When my husband and I were talking about becoming parents, man, were we clueless. Especially me, I was the clueless one. Bryan has always been more of a practical realist; me–I’m more of a dreamer. I tend to get lost in thought, stare out windows, go way deeper into conversations than people really wanted to.
I’ve learned so much since the quest of motherhood began–mostly that things are never going to go the way that I expect them to go. That motherhood is full of profound, disgusting, heart-melting, terrifying, glorious, silly, unpredictable surprises. Beginning with two miscarriages, then two healthy births of two beautiful girls on opposite sides of the country, to an overseas move, to expat life and pregnancy and yet another miscarriage in Europe, to the birth of my baby boy, to a visit to the American Embassy to get his citizenship requirements in the middle of a winter storm when he was ten days old, to another overseas move from hell with a four year old, three year old and ten month old, to staying in two AirBnBs before moving into a house, to beginning kindergarten and first grade….whew, it’s been a hectic eight years. Eight years since our first attempts at becoming parents!
Somewhere during that pregnancy with Vivienne, our oldest, I decided that I was against pregnancy books–except for the baby development week to week. The reason was because I was already recovering from fear and anxiety left over from losing two babies in a row before her, and all I found when I read these pregnancy books was more fear, more “what ifs,” and illogical, crippling reasons to suspect that something was wrong with my perfectly formed and developing baby girl. I decided to trust God because that was the take-away lesson that He’d taught me through my miscarriages anyway. There was nothing I could do to prevent them, nothing I could do to change what was happening to me, and worry and fear would do nothing but steal the joy I was experiencing during my pregnancy as I felt my baby grow and move inside me.
This aversion to asking for and giving advice as a mom has carried over into my years of mothering infants, toddlers, preschoolers and now elementary-aged children. There are not many people that I will ask for advice. Sometimes I ask my own mother because she knows me, she’s completed her journey of motherhood successfully and I know she doesn’t judge me. Sometimes I ask my sister, and of course, I ask my husband what he thinks.
But mostly I pray, I ask God for help and watch for His answers, His way of leading. I’m not saying that I’m always a great listener, but I try. I try this tactic or that one and see which yields success. You see, each of my children is different and the same approach does not always work for each one in every scenario. Their moods, likes, dislikes, feelings and fears change around the clock, and if my OWN children are so diverse in their personalities, how in the world can I offer advice to other moms on what they should do when their child won’t eat this, has an allergy to that, doesn’t sleep through the night or has extreme separation anxiety? Occasionally other women will ask me for advice, but I really do my best to frame my answer as, “this is what we tried” not as “you should do this.” The word “should” is one I don’t think is good for most moms to hear–it usually brings a lot of guilt.
Another reason that I don’t give a lot of mothering advice is because there is so much I don’t know, and so much that just doesn’t interest me. I do not care about eating organic food. I do not craft. I don’t know how to sew, although I “should.” I don’t garden. I am not a huge fan of Disney-related stuff. I don’t send my kids to preschool. So basically, if you want to know about kale recipes, DIY Halloween costumes, how to grow fist-sized tomatoes, where to get the best Disney passes (I don’t even know if that’s the right way to say that), which preschools in the area are the highest rated, I am not your girl. I’m aware of the areas where I lack knowledge or skill.
What I do know as a mom is that these years go by so quickly. I do know that it’s okay to tell your children that you don’t have all the answers to their questions. I do know that it’s okay to cry and be real in front of them. It’s okay if you yell and lose your patience, as long as you’re willing and ready to say that you were wrong, ask for their forgiveness and follow it up with a big hug and a heart-felt “I love you,” and try, really try, to do better next time. I do know that your kids think you are so much more wonderful than you believe or imagine. I do know that they think you are wicked smart. I do know that it’s okay to lock your self in your room and cry out to God. I do know that it’s okay to tell them “no” or “not right now.” I do know that going for a walk with them, playing “doggies” with them as my kids love to do, or eating popsicles with them on the front porch will make just as big of an impression on their little hearts as a day at Disney World. I do know that they love the sound of your voice and the feel of your arms. I know they think that you are an incredible artist. I know they think you’re pretty. I know they love to dance with you. I do know that you’re tired and your brain feels short-circuited, but if you take the time to answer their questions honestly, you have a chance to impact their lives forever.
I know motherhood is probably not exactly what you had in mind. I know that there are moments that you wish that you could stay in bed, or go on vacation, or be able to finish a mediocre blog-post without a pint-sized person crawling into your lap. (I know that if you are afforded the opportunity to do any of these things, you actually really miss your kids after a while and just want to go home.) And when you start to feel guilty about having these escape fantasies, don’t buy into the lie that a “better” mom wouldn’t want to get away. Instead, recognize that you love your kids enough to care! That hesitation/elation that you have over an opportunity to go somewhere without your kids (the supermarket, a hotel, the dentist!) is a sign of a devoted and caring mother who is working hard and doing her best. Accept the things that you DO know about being a mother, the things that have served you and your family well. Capitalize on your strengths and the knowledge that you have that works. (Preaching to a one-woman choir here ladies. Sometimes we ALL need a talk.)
And never forget that there’s One who knows YOU. When other advice fails, when you’re on your fourth round of trial-and-error, remember that He has limitless patience and all the right answers. Sometimes we just have to ask the right person. And put on some make-up–that always makes me feel better. 😉