I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about motherhood and how hard it can sometimes be and what a journey it is. I’ve been thinking about how we compare ourselves to other moms and how we put so much pressure on ourselves and how we never feel like we’re doing enough. Or is that just me? I’m pretty sure it’s not. I’ve been working towards being more vulnerable, more real, more honest with people about who I really am and how I really feel and it turns out that a lot of people I know feel the same way I do.
I’ve been thinking back to all the different ways I’ve thought about motherhood and for me, it’s definitely come in stages. Cue New Kids on the Block’s Step by Step:
Step 1) “When I’m A Mother…”
When “When I’m A Mother…” step is definitely pre-motherhood. You know you are in the WIAM stage when, duh, you have no children, but you already know exactly how you will be when you are a mother — and even better, you already know how everyone else should parent their children as well. While many are wise enough to know that they should not let others know that they already know how to be the best parent (especially your friends who already do actually have children… and suck at parenting them…), many people still do not realize this and make comments, share blog posts, etc. You think you’re being pretty suave about it all but let me tell you this — your friends who have actual parenting experience are on to you and are quietly smiling inside about how someday you’ll realize how silly you are.
Step 2) “Brand New Mom”
Okay, now you’ve had a baby and you can hardly believe the little bundle you have in your arms is your very own. Finally a chance to exercise all that parenting wisdom you’ve garnered by watching all of your parents’ and your friends’ mistakes! You look at this precious little baby and think “Okay, now I just have to do everything absolutely perfectly and she will turn out okay.” No pressure or anything.
Step 3) “Mom-petition”
Now you’re a few months in and you realize now you are in a whole new world (you didn’t even realized existed) of parenting jargon, sharing birth stories, and talking about poop. But also: high-end strollers, organic baby food, BPA-free products, cloth diapers, how to get baby to sleep through the night, should you or shouldn’t you have circumcised, the soother debate, the vaccine debate, attachment parenting vs. cry-it-out… and ermagash there seems to be more to doing everything perfectly than you ever could’ve imagined! Since I’m a people-pleaser and I’ve always looked for the rules, I fell quite prey to the mom-petition legalism for a while. I felt terrible about all the things I was doing “wrong” and felt smug about the things that I was doing “right” — especially when I noticed someone else doing them “wrong”. (Don’t hate me, I was only 22, and plus, I was formula fed as a baby, and we all know how terrible that is…)
***that’s a joke, keep reading and you’ll discover what stage I’m at now where I can make sarcastic comments about these kinds of things.***
Step 4) “Multiple Children”
Things have been going pretty well for the most part, besides those few times you let your toddler have Kraft Dinner (it was just a couple times!) and you decide to have one or more children. I find that this is went the baby poop hits the fan. Two children I seemed to handle fine (likely because my first and second are over 3 years apart) but when that third baby came along (just 21.5 months after his big brother)– things got real. Life was no longer about what amazing early-learning experiences I could expose my children to, and making sure to keep them away from television and processed food and more about literally surviving. This is when I finally admitted “okay this motherhood thing, this is really hard.” And I gave myself permission to not even just admit it, but truly believe it, and you know what else I kept telling myself — “You’re doing a good job.” Okay, I actually probably told myself that I’m doing a bad job about as equally as telling myself I’m doing a good job despite myself…
Step 5) “Empathy”
Alright, this is where you have been doing this whole motherhood thing for a while and holy crap have you ever done some things, said some things, yelled some things that you promised yourself you never would or worse — never even knew you were capable of. Looking back to the “When I’m A Mom” step, I really believed that I was a truly patient and loving person — oh right, that was before I had kids and have been pushed to and beyond my absolute limit, and just when I think I can’t handle anything else, there’s something more added on my pile of things to do, butts to wipe, screaming fights to diffuse, and whining and complaining about the supper I spent two hours making. This is when you come to terms with the fact that not every mother is equal, that every person has their own story, their own struggles, their own background that makes them who they are and able to handle or not handle whatever they can handle or not handle. This is when you see another mom with a screaming child in the grocery store and you give her a genuine, knowing smile that says “I’ve been there.” And you do not judge her for raising her voice. You don’t judge her or anyone for the ways they choose to react or not react, the way they choose to raise their child, if they choose breastfeeding or formula, if they vaccinate or not, if they send to public, private or homeschool, if they let their kids watch 7 hours of TV or play 7 hours of iPad in a day because it was better than losing their freaking temper on their precious children — no, you do not judge. Because now you know, you really know that each mom is really just trying to do the absolute best they can with what they have and who they are and what they know and deep inside their heart of hearts they absolutely, truly, 100% love their children.
In my opinion, my friends, this is when you’ve arrived. I’m only just under 8 years into this whole motherhood thing so what the heck do I even really know, I’m sure I’m about to discover a million things down the road, but I’m pretty sure Step 5 covers that for me because I can finally say “Hey, I really don’t know what I’m doing here, but I do know what works for now for me and my family and that’s all I can speak for”. Once you quit feeling like you have to be perfect, once you quit judging others and shaming yourself, and once you just have grace and love and empathy in your heart for all those soldiers out there who are fighting the same battle that you are every day, I think that covers everything. You are humble and full of grace — and that’s the best way to mother in my opinion, and really just the best way to be a person in general.
(If you don’t agree and you’re judging me right now, just remind yourself that I was formula fed and say a little prayer for me as you go about your perfect life.)