I was not one of those little girls who loved baby dolls. I didn’t have any younger siblings and my one attempt at “watching” my little cousin ended with him falling into the coin fountain at Marketplace Mall. I reluctantly became a Red Cross certified baby sitter at age 13 because my mom thought it made sense. I remember being worried because talking in that high pitched singsong voice people use with babies and kids didn’t come natural. When I decided to have a baby I wondered how a person like me who didn’t feel an urge to play peekaboo with infants in the grocery line and didn’t kneel down to get on eye level when speaking to toddlers would fare with motherhood. Fall in love, get married, have a baby, that’s what you’re supposed to do right? I was on the right track, or so I thought. My ego was lit up when my then husband told me he wanted a daughter who looked just like me. I now see that comment for what it really is but at the time it was fairy tale living.
We got married in June, I stopped taking birth control in December and got a positive pregnancy test in January. As I went through my pregnancy I became increasingly concerned that becoming a mother would mean saying goodbye to myself. If I’m being honest I was having a baby because it was what I viewed as the next step in the trajectory of my life, not because I had an overwhelming urge to become a mother. I wondered if I could still be a good mother without motherhood taking over my whole being . My worst nightmare was becoming one of those mothers who couldn’t hold a conversation about anything not pertaining to kids and child rearing. I decided then that I would not become that mom.
Fast forward to present day and me chaperoning my 11 year old 6th grader on her field trip. I surprised her with the news that I was coming on the field trip and while I’ve been going on her field trips in 6th grade its different. It’s no longer cool. She protested and got all dramatic about me coming but once I was there I could tell she was happy her mama was there and I was glad to be present in that moment for her. As I look at her and realize that the days of chaperoning field trips are numbered and hoping that she looks back on this period of her life fondly, it hits me that maybe by loving and caring for her while continuing to make space and time for the things that make me feel like alive, she is learning what self care looks like. I hope she holds all the memories of birthday parties, summer camps, activities and trips but it’s more important to me that she recalls fondly the way we lived and interacted with each other on a day to day basis. I hope that the stability I strive so hard to create for her empowers her to be bold and take risks.
Motherhood is hard as shit and I haven’t even hit the teenage years yet. It can shine a light on your worst character flaws and force you to examine your behavior more closely. I was so worried about being a different version of myself when in reality I’m a better version. There is delicate balance of protecting her and at the same time allowing her the space to explore and make mistakes. Of passing on knowledge without projecting my perceptions of the world onto her. Of seeing her as my reflection and honoring the individual she is. I think it would be much harder to navigate all of this if I hadn’t made a commitment to continuing to work on myself in the midst of motherhood and it’s already quite hard as it is . I still feel like I’m failing a lot of the time and I still laugh to myself like damn you really don’t know WTF you’re doing do you? I still call my mom for parenting advice. Bottom line is the shit isn’t figured out. As a mother you really just are doing the best that you can every day.