Do you hear from others that you are a good mom and sometimes have a hard time believing them? I did, especially in those very early days when my daughter was in those single digits. Intellectually I believed what the person was saying; I knew that they weren't lying or trying to placate me. But emotionally, I felt like I sometimes was failing Elisabeth. Because of that belief (even if it was occasional), I found it hard to believe that I was a good mom. Here are a few examples of moments that made it hard for me to feel like a good mom:
- I'd share a story of a recent baby challenge with one of my sisters or a friend and ask, “did _____ ever do anything like that?” and they'd answer “No.” Argh! "Is it just me?", I would wonder.
- Elisabeth was growing so quickly and in so many different ways that reading her “cues”, following her lead or knowing how to best stimulate her learning felt impossible sometimes. And then I felt foolish or stupid.
- Given the choice of a shower or breakfast, I always opted for the shower even though I knew that I should eat.
- My husband has a billion songs from childhood that he remembers very easily. Me? Not one. For months I didn't sing "you are my sunshine," (one of the only songs I know) because it felt too depressing. "What kind of mom isn't singing to her baby?" I'd think.
- Elisabeth was ten months before I took her to story time at the library. But everyone seemed like they'd been going for years...judging by how well they knew the finger plays!
There's more of course. Society pushes women so much toward an impossible double standard that it can be hard to feel like a success at anything! But putting even that aside as much as I can, I've learned two things that have made me feel calmer and more confident about the kind of mom I am:
- Support from other moms is essential. I started going to Paula's new moms groups because I wanted the support and community around a new baby but quickly found I was running the group! That was wonderful but didn't answer my need for support. So, I started connecting to newer moms in my community through local list serves as well as reaching out to moms from my childbirth class. Those actions helped me feel less alone and also provided support and encouragement about my parenting. When one mom said she thought Elisabeth was "brave, open to new experiences," I felt like I had won the lottery! If she was seen as brave at seven months, I must be doing something right.
- Time away from baby gives great perspective. I started working two afternoons a week when Elisabeth was five months. It was one of the best decisions that I've ever made. I was desperate for adult company, to have a little money coming in but didn't want to feel stressed by my work. Working part-time in retail fit the bill...along with being pretty and fun too! The time at work freed up my mind too. I started to imagine what kind of work I wanted to do and eventually started planning Outside The Mom Box. I came back to my family refreshed and energized with a new perspective on the parenting that I was doing and what I wanted to be more cognizant of in the future.
Today, I don't think much about whether or not I'm a good mom: I know I am. I may periodically miss signs that Elisabeth is giving me or waited a while to schedule her first dentist appointment (whoops!) but I'm less inclined to evaluate my parenting based on what I haven't done.
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