A picture of a cut-out heart, in shadow.

My Heart, My Shadow

Motherhood is impossible.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that? Why didn’t anyone sit me down and tell me that no matter what I do, it will feel like either too much, or not enough. There’s an extreme Goldilocks syndrome in this business. But the kicker? Just Right is elusive, and mothers spend their lives searching for it.

How am I supposed to keep this up, oh, forever?

Children, it turns out, are not like pets. It’s not as easy as food, shelter and a good scratch behind the ear. Who knew? Children, it just so happens, have to grow up and become functional adults. And mothers? Well, we’re kind of expected to hold it all together in the process.


No, this isn’t news. Not really. My children didn’t magically appear one day; there was some effort – and time – involved in their arrival into this world. And it’s not like I was unaware of the great responsibility that comes with parenthood. I’ve posted before about my efforts to prepare my children for the real world. I knew what the gig would entail.

And yet, I’m still a little surprised.

Nobody explained that I would frequently (daily?) feel like my heart was splattered all over the sidewalk.

That’s why I think there should be some pre-work required for everyone considering motherhood. There needs to be a Heart Test.

The Heart Test

Step 1
Wear your heart outside of your body, attached to another living thing – your dog or cat will suffice – for one week.

Step 2
Lodge heart securely in your throat, so that it feels like you can neither scream, nor swallow, nor cry, nor speak. Practice holding your heart in your throat for one-hour increments, three times daily (or more if you can take it) for one week.

Step 3
Allow someone else, preferably a near-stranger – someone that you know on a surface-level only – like a teacher or coach, to rip out your heart and throw it against a wall.

Oh, but just surviving Steps 1-3 of the Heart Test is not enough.

Next up? You have to face your heart with a smile, a hug, and wise words of comfort. You have to look that heart right in the eye and assure it that all is going to be okay, that you are going to make sure all is okay by arming your heart with all the necessary tools to make it in this world.

It’s not over yet, people.

After scooping up your heart and piecing it back together, you will then need to do the following: form coherent sentences when speaking with other adults, make meals for your loved ones, do the laundry, have a relationship with your spouse, hold down a job, fill out forms, do more laundry, drive carpools, referee play dates, maintain some sense of who you are, do more laundry, build meaningful relationships with friends and relatives, schedule doctor’s appointments and dental check-ups, build dioramas out of shoe boxes and sugar cubes, and do more laundry.

If you can hack all of that, then can you become a mother. If you can’t handle the pre-work, then you’re a big, ole sissy and you don’t need to be shaping young lives.

Some days I feel like a sissy.

I wonder…

:: Did you have realistic expectations of parenthood? Who helped you understand what you were in for?

:: When was the last time someone stomped on your child, your heart?