Anybody who tells you motherhood is easy is a liar.
Motherhood is freaking hard. It’s difficult for any woman, but it’s especially challenging and gut-wrenching for the self-critics among us who hold ourselves to impossibly high standards.
I’ll say it again in case you still don’t get it: motherhood is hard.
When I was younger, I never experienced “baby fever” or spent years cooing over my cousins’ and friends’ babies.
Babies were ok, by simple virtue of being small humans who eventually grew into big humans, and, although I always saw a family in my future, my pregnancy took me by surprise.
Lesson 1: There is no right time to have a child
Even though I was turning 30, was about to celebrate my 6th wedding anniversary, and had been off contraception for a couple months, I was not actively trying to have a child.
Note: I have the deepest sympathy and respect for couples dealing with infertility, and I do not wish to hurt you with my words. I sincerely pray that you one-day have the family you desperately hope for.
Imagine my surprise, when, the morning following my 30th birthday, I took a pregnancy test (since I was a hormonal basket case the day before) and saw those 2 little lines.
While I’m grateful – now – for the timing of my pregnancy, I was mortified then. We were not financially ready for a child!
As the months progressed (having an “easy” pregnancy helped, I’m sure), and once we came to know our beautiful son, I realized that life’s timing should be trusted and that, truly, there is no “perfect” time for a kid.
You will always need a nicer home, a higher-paying job, a larger savings account, etc., but the only thing that matters is that your heart is ready to love someone more deeply than you thought possible.
Lesson 2: It’s crucial to trust your gut
Not trusting my gut sent me tunneling into one of the darkest spirals of my life. My son was born on the smaller side, and he was slow to gain weight (though he was consistently on his own curve). We battled judgmental nurses at the pediatrician office and a gamut of tests for allergies, immune-deficiencies, and intolerances, and it became such an ordeal, that I actually thought my milk was harming our child.
I googled every genetic disorder that seemed plausible and fought tears at GI doctor appointments. I never spoke the words to anybody – not even my husband – but I was convinced that my son would be better off without me. For weeks, I fantasized about swallowing whatever bottle of pills I could find in our bathroom cupboard.
Deep within my gut, buried beneath layers of anxiety and sadness, I knew my son was fine. He ate – just not with the gusto of other babies. He was developmentally on target in every category apart from weight, but damn, that inner critic is loud, especially when encouraged by medical professionals. Had I trusted my gut, though, I would have saved myself so much heartache.
Lesson 3: Your child doesn’t have to be first at everything
Since my son was a slow gainer, I paid close attention to each and every milestone. Wasn’t sitting or crawling at the same age other babies were? Something’s wrong! If he didn’t have perfect dexterity or wasn’t speaking a vocabulary of x words like the books said he should, then I panicked.
But once my son started growing into a toddler and developing his own personality, I began to see that he did things in his own time.
While he could use a sippy cup just fine for water, he drank bottles until well after 18 months. They were comforting, and when he was ready to move on, he didn’t fuss when we packed them up.
When we decided to move from the crib to a “big boy bed,” we didn’t force things. And you know what? He’s slept like a dream from that day till now (hopefully I don’t jinx anything).
And as for what I feared was a slow vocabulary? Well, my husband and I are both quiet introverts, so it was only natural that my son didn’t speak a lot at first. But by two years old, he was a motor-mouth!
Now, we are potty training, and while I know we started later than a majority of our peers, I’m ok with it. So he’s in diapers and training pants a little longer? It’s ok! He is intuitive, and he will learn in his own time.
College applications don’t ask for “# of words spoken at 18 months” or “age at which potty training was completed,” and I guarantee his future employer will not care when he took his first steps. Each baby is different!
Lesson 4: You will make mistakes – lots of them
Every day I make mistakes. In the beginning, I’d beat myself up, but I’ve learned – through much trial and error – that parenting isn’t a linear path.
As long as my child is fed, clothed, nurtured, bathed, and loved, then I’ve got all the essentials covered.
I may yell at him in frustration when I should’ve gently corrected him. I may give in to his requests for M&Ms instead of ensuring he eats a proper dinner.
I won’t be a perfect mom, but that’s not the goal.
My son needs to realize that even mommy and daddy make mistakes. Thus, I’ve learned to accept the mistakes, make whatever changes are necessary, and move on.
Lesson 5: Your child will always be your baby
My son is 3 years old, so he is extremely active and adventurous.
He rarely wants to cuddle with mommy unless he hurts himself or needs protection from shadows and monsters.
While I miss the late night snuggles (ok – the snuggles, not the late nights), I know that despite the refusals for hugs, my son has a special relationship with me.
Like it or not, he will always be my baby. He will always be that lavender-scented, giggly, dimpled boy with eyelashes for days – even when he’s a head taller than me and starting a family of his own.
Motherhood is hard, but it’s also beautiful, especially when we moms support one another.
Keep in mind that not a single woman has ever done this job perfectly, and the only promise we owe ourselves and our families is that we will give our best while loving fiercely.
Catherine is part of the Contributing Writer Network. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.
Featured image via Pexels