The other day was our first MOPS meeting of the year. We had a fabulous brunch as always and I got to catch up with ladies I hadn’t seen in awhile. We also spent some time chatting, playing games, and doing icebreaker activities to get to know our new members.
One of our activities involved revealing two things we’re good at and/or passionate about. The question came around to me, and the easy, obvious answer was writing… I just plain love it. I think I’m good at it. I mean, I’m certainly an okay writer. I’ll admit that I’m not perfect. I get that writing is work and I’m not afraid to make my writing better. I’m ambitious about writing. I put myself out there.
Then I had to think of a second thing.
Man, it’s really hard to come up with something you think you’re good at on the spot.
Cooking? Eh, I can follow recipes. Baking? That’s my husband’s department. I’m SO not crafty. I’m not organized. I’m not a good housekeeper. I’m a horrible singer. I have no musical ability. I don’t really do anything else. What do I do?
WHAT ELSE AM I GOOD AT?!
And then I blurted it out.
“I’m a good mom.”
The second I said it, I thought… Girl… What are you even talking about?
When I was pregnant, being pregnant didn’t bother me. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I had gained 25 pounds and had a baby kicking me in the ribs while pinching my bladder in half. I didn’t care that he had hiccups constantly. I didn’t even mind that he was a super-active baby. I may have wondered how his elbows didn’t poke clear through my skin as he tumbled around in there, but I was just plain fascinated by the fact that that was my kid in there. Amazing!
I wasn’t even really worried about giving birth. Yeah, there were some parts of the process that made me cringe during childbirth class. Like, I told my husband whatever he did, not to Google “episiotomy.” There were some parts that I was nervous about, but being nervous wasn’t going to change the fact that the baby had to come out one way or another, so… I figured stressing about it wasn’t going to do any good and told myself that when the time came, everything would be just fine.
But there was ONE THING that scared me about becoming a mom. And no book, blog, or class was going to help me overcome that fear.
I was absolutely terrified that I was going to have this baby and not have any idea what to do with him. I was afraid I wouldn’t know how to take care of him. I was afraid that I would be absolutely clueless. I was afraid I’d do something wrong. I was afraid I’d hurt him. I was afraid I’d mess up. I was just plain afraid I wouldn’t be good at being a mom.
I think it was our first night home from the hospital, and my husband and I had been camped out in the living room together (I’d had an emergency C-section and it was just easier to sleep on the couch) with the baby in the bassinet. Around midnight, the little guy woke up crying hysterically. The first real pissed-off baby cries we’d heard him make. And I felt awful. No idea what caused him to cry, no idea what to do about it. Nursed him. Changed his diaper. We took turns holding him, rocking him, walking around the house, all that stuff. And then finally I sat with him and started to sing.
I said above, I’m an awful singer. But I sang “Hush Little Baby” because it seemed like the thing to do. The baby started to quiet down. After a couple verses, I forgot the words so I abandoned that and searched my memory for another lullaby. “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” it was. When that was over, the only other thing song I could think of to sing was the ABCs. By the time I got to “L-M-N-O-P” the baby was asleep in my arms and I thought, deliriously, “I did it! I did it! I’m his mommy and I got him to calm down!”
I was so new to the whole motherhood thing, but that night, I understood immediately that it was my job to do whatever I had to do to calm his fears, stop his tears, and make him happy.
And I think that’s what we do as moms all the time. Whatever the problem is, we try one thing and if that doesn’t work, we try the next and the next, until we find the solution. We work tirelessly to make sure our kids are taken care of.
And just when we think we have everything figured out, the kids grow a little more and all that changes. We have to figure everything out all over again. My boy is still little, but I’ve been at this long enough now to know that every new stage presents itself with unique challenges.
For me, the baby stage was full of sleepless nights… Long after the baby was sleeping through the night, I struggled to get to sleep. And stay asleep. I was exhausted. Because I was constantly worrying about him. Was he eating enough? Sleeping enough? Was he teething? Was it a growth spurt? Was it a developmental leap?
Now that he’s a toddler, I still worry about him, but I sleep like a rock. I need all the energy I can get to keep up with him. I think I might be more tired now than I was when he was a newborn. I didn’t even think that was possible.
When he started his playgroup at 16 months old, even though it was just one day a week, I had to tell myself that it was good that he was getting out of the house and playing with other kids without me around. I had to remind myself that it was good for me, too. But that first day, I had to go to the store and run errands because it was weird being in the house without him. It was too quiet.
This year, he started preschool three days a week and walked right into his classroom without so much as a backwards glance. And as much as I wanted to follow him in and give him a big hug and a kiss, he was already all the way across the room, checking stuff out on the bookshelf and peeking out the window. So I gave him a wave from the doorway and left. I had to go to the store and run errands, but this time it was because I had a ton of stuff to do and was elated to have three uninterrupted hours by myself to actually get it all done!
Being a mom is hard. Being a mom who also works, goes to school, or runs a business is even harder. It’s tough to find a balance between all of the different women you’re supposed to be – mom, wife, employee/business owner, student, daughter, sister, friend…
But I think, for me, once I became a mom, it immediately became the most important job I have. And I know, mom friends, that I’m not alone.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be good moms.
Which is why it is SO easy to get down ourselves and point out our flaws and problems and what we think we’re doing wrong or what we think we need to do better.
You don’t cook healthy and organic at every meal. The kid’s not into peewee soccer or lacrosse or gymnastics. They can’t count to 20 yet. You can’t figure out how to get the kid into bed at night without the evening spiraling into epic meltdown. You wish you could just sit and relax while they entertain themselves quietly and contentedly, but you know in five minutes they’re going to need help with something and you can’t help wanting just a few minutes of peaceandquietpleaseisitnaptimeyet? They’re still not potty-trained. You worry about whether or not your kid is getting too much screen time. You struggle with how to balance being firm and having fun. You have no energy to work out, do your makeup, dress cute, or flirt with your husband. The kid down the street is reading and yours doesn’t even know all his ABCs. You can’t get your kid into the classroom without the teacher having to peel her off of you. You compare yourself to other moms and then remind yourself you shouldn’t do that. Repeatedly. You yelled at your kid. And then you probably felt bad about it.
That stuff happens. To everybody. You are so not alone.
In our quest to be good moms, we worry so much that we’re not doing a good enough job that it’s easy to overlook all the stuff we do right! All the stuff that DOES make us good moms.
Am I the best cook? No, but I try to make sure my kid eats reasonably healthy… and he gets dessert, too. Am I gung-ho into activities and sports and lessons? No, but if he appears interested in something, we’ll try it out. Is my kid decked out in adorable outfits every day? No, because he’s probably just gonna paint or jump in a puddle or play in the dirt, so what’s the point?
My kid wakes up and bounces out of bed in a good mood, goes to preschool, takes swimming lessons, plays outside, is into cars, has bad taste in television, loves his family, chases the cats, makes up songs and tells me silly stories, would sit in the tub for two hours if we let him, has a ridiculously long bedtime routine, and goes to bed most nights without much fuss. What’s most important is that he’s healthy and happy.
So I must be doing something right.
I’m a good mom.
And you are, too.