My first lesson of motherhood came hard and fast. I woke up from a nap in early labor to a team of doctors and nurses with their hands on me and in me, searching for my son’s heartbeat. He was born 15 minutes later, healthy and screaming, and I learned something important. I was not in control.
I am not in control.
I am not in control of the energy he brings into the world or what the world will throw at him or at me. I am not in control of his joy, his hurt, his pain or his growth. This doesn’t mean I won’t try to shape him, guide him or clear the way for him. But the kids and I are on this ride together – and none of us know exactly where it’s going.
Motherhood is letting go.
When my son was first born, the very fact that he was no longer in my body made me feel like I couldn’t protect him anymore. I felt naked without him. The first night he slept in his crib and not next to my bed, I was consumed by anxiety. Was he breathing? Did he need me? How would I know? There are so many painful moments of separation in parenting: my first day back at work, his first day at school, sleepovers, and so much more. The pain of separation doesn’t end; but I have learned to expect it and manage it with each new step towards independence.
Worry is not a love language.
My anxiety went off the charts in the early years of parenting. I worried about breathing, eating, sleeping, anything that came my way. I worried about small things and big things, and they often felt life or death. Will screen time destroy my child’s brain? It took some time – and maybe a pandemic – to let go of some of that worry as an expression of love. When I perseverate, it increases my stress level and disconnects me from the present moment. When I focus on the here and now, the things I can control, the moments I can enjoy, the love and connection flows more freely.
Don’t let the haters hate.
Parenting judgement is real. I spent way too much time letting myself feel judged for my motherhood style or for my children’s behavior and personalities, especially given some of the challenges they faced. Finally, I closed my circle, and made a point to surround myself with people – professionals and friends – who support me on my parenting journey. Tuning out the noise of “helpful advice” made all the difference.
I might not be doing it right, but I’m probably not doing it as wrong as I think.
As I reflect on a decade of motherhood, I’ve learned so much. I’ve had to change myself, learn and unlearn things I took for granted and develop new skills to support two small humans who are very different than me. I have a potluck style! I know there are things I can do better – stronger boundaries, a little more structure – but I also know that what I offer my kids is unique to me and to them – and we’re all going to turn out just fine.