by Rebeca Jones
The wrinkly stranger pooped. Again. I looked up at the kind nurse charting my vitals and gestured feebly. “Do you want me to show you again, honey?” Her eyes crinkled a bit as she set down her clipboard and grabbed a new diaper from the bag of freebies on my bedside tray. Explaining the pertinent information once again, she wrangled my squirming daughter expertly, wiping up the mess and ensconcing her in a fresh nappy faster than I could ever imagine doing.
The birth of my first child was a much-anticipated event. After several rounds of fertility drugs, we had been ecstatic to see the faint blue line appear on the pee stick. Now, three baby showers, one midnight life-flight, and six weeks of bed rest later, I was reeling. Looking down at my tiny daughter, I felt an emotion I had not expected. Fear. I had expected the joy, the relief, and the exhaustion. I did not anticipate this black hole of fear that threatened to swallow me whole.
Having read all of the popular books and magazines about parenting, I thought I’d be set. But none of those well-written articles had prepared me for the reality of the scrunched and screaming foreigner in my arms. Overwhelmed and self-conscious, I refused to change her diaper while we were in the hospital. I was certain the nurses, my mother, or my husband would see I wasn’t a real mommy at all, but an inept, clueless phony.
Once home and on my own, I began trying to do things the way my own mother had. After all, she was a supermom who sewed, cooked, cleaned, and helped out in my classroom. There was nothing she couldn’t do, it seemed. But I quickly discovered that I am not my mother. My efforts always fell short. I stumbled along for several years, trying to be super but inside, feeling like an utter failure.
I looked to friends, others who were traveling the road a ways ahead of me. Attempting to emulate them, I found myself frustrated and depressed. Outwardly, I looked fine but on the inside I was drowning. Like a cardboard cutout, I became a bogus facsimile of the perfect mother. Just staying afloat was incredibly wearying.
There was no defining turning point for me, no single moment of epiphany that changed the course of my parenting. It was gradual, a gentle guiding of our gracious Father, leading me into an awareness that has changed my life and my motherhood journey.
I don’t have to be like someone else to be a good mom.
Imitating mothers I admired, I had spent far too much time trying on one persona after another, an array of ill-fitting suits, the mimicry and comparisons weighing me down. Putting away my notions of what it meant to be a ‘good’ mommy, I learned to understand and accept my own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. With this came a freedom from fear, the fear of not doing this mothering thing right.
Today, I am at peace with the fact that I’m not super crafty like my mother. I don’t have to feed my kids all organic foods like my friend. It’s okay if I am not terribly organized like that lady two pews over in my church. If God had wanted those specific things for my kids, he’d have given them to someone else.
God chose me to mother these children. I am only called to be the best me I can be. My kids have a mother who fosters a love of the arts, who is silly and will binge watch sci-fi shows with them. They roll their eyes and smile when we pass rain puddles, bugs, or flowers, knowing an impromptu science lesson is about to ensue. They do not have a mommy who likes to cook, make scrapbooks, or sort through closets. And that’s fine by us.
Nineteen years ago, I gazed into the beautiful eyes of my daughter with barely concealed panic. Now, I can bravely step out into new territory because I understand it is not my place to be perfect in every area. It’s not your place either, Mama. In fact, it is our imperfections that draw us together. They are what make us relatable and real. Once we connect in that way, a collective sharing of our strengths can occur as we build community, and in the pooled talents of community, all of our children thrive.
Come on over and visit me at Building Standing Stones. Hope to see you there!