“You are a great mum.” (Can you please tell me again?)
Before becoming a mom I had heard it a thousand times: “Being a mom is the best—and hardest—job in the world.” But nothing could quite prepare me for the reality of that statement.
As a tween, teenager, and young adult I was always around children. I started volunteering in the church nursery and teaching Sunday school when I was about 10 years old. I also started babysitting the neighbour kids around the same time.
By the time I reached fourteen I was such a sought-after babysitter that I literally had jobs lined up every night of the week, and sometimes 2-3 times a day on the weekends.
When I was old enough to get a workers permit, I began working at a local preschool and childcare center. I loved my job and I worked there for four years all during high school. After that I went on to be a nanny for twin baby girls.
I loved kids and kids loved me!
When I was in college I took at developmental psychology class. Not only did I ace the class, but my professor told me that some day I should write a book on parenting. (She told me this based on my essays on early childhood development.) I was 19 then, and nowhere near ready to be a parent, but I left that class with even more confidence about my ability to care for children.
I knew things would be different when it was my turn to be a mom, and that having kids of my own is far different to looking after someone else’s kids. And yet, even still, I went into motherhood with a lot of confidence. After all, I loved kids and kids loved me… right? Plus, I had a lot of experience… right?
I was totally secure when it came to working with, and caring for, children.
So although I was as prepared as I could be for the challenge when my day as mom finally came, what I wasn’t prepared for was that there would be days when I feel incredibly insecure as a mother. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that there would days when I have no idea what I’m doing wrong, and yet—judging by the amount of tears—I clearly wasn’t doing something right either. I wasn’t prepared for the days that I would feel just a little bit incompetent or that my husband would be a better mom that me. And I wasn’t prepared for the days where I would want to pack up and leave. (Where I’d go, I have no idea.)
This entire barrage of emotions and insecurities has taken me by complete surprise.
I’ve always been a pretty confident person, fairly self-assured, and a great problem-solver. I’ve been an “achiever” and a make-it-happen sort of girl. I was single and quite independent until I was 30, and I had a lot of life experience both socially and professionally through my work in various parts of the world. I’ve always considered myself a “strong woman” who could make the most of challenges and opportunities alike.
And yet in motherhood, I’m learning that some days I can’t just “make it happen”. Some days I can’t just solve the problem the way I’d like to. Some days my baby is just going to cry, no matter how hard I try to help. Some days I feel really vulnerable.
This means that I am learning that I have to loosen the grip on my own expectations. I have to let things go. I have to accept that this little person will not fit into my box. For me this is a huge challenge, because when baby is not happy, I’m not happy… and I feel as if I’m failed both of us in some way.
And then I find myself asking the question again, “Why is this so hard?”
Deep down I know there’s a very good reason that it’s hard, many reasons in fact.
Yes, it’s hard because I’m tired – that’s a given – but it’s also hard because I’ve never been here before. It’s hard because I’m on unfamiliar ground. It’s hard because life has changed drastically. And it’s hard because love requires sacrifice.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about any relationship, it’s that you can’t have purity of love without purity of sacrifice. The most clear example of this is in the Bible when God gave the world the freedom to choose to follow Him or not (an incredible sacrifice born out of incredible love). You can see this principle right throughout all relationships, especially close ones like marriage, family, and intimate friendships.
And so I look at my own sacrifices – things like lack of sleep, lack of free time, lack of personal space – and I know that these are so small in comparison to the love that I feel for my son. But in those moments of confusion and tiredness and desperation to know how to care for him and not go insane in the process, it’s hard to remember that my “small” sacrifices are part of the loving.
It’s tough, and we all need encouragement along the way.
A few days ago a friend of mine came over for a “cuppa”. We sat on the couch with my happy baby bouncing between our laps and she told me what a great mum I am. Immediately my eyes welled up with tears.
Apparently she struck a nerve.
This is a woman who’s been a mom herself for 19 years. This is a woman who knows what she’s talking about. This is the kind of woman who I needed to affirm and encourage me.
Those simple words were like water to my weary soul.
As I struggle in my mind to stay in a place of peace within, of confidence in myself, of strength in the midst of vulnerability, and of joy through the trials and tiredness, I was reminded how crucial it is to receive affirmation and encouragement for the journey, especially from the “right” people.
Because some days I sail through motherhood – I feel like a natural and it all comes so easily as my day flows beautifully. And then other days I stumble along, feeling like a mess in need of some serious motherhood coaching and instruction!
So, even though I’m still new at all of this, I hope that I can also be the “right person” to encourage someone else that needs it… because I will be the first to admit that being a mommy is not easy, even for *ahem* strong, capable women. Being a mommy requires vast amounts of patience, perseverance, self control, and personal sacrifice. And, to most of us, those things don’t come easily no matter how successful we thought we were in character or ability prior to becoming moms.
Children are a gift in so many ways, but the aspect I’m reminded of today is that they are a gift to remind us that we aren’t invincible, we aren’t perfect, we aren’t in control, we are still learning, still growing… and—with the help and encouragement of others who’ve gone before us—we are totally up for the challenge.
Thank you God for my Little Gift sent to make me a better woman… His name is Levi.
Dear friends, how about you – do you need to be told (again) that you’re a great mom? Cuz I bet you are.