Friday, July 8, 2011
As promised, I am posting a pregnancy photo of our very own Serena Wills – radiant beauty in all of her mommy-to-be splendor. There are some women who you just know will make a great mother.
From the moment I found out Serena was expecting, I thought to myself, “What a lucky child her baby will be…to come into this world through her, to have her for a mother.” I thought the same thing about Annamaria too…and my sister…and all my friends with children. And yet they’re all different – with different ideas and different styles of parenting - yet all great mothers.
Motherhood has become a spectator sport for me. Since I don’t have children of my own, watching women (and men) with children in the street, on the subway, at the mall, in a restaurant – anywhere – can be particularly intriguing to me. And I find myself doing it - making judgments. I’m not proud of this fact, but it happens.
I cringe at the mother who is giving her baby soda and donuts for breakfast on the train. I wince when a mother curses at her child at the mall. And I try to keep myself from giving a disapproving stare when I see a child scream or hit their mother and call her out her name because she told little Johnnie “no” when he asked if he could have a toy. I catch myself thinking, “I wish a child of mine WOULD…”
But I have no children…so what do I know?
What you feed your kids, how you handle a tantrum, what preschool you send your kid to – those are all personal decisions that have nothing to do with anyone else. And I’m sure if I ever become a parent, someone will make snide comments about how I choose to raise my child. I experience self-doubt in this area everyday, even as my eggs remain unfertilized month after month. What kind of mother will I be? Should I even be a mother? How do women do it?
I have friends who never yell at their kid(s). I have friends who look fabulous ALL THE TIME – never a hair out of place, all while baking 100 cupcakes for their child’s class, working a 9-5, going to the gym and PTA meetings, having drinks with their girls and catering to their husbands. Who are these women and what planet are they from?
When I picture myself as a mom, all I see is TIRED. My nephews run me ragged. On the weekends that I visit, they’re all mine. I pull my hair back and put on an outfit that I don’t mind getting Cheeto dust or peanut butter on. I get all dirty at the playground and my pedicure is busted cuz they ran over my toes with their scooter. I try to enforce good eating habits, only to find myself at Mickey D’s getting chicken nugget Happy Meals with apples and chocolate milk or apple juice. And then I go to bed exhausted, only to wake up to them in my face asking me every 5 minutes when I’m getting up and them sticking their finger under my nose to see if I’m still breathing. Then I go back to Queens to FINALLY get some rest.
These aren’t even MY children, so I can only imagine what it’s like to do that 24-7. Motherhood seems like an occupational hazard!
I catch myself in my GYN’s office – the only non-pregnant person in the room most times – reading parenting magazines since that’s all they have around. You should breastfeed until the kid is 20 years old, only feed them organic food, start teaching them different languages at 6 weeks old, they should be a piano prodigy by the time they’re 3, and should get into Harvard with no problem if you follow those guidelines.
I’ll be lucky if I change the diaper correctly.
Arming yourself with information can be useful. But too much expert advice can lead you into the trap of believing that there is one right way to do things and that if you’re not doing it that one way your kids will suffer: A perfect recipe for mother’s guilt.
The reality is, there is no recipe for what it takes to be a good mother. Sometimes mothers lose patience. They yell. They feed their kids junk sometimes because it’s just easier at that moment. And sometimes mothers let their kids get away with things that they shouldn’t because they’re just….tired. But one of the things that those articles never mention is that children are very resilient, and smart…and they know that when you act in love that you’re acting on their behalf. That’s being a good parent.
If I ever am blessed enough to be a mother, I’ll just have to trust my internal mothering guide. They say kids don’t come with directions, but they kinda do in a sense. The directions are your instincts, your values and they’re the basis on which all of your decisions are made. If you make a decision about your child that comes from love, prayer, listening to and trusting in God and having faith in yourself, you’ll do just fine.
It’s the internal critic that many of us need to muzzle because it does the most damage. Without that little voice inside our heads creating doubt about our mothering skills, comments and judgments made by others would be less likely to take hold.
Doing what you believe is best for your children and your family makes you a good mother, no matter if it fits anyone else’s standard. There will always be decisions you make that others will be able to find fault with, but your true allegiance is with your kids. When you’re comfortable with your decisions, you need to just stand in them and own them and recognize that the only one you have to answer to is yourself, your child later and God. You don’t have to answer to anyone else.
When all is said and done, being a mother means tuning in to what really matters. Look into your child's eyes – when you see that sparkle, and he gives you a hug and you know that he loves you – that’s the best feeling. I feel it from my nephews and all the children in my life…and that little feeling right there gives me confidence that I just might join my sister, and Annamaria…and now Serena, in making a great mother one day.