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“You are a great mum.” (Can you please tell me again?)

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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.

Love,
A

13 Comments

  • Reply frenchieliza 14 June 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Oh boy is this true. I had terrible postpartum depression after giving birth to my son and I still struggle with it, even though he is almost two. Being a mother is such a hard job, and very tiring. But at the end of the day, when I am absolutely exhausted and just want to sit with my feet up, I think about my little Daniel and how much I love him, and what a blessing he is to me. What a great thing, motherhood. Thanks so much for sharing your feelings.

  • Reply Jhen.Stark 15 June 2010 at 12:00 am

    This hit so deep within! I pray for a "cuppa" experience like you had, not just to hear an accolade, but to feel encouraged face to face from a heart I adore and respect… ONE DAY!

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Natalie 15 June 2010 at 12:20 am

    I had a horrible mommy day on Saturday. I even wrote a post about how horrible I felt! So I know what you mean when you say there are days when you need the support of others. Nobody knows what they are doing all of the time, and if they tell you otherwise it's just not true!

    I love this post – thanks for being so honest!

  • Reply HRH Mommy 15 June 2010 at 12:36 am

    My afternoon from yesterday (see my blog) is repeating itself today, so your post couldn't have been more appropriately timed. Thank you. Thank you for being honest, for confirming that we all go through those days and for encouraging me. Now, I am off to face more crying, but I will face it being reminded that Ryder does not always fit in the box of my expectations.

    Ps – that doesn't mean though that I am not looking forward to bedtime to arrive…..;-)

  • Reply The Planet Pink 15 June 2010 at 12:58 am

    yes, yes, yes. Our children learn more from us when we allow ourselves to not be perfect. Allowing yourself this is so freeing, and to realize this early on is a wonderful thing. Keep on keepin' on.

  • Reply MamaJ 15 June 2010 at 1:04 am

    This post really struck a chord with me! I agree how we sometimes need affirmation and encouragement… And I guess I've learnt to depend on God more and more to continue trying to be a good mama!

  • Reply Mommycrat 15 June 2010 at 1:07 am

    Ah yes! Motherhood has certainly been a humbling experience for me too. I'm used to doing things well. And kids like me too – I use to teach swimming lessons, coach, run reading circles etc… So I really relate to this post. Problem is, when my child is tired, or grumpy, I can't pass her off to her parents. Because that would be me. And during those times when I've done everything I can think to do, and still she balls, it's tough not to feel like I'm missing something or should know what to do.

    But the good days outnumber the not so good – so, on balance, I think I'm doing okay. And it certainly sounds like you are too.

  • Reply Jill 15 June 2010 at 2:07 am

    I can completely relate to you! I think I have things all figured out and then little Eva decides to change things on me and I feel like I have to figure her out all over again. On of my biggest struggles is that I feel like our house is in shambles and I can never seem to do more than the basic things that absolutely need to be done in a day, in addition to caring for Eva. I'm told over and over again that she is such a good baby and that I am so lucky. This actually makes me even more scared that I will not be able to handle two children, because I am barely handling one. However, I find comfort in knowing that God gives us what we need to care for our little one(s). So for now I will just enjoy my mostly content baby (except lately, I think she is teething already) and rest in knowing that she is what God knew I could handle for now. Thanks for sharing Adriel!

  • Reply Musings of a Work At Home Missionary Mom 15 June 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Oh man. You just described my whole week!! I am feeling so down right now – baby is teething and I am tired and irritable…and feel like a complete failure as a mom.

    Interesting thing – I, too, was a much sought-after baby sitter and have loads of childcare experience under my belt, so I, too, went into this with much confidence. And have shed more tears in the past 5 months than in the past 5 years combined.

    Thanks for this blog – I needed to know that I wasn't the only one.

  • Reply flyrish 15 June 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Thank you for expressing so accurately what we as mamas all seem to be feeling! Like you, I grew up babysitting like crazy and worked at a daycare while I was in college. I felt like I had more experience than the average new mom, but I was definitely bowled over by the self-doubt and insecurities. It's so true that having a child reminds us that we still have a great deal of growing to do, even as adults.

  • Reply adriel, from the mommyhood memos 18 June 2010 at 1:29 pm

    hey mommies, thanks for your comments. i'm glad that you were in some way encouraged through this post. and of course it's encouraging for me to hear from you too. 🙂 we are not alone! no doubt you are all wonderful mommies in your own right… and i pray you have some people in your life that will remind you of that and help you see that during those times when it's tough.
    much love,
    adriel xx

  • Reply Lizzie 22 June 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I don't have a little one anymore. Mine is 16 years old now. Children don't come with a manual, but I've often wished for one. I can tell you that as they grow, there will be more tears. However, the joys will always be greater than the brief episodes of unhappiness a child displays. Simply love them for what they are, encourage them to reach beyond their dreams, and give them as much attention as you can. One day, they will leave, taking all of the lessons you have instilled in them toward a new future. If you have loved them with all that is you, you can be assured that you are indeed a good mom. And, from what I have read of your blog so far, you are. You sound like one of the best!

  • Reply Theresa 28 October 2013 at 1:13 pm

    What a powerful article! Thank you for writing this! It speaks to me… As a mother of twins (only kids thus far and our firsts), it has been difficult for most people to relate. I’ve had some of those “cuppas” and must confide I need more of them. (And with your encouragement, I will do my best to be more of those “cuppas” for other moms as well!)

    The twins are three now and the “treacherous threes” have set in. (Twos were really not that bad…) My patience is being tested and boundaries are being pushed. There are tears…and sometimes it’s just from me. There have been many days where I wonder why God gave me two at a time when I feel like I can’t handle just one of them. But alas, there are FAR more moments and days where I so enjoy them and they have taught me so much! I wouldn’t trade them in, that’s for sure. 🙂
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