Over the past 19+ months, I’ve been surprised both with how easily motherhood has come to me, and how difficult it’s been to adjust to this new-ish role at the same time.
For instance, I thought I would fall in love with my baby as soon as (s)he was born. I didn’t know how this was going to happen, but I kind of figured it would – I mean, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?! It didn’t. (Sidenote: Kate wrote an awesome post about this.) I didn’t suffer from PPD or anything like that, but I felt disconnected from Clara for quite a few days after she was born. I felt guilty about the disconnect, because I had expected the unconditional love to come more naturally and quickly than it did. I breastfed, I cuddled her, and I loved looking at her, but she didn’t seem like MY baby and I didn’t instantly feel like a mom.
Now that I’m the mom to an exuberant toddler, I’m still figuring out what being Clara’s mother looks like. It looks different in every stage of her life. Being a newborn mom is different than being a mom to an infant and once Clara started moving… well, it was a whole new ballgame to adjust to. And now I have the ‘terrible twos’ and the lovely three year old stages to look forward to, but I know I shouldn’t get ahead of myself! I really am enjoying the stage we’re in right now.
On the hard days, I need to remind myself that love is a choice, even when it comes to motherhood. I mean, I often hear that advice when it relates to marriage, but I don’t often hear it referring to motherhood. But sometimes, when Clara does something a bit frustrating like – oh I don’t know – throwing her entire lunch on the floor to feed Ozzie before she even tries a bite, I need to remind myself 1) to breathe and 2) that I love this daughter o’ mine even when I’m feeling especially impatient.
Because being a mom isn’t a choice I make every day, just like being a spouse isn’t a choice I continue to make. In both cases, I made my decision years ago and now I can choose what kind of mom and spouse I want to be. Even though my first impulse is sometimes to be impatient and selfish, I can choose to be patient and kind and loving and giving… even when it’s hard, and even when I’m tired, and even when there are scrambled eggs all over my floor 5 seconds after a cleaning service finished mopping. Not that this has ever happened. (OK, it happened last week and I almost cried.)
Being a mom has truly made me face the worst things about myself, and I take it as a constant challenge to be better for myself and my family, because they deserve the best version of myself and I deserve to be the best version of myself. I want to choose to love (and love well) every change I get. I never knew how selfish I truly was (and am) until I became a mom. I also never realized how upset I could get over the smallest things. Nothing has made me realize how much I need God’s grace more than becoming a parent who struggles to give grace to my child, my husband, and myself. I feel guilty about not being joyfully devoted to my family at every given moment. If I’m being honest, sometimes I feel a bit trapped in my lifestyle when I think about the freedom I used to have as a woman in the working world who had no responsibilities to anyone but herself and to God.
But I remind myself that all of these conflicting feelings are okay, because I’m not perfect and I can’t expect myself to be. I choose to put in the effort to be the best mother I can be every single day, and sometimes I fail miserably, while other days I feel like ‘super mom’. On any day, whether it’s particularly good or especially bad, I am confident that I am the absolute best mom that Clara is going to have, and I know that I’m doing my best.
Maybe I’ll be better prepared with Baby Beni, but I have a feeling that adding a second child to the mix is only going to make these feelings all the more apparent and complicated.
Don’t get me wrong, the love that has come with motherhood is unlike anything I could ever experience outside of this very unique relationship, but it does not always come to me naturally – sometimes loving Clara well is truly a conscious decision.