Sitting in the waiting area of my daughter’s pediatrician’s office, I was surrounded by two mothers who were breastfeeding their babies. I reflected on my own breastfeeding experiences and was reminded that if formula, bottles, and sanitary water hadn’t been developed, both my girls might have died in infancy.
I was also reminded of my c-sections – necessary to birth both my babies. My body couldn’t accommodate my girls’ big heads and they were both stuck mid-way. Without the help of anesthesia, sanitary tools, and quality medical care, I may have died along with my first born and my second born wouldn’t have even been a possibility.
I was struck with the realization that I was never meant to be a mother.
A Less-than Mother
For some time I carried these physical inadequacies with me wherever I went. They were strapped to my back like a hermit crab’s shell. I had entwined myself so tightly to those failed motherhood rites of passage that they became a part of me. I questioned my legitimacy as a mother, wondering how else I would fail.
Mom Guilt and Comparison
There are so many opportunities to feel guilty as a parent. As Lori mentioned last week, it’s easy to compare your version of motherhood with another’s. I used to beat myself up for not being as creative, stylish, flexible, structured, or energetic as other moms.
While other moms hauled their kids to every splash pad, children’s museum, and Mommy-and-Me activity they could, I had to psyche myself up for even one of these events. I knew Elle was pretty antsy when it came to splash pads and the effort to get us there was only half of the effort it took to coax her into the shooting streams of water. Children’s museums are loud and very busy and Elle isn’t the obnoxious squeaky wheel kind that shoves herself to the front of the line to pet the starfish or stand in the middle of a tornado. Mommy-and-Me activities seemed to be less about the moms and their kids and more like moms taking the opportunity to socialize with other moms.
When I compared myself to other moms, I never felt like I fit in or measured up.
Just Being Me
I quickly learned that comparing my motherhood to others’ was getting me nowhere fast. I wasn’t a happier mother when I tried to be like them. After the splash pad and the museum and the activities, I didn’t even feel like I was a better mother.
So I stopped.
I exchanged the splash pads for video games. Elle and I love playing video games with each other and watching each other play. We share these beautiful, complicated, imaginative worlds together and they have given us opportunities to talk, bond, and learn.
Instead of going to children’s museums we go to our local library – and we go almost every week. The library is one of the only places Elle knows I’ll say “yes” to just about anything, so it’s a relaxing, fun experience for us both.
We swapped out the Mommy-and-Me activities and play dates for Mommy-Daughter dates. We take our shared love of food, craft stores, and anything else we’re into at the time and spend a few hours together – just us.
Rock Your Motherhood
Maybe you’re the splash pad, children’s museums, play dates kind of mom. That’s awesome! Maybe you’re the children’s museums, library, and bike riding kind of mom. Great! Maybe you’re a crafting, baking, and playground kind of mom. Super! The point is: rock your own motherhood and don’t compare. Your kids need you to be their mother. Don’t let a tendency to compare rob you of your chance to teach your children about authenticity.
Practice building yourself up instead of tearing yourself down. (For an example of how to do this, check out my review of The Science of Positivity under the subheading “Social Threats.”) Consider letting you be you and letting you be good enough.
We Were Meant to Be Mothers
However you found yourself on this crazy journey called motherhood, know that you – and I – were meant for this. We can learn how to better our motherhood, practice and refine our skills for the rest of our lives, and make daily choices of acceptance, grace, and determination.
Your kids will learn the lessons you can uniquely teach them.
If you are a mama who is unable to or choose not to breastfeed, I recommend reviewing this infant formula guide at Reviews.com. They contacted me to let me know about their research and I am happy to share this comprehensive resource with you. In 2007 we had Elle on regular Similac and she did great on it. In 2016 we switched Addie to Enfamil Gentlease because she was spitting up a ton. The Gentlease formula seemed to help reduce the spit-up as well as decrease overall fussiness.