I want to let you in on a little secret. It’s a secret that some only come to find true through experience, or stories from friends, and some hear rumors of this secret thing existing, but they don’t really believe it to be true. But I’m here to tell you from experience, this little secret is in fact true. Want to hear what it is? Here goes. This whole motherhood thing? It doesn’t always come naturally for all women. Some have to work at it, some have to learn to lean into it, and some, like me, just have to grow into it. Here’s a little story about my journey of motherhood, and my path to growing into it.
When I first became a mother over seven years ago, the feelings of maternal love came very naturally for me. That instinct to love and protect and nourish your child is something that rises up in you so quickly and so powerfully you imagine it could light up a city for all of eternity. But while the love and protectiveness is very instinctual, the nurturing and sensitivity, and just very natural ease of mothering is sometimes harder to come by, or takes a while to take effect. For quite some time I initially felt trapped, or even smothered a bit by motherhood. Leaving a full time career that was exciting and enjoyable, that afforded me quite a bit of independence, and flinging myself full-force into motherhood was nothing short of overwhelming. I cried a lot, I was impatient, anxious, and by the time my husband got home from work, I very much felt like I didn’t just want, but needed, my space. Often I would hand the baby to my husband as soon as he walked through the door, before he even had a chance to say hello.
For a very long time I felt an incredible sense of guilt about this. I wondered why I wasn’t as patient as my sister in law, or as sweet, like some of my friends. I felt many days like I was blundering along, and I very much felt like I was a bit rough around the edges. While some mothers I knew had never even considered hiring a sitter or asking others for help so they could get away and do something for themselves, I felt that some “me” time at least once a week was crucial to my sanity. I eventually got over my guilt, but then guilt turned into feelings of inadequacy and insecurities. How could I possibly be as good of a mother as some of my friends when I felt so selfish?
By the time my daughter turned a year old or so, I felt less smothered and more than ever was focused on how I could be the best mother I could be. If I wasn’t a naturally gentle or super sweet mother, I could at least provide the absolute best for my children. The best mommy and me classes, the best food, the best opportunities to learn sign language and rudimentary dance and gymnastic skills. One way or another I would do this motherhood thing right.
Fast forward a few years later, and two more children later, and I no longer feel like I have to be the best mother and the most sweet and patient and gentle mother. The comparisons and self-doubt really don’t mean a thing and don’t matter; I’m the perfect mother for my children because I love them and everyday I wake up and vow to do the best I can. And I’ve realized that trying my best is darn good enough.
It’s funny, because with the birth of my third son just a few months ago, I all of a sudden found myself acting very, very “maternal,” not just with the baby but with all three kids. Becoming a mother of three, I was prepared to feel tired, stressed and frazzled constantly. I was quite honestly very nervous about how I’d do. But strangely enough, I found patience I never knew existed, and I found a very soft and gentle side of me I didn’t know I had. For a while after his birth I kept telling myself and my husband that I had changed But now I realize that I haven’t changed at all. It just took a while (maybe a bit longer than many or most) to find my groove in this mothering thing. To mature, and learn, and just grow into the role of motherhood. So no, I guess I haven’t changed, it just took a very cute and very sweet third baby to show me what was there all along.
So those of you that don’t feel like you’re a natural at this thing called motherhood, don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it eventually. Just be patient with yourself and when you least expect it, you’ll realize you’re rolling right along just fine.