My mother has told me that she was a different mother when I was child than she is now with my younger sister, who is ten years my junior. This use to bother me for several reasons, some of which I don’t completely understand, and I don’t care to get into the details; however, I swore to myself that I would never do that.
I never wanted to tell my first born son that phrase. I never wanted to say that I had made mistakes with him that I did not with his brother, and I never wanted him to feel as though he got the short end of the stick. In fact, my husband and I would often joke when I was pregnant with my second child that we would raise this child just as crappy as we did the first…and for those of you that have difficulty detecting sarcasm, please re-read that last line.
Prior to holding my second child in my arms after delivering him via VBAC, I had never really analyzed the way in which I parented my first born during that first year of his life. Instead of being able to recall specific choices I made, I seemed to only be able to recall good times and bad times.
For instance, I remembered rocking my son to sleep almost every night of his young life and loving that feeling of closeness; however, immediately following that thought I would remember becoming angry that I did not have one of those babies who would sleep upon being placed in a crib. I would also recall feeling proud of how loving my child was and how he often desired nothing more than to be hugged and loved on. But then I would think about all of those showers, “me times” and other moments in which I just wanted to be left the hell alone.
Screaming into pillows.
Warm nursing sessions.
Feeling “touched out.”
My memories felt like fire and ice.
And I think I know why.
When you become a mother at some point, you have to surrender to it. You have to say goodbye to the pre-motherhood version of yourself and welcome the mother that you now are into your life with open arms. You have to welcome her and accept her. Because part of accepting and loving yourself as a mother is part of accepting and loving your child.
But I didn’t know that. And so I fought so much about motherhood, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it. It wasn’t because I didn’t love my child or didn’t want my child. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The thought of not being near my child was enough to make me cry, but there were days where the thought of staying home all day with a toddler or teething child was enough to make me cry too.
I missed the old me. I missed my old clothes. I missed having a place to go. I missed hearing the alarm clock ring for me. I missed having friends to gossip and lunch with, but above all, I just missed the old me. And sometimes missing all of that stuff resulted in me missing out on the magic of my own child. Just like you can have a conversation with a person but not really hear them, I would at times spend the entire day at home with my son but never really see him.
About half way into my second pregnancy, my husband and I made a choice. We chose to move to another city so that my husband could take another job, and as a result I gave up my teaching job to stay home with my son. And it was the best decision of my life.
Something happened in those few months that I stayed home with my four year old son prior to having my second child. I became another mother. At first I thought it was because I had put all of the psycho babble that I learned in college about child psych and development to good use. In fact, I was sure if nothing else that my degree made me a better, more prepared parent. But over time, I realized that couldn’t be true.
There are thousands of good mothers in the world who have never digested an ounce of psycho babble about kids that I did in college. And I know my fair share of teachers who are really awful parents. Without trying to sound like a self-inflated ass hat, the difference is me. I am the reason that I am a good mother now, and it is all because I learned to love the mother in me just as much as I loved the individual in me.
Instead of fighting tooth and nail against becoming one of societies stereotypical soccer moms, I learned to accept myself…exactly as I am. And by doing so, I made myself a more patient, more loving and kinder mother.
My husband once told me some months ago that he was worried about me staying at home again. He reminded me of the dark days that I had being a stay at home mother once before. He remembered the days of me calling my husband and begging him to leave work early. The days where as soon as I saw the front door open I would run to grab my keys and escape to the gym. Geez, even the days where I would lock myself in the bathroom for thirty minutes at a time complaining of “stomach issues.” I don’t have those days anymore.
Don’t get me wrong. I have days where I lose my cool. I am human. But those days are rare. Because I am not trying to keep up with the ghosts of my past. I am just enjoying who I am as a mother, and most importantly enjoying the fact that my kids now get to enjoy me this way too.
I have been two different mothers, and I guess that is okay. Better to break through the cocoon of a mother’s shell that never quite fit than to never give my children the chance to see me with wings.