Motherhood and marriage are both hard. Sometimes we do everything right and are still considered failures: marriages end, spouses cheat, kids do drugs. Sometimes we do everything wrong and get lucky: 50th anniversaries, peaceful family reunions.
I don't think everyone should get married or have children. By the time I met my husband, I had decided that I was totally fine with staying single my whole life. Six months into our marriage, while I knew I had made the right choice in marrying, I also knew that I would never get married again. I can't imagine ever finding anyone else I would be willing to enter into marriage with, and I am very happily married.
Motherhood is even harder. At least in marriage you are loving partners on the same team. In motherhood, you are required to give 100% to a being who might or might not love you and certainly has no interest in being on your team. In fact, getting OFF your team is a primary development task for toddlers and teenagers.
I don't mean to discourage anyone. I do think we need to give much more thought to decisions about marriage and motherhood. My husband and I felt no pull to have children for years, so we didn't. We believed that it would be wrong to bring a child into our family unless we WANTED her. And then, six years into our marriage, we realized that we did want a child. We wanted to expand the amount of love in our family. We had a child because it was an expression of our love for each other, and it would be another person in our family who could receive love from us.
But there is one thing I have learned. There is only one path to success in life, especially in the difficult path of marriage and motherhood. That path is kenosis, a concept wonderfully explained by Cynthia Bourgeault in the Wisdom Jesus. Kenosis, to borrow her language, is the reckless and extravagant giving away of oneself. It is losing our own life (as Jesus taught us to do) by throwing it away with both hands, joyfully.
Some days I can do this with joy and laughter. Some days I do it with gritted teeth. Some days I cannot do it at all, and then my job is to reach out for help and accept God's grace and forgiveness.
But one thing is constant. The more I am centered in God, via meditation, prayer, and community, the more joy I find in the giving away of self. The more love and grace God pours into me, the more delight I have in pouring it back out onto my husband, child, and loved ones. Losing your life isn't about martyrdom or self-denial: it is about joyful giving out of God's abundance rather than your own.