HEY MAMA, YOU’RE DOING A GOOD JOB.
It’s easy, so easy, for us moms to feel like we are doing it wrong.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to a brand-new mom. We chatted on the phone about sleep strategies, feedings, and the general exhaustion that comes with tending to a newborn 24/7. She reminded me a lot of myself in those first few weeks on my mamahood journey. (I am not quite two years in, so I am also rather green in the mothering field.) I could hear in her voice the eagerness to get it right. And by “it” I mean all of it. Sleep training, feedings, when to let them cry, when to pick them up, when to establish a routine—the whole mothering shabang. Before we hung up she said, “People tell me to use my ‘motherly instinct’ and I’m like, ‘What motherly instinct?!'” Boy could I relate to those feelings. The first few days…weeks…months of becoming a mother, my motherly instincts hibernated somewhere deep down inside of me and refused to help a sista’ out. Not cool instincts. Not. Cool.
I remember feeling so overwhelmed and under-qualified when I brought home my newborn. I had tried to prepare as best as I could to do the job and to do the job perfectly. But I swear, once I pushed that baby out, my brain was this groggy, numb organ that occupied itself with worry and worst-case scenarios. I had read plenty of books and articles and heard countless pieces of advice from my mom friends, but trying to recall anything useful in those early days was like trying to stuff toothpaste back into a tube. I heard someone start talking about a nighttime routine and I was panicked when I realized my baby was a month old and I hadn’t yet established one. Don’t ask me why I felt that I had irrecoverably damaged my child because I had gone four whole weeks without singing her a night-night song. I was just a mess. I felt like I was failing as a mom. Like instinctively, I was supposed to have all the answers, when in reality, I felt insecure in every decision I was making.
So in the middle of this new mom telling me the tactics she’d been trying out to get her new babe to sleep, I told her, “You are doing such a good job.” And I truly believe she is. She is doing the hardest and most exhausting job in the world and I could tell she’s giving it all she’s got. It’s easy, so easy, for us moms to feel like we are doing it wrong. With every new age and stage comes uncharted territory, and I’ve found that even the moms I admire most feel like they are winging it half of the time.
A few months ago, when I was huge pregnant and in the pinnacle of Ellie’s tantrum phase, I turned to Michael after a hard day, willed my voice not crack, and asked him, “Am I a good mom?” It wasn’t that I was fishing for compliments, but I needed some kind of validation that I wasn’t ruining my daughter. Because it was like every tantrum forced me to look into one of those magnifying mirrors—I could see every. single. flaw. I wasn’t patient enough. I wasn’t consistent enough. I wasn’t planning enough fun outings. Maybe I taught her to be entitled. Maybe if we watched Elmo less and read books more she wouldn’t be acting this way. And the worst, maybe I wasn’t cut our for this mom thing after all. Those little insecurities crept in every day, and when every day the most human interaction you get is from a 1.5 year old who is hitting the terrible twos quite early…it just confirms all of those doubts.
Michael looked at me like I was crazy and said,”Yeah, of course you are.” I told him that no one had ever told me that before. I’m not trying to call out my man, he shows me love and appreciation in countless other ways, but being a mom, as everyone knows, is just the most thankless job ever. It’s dirty dishes, and car tantrums, and blowouts, and never-ending laundry. A spare moment alone often means time to clean for an uninterrupted hour. It’s finally getting to eat after 2 pm when your toddler is napping and your newborn is fed and swaddled. It’s standing over a hot stove while a little person cries at your feet wanting “uuuppp!” Don’t get me wrong, it’s also wonderful—days consist of a thousand special moments filled with giggles, kissed owies, and sometimes even naps!
It truly is the best work and there is no way I would trade it in. But it is hard. And it is thankless. We need an atta’ girl every now and then (Ok, every day. Everysingleday.) We need to build each other up.
I heard a line on the radio the other day that said, “I believe most people are good and most mamas aught to qualify for sainthood.” Yes! Most moms are good moms. We all have our weaknesses, sure, but I really believe that we each have our strengths that are unique to just us. We ARE cut out for this!
No one can do a better job raising those little people than you, mama. So keep at. You are doing a good job.