Oh, we all know what it is. If you are not a mother yourself, than you were certainly born of one, and that gives you ideas of what it's like.
There is media, advice columns, parenting books, classes, your friend, your neighbor, your sibling, children's books, grown-up books. movies, shows. There are message boards, there are coffee venting dates, impromptu gatherings of moms.
You look at it, and you think you know what you are getting yourself into. If I take the right class, buy the right gear, follow the right parenting guru, my child will turn out allright and I will reap a large amount of satisfaction in knowing that I did everything just so.
Bu then reality hits. The baby hates all the gear except for one ratty blanket of unknown provenance. The baby will not eat, will not sleep, will not be soothed no matter what you do. The toddler will not walk on your schedule. The 2 year old will not potty train. The 3 year old thinks naps and rules in general are for wimps. The child gets ahold of scissors and damage ensues. The school age kid gets into fist fights. The preteen sneaks junk food and video games. The girl pouts, the boy sulks. The teen rolls his eyes and pointedly ignores anything leaving your mouth.
And you question everything. And you doubt yourself, but not before you yelled yourself hoarse.
What is missing in our parenting culture is the conversation about the small still voice. It is your voice, the same voice that shed tears of happiness for your child at some point or other. It is the softness of a baby that fell asleep in your arms and you held him just a bit longer than necessary. It is the cuddle of a daughter's body on the couch, snug under the blanket. It is the innocence of a child trying to make something "just for you, mommy". (I just deposited two bouquets of wild flowers in the garbage can because I missed that small still voice moment yesterday when I was presented with them). It is not the glowing all perfect family enjoying breakfast in bed. This still small voice is the genuine feeling, possibly the opposite of Photoshopped perfection. It shuns attention. Since it is so very quiet, it is easy to forget that it is there. But it is that unconditional love for your child, passing quietly through. Remember that when they become teens.
On the other end of the spectrum we also have a gap, but this one occasionally gets a mention. It is the bone-wearing tiredness and numbness of parenting. It is the monotonous soul-sucking repetition that slowly drives one mad and makes one want to bolt outside and scream very loudly. Except that you can't because you are alternating between "Pat the Bunny"and "Clone Wars" for the fiftieth time. This frustration (that has nothing to do with the kids) gets aired out here and there, but it is often coated in "I love them, but can't stand them" wrapper. Unfortunately, those daring to mention these feelings are often mistaken for cold mothers who just buck social conventions, but I'm not like that, am I, because I stayed until midnight baking muffins for my kids, see the photo of how much I love them? Remember that we all experience this frustration.
Motherhood is the constant seesaw from one end of this spectrum to another. As we are swinging through, we wistfully look at those other mothers, the ones who seem to have it all together, who neither feel like the love for their children will bring them to tears, nor that boredom will suffocate them and wonder, what is wrong with us?
Honey, nothing is wrong with you, nothing at all. Even this questioning feeling is normal. And those moms who say that they always knew what they were doing? They don't remember.