him in his crib, shut the door and pretend he wasn’t there. Instead I picked him up, put my mouth against his cheak and started to humm a melody. He calmed right down, cuddles me for a few minutes and I laid him down in his bed. Not a word, not a sound. I felt like a rockstar tonight!

    1. Lisa Richardson says:

      Baby-whisperer! Nice work. That’s such a beautiful image to take to bed with me (and into the future, to try and remember, when I think I’ve got nothing left.)

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