Monday, December 8, 2008

How to succeed at motherhood

Shortly after my daughter was born a good friend stopped by to visit. She didn't have children yet and I am sure I horrified her by answering the door at lunchtime in my bathrobe. I was suffering from a lovely parting gift from pregnancy called post partum depression but had no idea at the time. I didn't figure it out until five years later when I got it again (and much more severely) after having my son, but that is a story for another post. My friend brought me a delicious lunch and mercifully my cranky new baby was sleeping. Terrified of waking her, we nibbled on shrimp rolls and spoke in hushed tones at my kitchen table. I teared up as I told my friend how disappointed that I was in myself as a new mother. I was so prepared. I just wanted the first few months to be laid back. I thought that having a plan was the key to staying relaxed, but I was more tense than ever. She laughed at me and said "You've never been laid back a day in your life." At the time I was so annoyed with her. I guess I thought that she really didn't understand what I was trying to say since she was not yet a mother.
Years later, after having a second child, I am finally starting to come to terms with what she meant. Becoming a new mother completely changes everything about your life, and it certainly makes you feel like a new and different person. But at the end of the day, you still bring yourself along for the ride. If you didn't like baking before having a child, you probably aren't going to whip out the homemade cookies for your kids' preschool class. The women who seem to relish in motherhood probably truly enjoy the activities that make you envy them. I am starting to let go of my idea of being the perfect Mom and just be me. So I can barely stitch on a Brownie badge? Who cares! I ran a successful retail business for five years and never lost a penny doing it. So I don't make up clever games to keep everyone occupied while dinner is cooking? Whatever! I am a decent writer, quick to laugh at myself, and I adore my husband.
Instead of focusing on what I should be, I am really trying to focus on who I am. I don't view motherhood as a calling, but I love my children fiercely. I work every day to nourish and protect them and grow them into good people. I will admire those other women who sew and bake and play make believe and keep a detailed scrapbook. I will be inspired by their ability to take things in stride, not overanalyze, and live in the moment. But I won't really feel bad that I am not like them. After all, I have never been laid back a day in my life.

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