I’ve always had the innate sense that motherhood is hard.
Maybe it was seeing how hard my own mother worked to take care of my little brother and me. Maybe it was playing mother hen to thirty-something band kids as a drum major back in high school. Maybe it was my own fears of one day being a mother, of fearing that I wouldn’t be good enough and that there will be a tenuous and unnecessary tension between my own flesh and blood and I.
But then I was asked to dog-sit my friend’s puppy for a week while she went on a family vacation . . . and motherhood suddenly become closer, more palpable, more compassionate . . . and less scary.
It was getting up earlier in the mornings before work to feed her and let her out. It was going to bed later so I could make sure she got her last pee-pees and poo-poos out for the night.
It was letting her empty her toy bin all across my otherwise orderly room within 20 minutes of her settling in . . . and learning how to step around the toys that seemed to suddenly have permanent spots (especially that one dang bone that has been gnawed on so much that I would rather step on a Lego).
It was accepting the fact that every inch of my otherwise clean room now had black fur etched into it . . . but I found that I didn’t mind as much, because it only meant that my room was another place she called home.
It was hating the fact that I had to leave her in the crate for hours while seeing her sad puppy face look up at me between closed bars. It was feeding her two extra treats instead of one because I felt bad.
It was being at work and checking the time to make sure she wasn’t going too long without a potty break or human contact, because I know how clingy and needy and cuddly she is. She likes attention, needs attention, and doesn’t want to be alone. And who was I to interrupt that?
It was laughing at how she would shove her tiny, furry black head into the corner of my shower to make sure I was alright. It was then how she would proceed to wedge herself between the inner and outer shower curtain and walk alongside the tub, whining and wanting to join me in the shower.
It was peeking around the curtain one time when she was just a little too quiet and seeing her sitting on top of the bath mat. It was my heart laughing and breaking in that one moment at her fierce loyalty.
It was knowing her “I need to go outside” growls and rolling my eyes because I had just taken her outside fifteen minutes ago and just wanted to lay in bed and read.
It was yelling at her one night because I had taken her out three times in a row and she didn’t pee during any of those three times, no matter how many times I firmly told her to go potty. And I was exhausted and just wanted to go back upstairs and stay upstairs, but her bladder had other plans.
It was feeling like the most horrible human being in the world whenever she acted scared around me afterward . . . as if she knew that she disappointed me or thought she messed up. It was my heart breaking even more because I didn’t want to yell at her, didn’t want to make her feel or act that way, didn’t want to cause that look in her eyes. But my temper got the best of me, and I did cause her eyes to dampen with intimidation.
It was her being back to her normal self literally an hour later and my heart feeling relief at the idea that she wouldn’t stay mad at me for raising my voice.
It was the warm and comforting feeling of sleeping with a puppy and getting the occasional morning cuddles.
It was the emptiness of my bed the day after my friend got back. It was the feeling of being alone–but also the feeling of being able to take a shower without a tiny furry head checking in on me.
And I know that this one week of motherhood is only the beginning of motherhood lessons I have yet to learn. Yet in the midst of all it . . . it was nice. Heartwarming. Comforting.
It was knowing that I had a life entrusted with me . . . a life I loved and wanted to care for and love.
So even in the hard moments of motherhood, this one life in my care made all the cuddles and challenges worth it.
Because a little black puppy called for both challenges and the cuddles to be met with love and joy.