I’ll be the first to admit that my transition into motherhood was nothing like I imagined it would be. I’d been playing “house” from the time I could talk, keeping a list of future baby names since sixth grade, following every Mom Blog on the block, and reading everything there was to read on breastfeeding, sleep training, scheduling, and balancing. This time three years ago – at thirty weeks pregnant with my first bundle of ready-to-be-swaddled-and-monogrammed-joy – I could imagine almost every detail of my new life. I could also determine in the ten seconds it took the mom in front of me at Chickfila to place her order whether she was “good” or “bad” based on her lunch order, childrens’ behavior, and her own personal hygiene. In short, I was pretty much the PERFECT mom, right up until I actually became one. 😉
Perhaps it was because I thought I knew what to expect so much (someone really should rename those What To Expect books, you know?), but motherhood knocked me off my perfectly polished Type-A feet, like nothing I’d ever experienced before… Becoming Sam’s mommy was simultaneously the most wonderful and the hardest thing I have EVER done.
So, on this my third mother’s day with my boy, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on why the transition into motherhood was so hard for me, and what I’ve learned as a result of it…
To be fair, the problem really never was with Sam. Sure, I could have done without the first six months of colic and very little sleep; but, it really isn’t fair to hold someone who can’t even hold his own head up responsible for his behavior, you know? 😉 Really, more than anything else, what I’ve come to realize on this journey is that the transition into motherhood – for me – was the Lord’s slow and, often painful, refining – teaching me to give up my own expectations and control, meeting me in my anxiety, fears, and the dark of the nursery at 3AM, to mold me into the mother He knew I could be.
For most of Sam’s first year, I was a mess. (I mean, I still am in most ways, but this was more of an emotional mess.) I loved Sam deeply, and I loved being a mom; but I struggled a lot with feelings of insecurity over the fact that I wasn’t the mom I thought I would be… To begin with, I pretty much broke every “parenting rule” I had for myself from Month One – I let Sam sleep in our bed quite frequently, I followed no sort of schedule at all, and he had a pacifier in his mouth about 75% of the time. But, more than that, I found that many of the very things that I had found my identity in before having Sam – things like being organized, keeping a neat house, having a busy calendar, entertaining in my home, and even teaching (I took a temporary position as a school testing coordinator that year because I feared I wouldn’t be able to balance the responsibilities of being in the classroom well) – felt nearly impossible. It was far too easy for me to believe the lies that “maybe I’m not cut out for this” or “Sam deserves better.” It was a hard place.
I admit that sometimes, even now, when I see a friend transition into motherhood so casually and “naturally,” I feel a twinge of jealousy or bitterness over the fact that my ride felt so much bumpier. But, I realize too that it NEEDED to be that way for me…
When I read over my blog posts from that time period, I’m struck by how much pressure I put on MYSELF to get it right. While this played out most tangibly in my role as a mom – and, no doubt, that is what brought it to the surface – wanting to be in control and allowing myself to be defined by my accomplishments and my image were things I had struggled with for YEARS. If everything had been easy breezy for me, I would have gone along the same way I always had – trusting myself and believing I could orchestrate all things to go just the way I wanted if I simply tried hard enough… While that method certainly had it’s perks, it was also a heavy load to bear. Too heavy, and my arms were full of diaper bags, car seats, and squirming babies now.
Looking back, it is so obvious that I HAD to go to that hard place in order to fully acknowledge my need for God and to finally SURRENDER my plans to His.
Obviously, this is something that will be ongoing for my entire life, but the last almost three years have been an incredible journey of letting go and being molded by God’s plans, NOT my own. Although I have had to give up many of my expectations and “fantasies” about the mom I thought I would be, I have exchanged them for a happier family and a much healthier understanding of myself… I know now that what Sam needs (and deserves) more than anything else – even more than the perfect mom – is a mom who believes she is good at being his mom. I will NEVER be the perfect mother; but, in God’s mercy, I am exactly what my boy needs. Today, I like the mom (and the person) I have become SO MUCH MORE than the one I thought I wanted to be…
Today, Sam is happy and loved – a vibrant toddler – he has a mom who isn’t afraid to dole out plenty of grace a rebellious little guy, the mother in front of her at Chickfila, or even, herself.
*Much of this is re-phrased from previous posts on E, Myself, and I, but I wanted to get it all in one spot here, and I still feel strongly about the truth in these words.