For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I thought when my time came to raise a family, I would fall seamlessly into motherhood and be amazing at it.
Perhaps I grew up watching too many movies where motherhood seemed natural and effortless. I always envisioned long strolls in the park, cradling my baby for hours in a comfy rocker, and cooking peaceful meals fresh from the farmer’s market. I was completely clueless about how mentally and physically exhausting motherhood actually is. No one really prepares you, do they? We all assume that after a child is born, women just naturally morph into a nurturing presence with maternal instincts and knowledge.
Why didn’t anyone tell me?
Don’t be fooled by picture-perfect Instagram feeds or Pinterest-worthy moments, many moms are just faking it until they make it. I will even bet a good amount of money that Meghan Markle has Googled, “how to calm a crying baby” more than once. Behind our smiles, we are all doubtful at times and wondering if we’re doing a good job. Are our children eating enough, are they sleeping enough, are they learning enough, are they stimulated enough, are they healthy enough, are they feeling loved enough? The list of questions is endless, and there are no right answers.
After the birth of my first child, people would tell me that “motherhood is the greatest job on earth” and that I was so lucky to have a career where I could freelance from home. However, I did not feel lucky at all. I felt imprisoned. I soon came to realize that being a mom wasn’t coming naturally for me, and I was struggling to make it work.
I soon came to realize that being a mom wasn’t coming naturally for me, and I was struggling to make it work.
Were the mundane tasks of diapering, feeding, putting to sleep, cleaning, calming, and child-centered activities supposed to be joyful? Was I supposed to find happiness in curing diaper rashes and colic? I thought I was supposed to enjoy every single moment and instinctively know the answers to everything concerning my child. Because I wasn’t enjoying every moment and clueless on how to take care of a tiny human being, I thought it meant that I was a terrible mother.
I was desperately trying to find that missing puzzle piece that would make it all work. I read countless books, articles, and mom boards in search of answers on how to be the best mom I could be. And yes, I even Googled, “how to be a good mom” on more than one occasion. What was I missing? I loved my baby with all of my heart, but I felt like I was not genuinely enjoying motherhood. If I could only figure out that one missing link that would make it all fit together, then I could win at motherhood.
And then my husband shared with me something he had read. He said, “Motherhood isn’t like math where one plus one equals two. It’s more like music, where an infinite number of combinations can result in something beautiful.” He was right.
An infinite number of combinations allow for flexibility, ebbs and flows, learning, and growing.
I realized that I was defining motherhood by external definitions, such as social media, parenting books, mommy blogs, movies, TV, celebrity culture—the list goes on. I needed to decide for myself how I define motherhood and what success and happiness looked like for me. I needed to allow myself to grow into motherhood and not expect perfection. After all, I hadn’t accumulated enough knowledge to become the type of mother I always envisioned myself to be. I was starting from scratch and no amount of parenting books will ever prepare you for real-life motherhood.
What was I missing? I loved my baby with all of my heart, but I felt like I was not genuinely enjoying motherhood. If I could only figure out that one missing link that would make it all fit together, then I could win at motherhood.
I needed to learn about my child, I needed to grow with him. I needed to make mistakes with him, and more importantly, I needed to make mistakes with myself. After all, there is no winning in motherhood. There are no progress reports and no real feedback—motherhood is what you make of it. And I choose to make it perfectly imperfect.
Over time, I grew into motherhood. I grew into it so wonderfully that I no longer question my choices nor seek validation from external sources. When my second child was born two years later, I had accumulated roughly 8,760 hours of motherhood. I was more prepared, more confident, and much easier on myself as I made the transition to being a mom of two. Breastfeeding woes, trouble at nap time, fevers, and diaper rashes didn’t phase me as much the second time around. I knew that whatever decisions I made to fix these problems were the right ones.
As I watch my children grow into kind, respectful, and thoughtful individuals, I know that I am doing an amazing job. And that is the best feedback I can receive.