I’m going to be honest and put myself out there today and say that Mom life is a reality that is completely foreign and new to me and is proving to be the hardest ongoing role/job I have ever embarked on. More than four and a half months in, there is a definite part of me that has absolutely settled in and fallen in love with the role of Mom and then another part of me that is terrified every single day that I have no idea what I am doing and odds are, I am doing it all wrong. The pendulum sways pretty steadily back and forth between the two. Love – terror – ecstasy – terror – boundless joy – terror and so on and so forth. My heart literally bursts at the seams with joy every time I lay eyes on my child, but I am definitely still trying to figure out my rhythm and my identity as Mom/wife/woman/human when I am not changing a diaper, comforting his cries, nursing 200 times a day or making funny voices and singing silly songs with no real words to make him laugh. While I love being a Mom more than I could have ever imagined, it is still definitely a zone of discomfort a lot of times.
There are so many “methods” and approaches to parenting, books to read, podcasts to follow, articles with the latest research and I love reading them all. Luckily, there are also a lot of Mom and baby groups, recurring play dates and a pretty significant community of stay at home moms in the area that I live in and I am absolutely enthusiastic to join in on any and all of them if it means getting more insight on this parenting thing, meeting more moms who I can talk to, and basically getting out there in an attempt to be the best mom and I can possibly be. The thing is though, at the end of the day, I’m not really sure what that looks like. Successful parenting for that matter is not an accomplishment that is measurable by any means, as far as I can tell anyway. Does it mean tummy time for 90 minutes a day? Or reading books and flash cards every day? Or training them to sleep through the night? Meeting milestones early? These anxieties absolutely fill my mind every day. One example that has been nagging at me for about a week now is rolling over, and the fact that John Fredrick has not shown any interest in wanting to roll over at all. He is such a chill baby and loves hanging out on his back and checking out the scene from there. I thought it was adorable how he was just so content on his back spreading his limbs out like a starfish and turning his head every now and then to follow my movements or sounds. I don’t know what hit me though but one day last week, I started having actual anxiety about the same thing I found adorable and worried that he hasn’t shown any interest in rolling over and at almost 5 months, it is a milestone that should nearly be met (I of course kind of made that up in my head, I don’t actually know when a baby “should” have rolled over) As I watched him play on the floor with his toys on his back and on his tummy, I would stare at him and silently will him to attempt to roll over on his side. I started to worry that somehow I had messed up in helping him with that aspect of his development and that I was officially a bad mother because of this. This in turn, made me feel even more terrible because I now unintentially started having expectations of my sweet four and a half month old baby boy who just smiles sweetly at his Mommy and loves to nurse and cuddle for hours and he is happy and healthy and who cares if he hasn’t rolled over and that he doesn’t care much for tummy time….but wait, why haven’t you rolled over yet when that other baby your age has?
Yup, pretty ridiculous and nonsensical. That is when I know that I need to calm it all down. Stop reading all these articles, tracking development with my app, and instead, pay attention to my baby’s moods and needs.
We got home from an 18-hour car trip home this past weekend and I have spent the week trying to organize our household, unpack, do laundry, clean and nurture our comfort zone. Most of these tasks on the list are home organization related which feels great to accomplish. My sweet boy, on the other hand, is recovering from our 2-week trip back home as well as the car ride and all he wants to do is sleep (on me) and nurse and cuddle. He has had a very short attention span for any play mats or bouncers or rockers or anything else that would help me in accomplishing my household tasks. It’s in these moments that I realize my purpose in being a mother is not accomplishing all of these tasks I set out for myself, it’s to care for and nurture my child’s needs. He isn’t happy alone in a bouncer or rocker because: a) he doesn’t want to be alone and b) he doesn’t want to be set in some foreign object, he wants to be held or carried and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. He doesn’t care about the amount of laundry overflowing in our hamper or the fact that I pretty much needed to scrub down our fridge before putting any new food in there (accomplished though!) To him, he needs his mother to satisfy his needs both physical (food!) and emotional (nursing, loving, carrying him) and to me, that’s what it means to be a good parent. He needs love, encouragement and a lot of physical contact while he is going through the even more difficult task of growing, which in case you are not aware of, babies do a lot of that in the first few months. He doesn’t need me to worry about meeting milestones in a timely manner, he needs me to play with him and nurture his comfort zones and help him explore his curiosity. He needs me to be enthusiastic and energetic when he wants to play more and be sensitive and understanding when he has had enough and he just wants to nurse for comfort and safety
Some days I feel like I have “failed” because I didn’t get dinner started before my husband got home, or I wanted to go for a walk but just didn’t have the energy or couldn’t get ourselves organized, or because I got absolutely no cleaning done. To be a successful adult sometimes it feels like you have to always be doing stuff. I’m not working at the moment but obviously that’s how you succeed at a job, you get stuff done. I like getting stuff done – it makes me feel accomplished. As a stay at home mom, to my first child and only four and a half months in, I realized the “doing” becamenless external and is more of a deeper internal exchange and bonding experience with my son. These are actions that are rarely measurable but in my heart and instinct even as a new and inexperienced Mom, are more beneficial than 90 minutes of tummy time or making sure to meet milestones in a timely manner.
So today I skipped the tasks at home. I wrote this whole jumbled up blog post of thoughts from every direction on my couch while John Fredrick nursed then fell asleep deeper than he would had I laid him down in his cold crib far away from the body contact he needs from me today. We also went for a walk and I showed him what a river, a bridge and what puppies were. I nursed him in my car when he had enough and I brought him home and played with him until he was ready to relax and nurse back to sleep. This is what I needed to do today. Every day as a new parent, I do things I have never done as a non-parent and though they may not be the most exciting activities, I welcome this zone of not necessarily discomfort, but an every day life of simplicity I have never known. I may have sang the itsy bitsy spider 20 times in a row but it was all worth it to hear my son laugh for 5 minutes non stop until he got the hiccups. Laughter – that is how I measure my success as a parent on a day to day basis and there is more joy to that than I could have ever possibly imagined.