No Such Thing As A Novice Mom

by Emma Barlow, special to The Daily Damn

When I was a little girl, I’d write a list of my future children’s names in my Cinderella notebook, coupled with the last name of whatever boyfriend I had that week. Just like most elementary school girls I knew, mind you. I always swore I would marry each one. I had about a dozen baby girl names, and no boy names because, as most naive girls think, my life would go exactly as planned as long as I believed it would (I can thank Disney for this outlook on life).

While in my teenage years, I watched my mom’s kids and babysat them. I would vow never to let my kid get away with throwing a tantrum in the middle of the restaurant. When I had my chance at motherhood, I would be a perfect mom. A mother whose kids always had clean clothes, used their manners, and didn’t complain about the food I put on their plate. Oh, to be young and oblivious to the way the world really works!

Flash forward a few decades, and here I am: married, and blessed (and might I add stressed) with two healthy, energetic boys. My husband and I decided together that I would stay home with our boys, so that is my job. Not only did my fairy-tale dreams come crashing to the floor, but I realized how shallow and miniscule my worries of my child’s behavior at the dinner table were.

As soon as I heard my oldest son’s first cries, a new instinct kicked in. Right away, I started worrying about how much he should be eating, why he was crying, and why in the world did his poop look like black tar? Little did I know that these would be the least of my worries.

Next comes worrying about the milestones he was hitting. Why was the other mom’s baby standing when mine can barely pull himself up into a standing position? Is there something wrong with his development? Then comes toddlerhood, and that’s a whole new ballgame. Now I’m reading ten different books on discipline, and I don’t want to scar him for life if I don’t execute the time-out formula exactly how know-it-all jerks like SuperNanny say I need to.

The list of choices we are going to make on behalf of our children will only grow and become more complicated, and with each decision we open up ourselves to critique our parenting and beat ourselves up if it doesn’t go as planned. As I know, as mothers we scrutinize and question ourselves over every decision we make, or every reaction we have. I can’t count how many minutes I’ve sat up at night wondering if I’m making the right choice, or how many times I’ve called my closest friend crying and repeating, I’ve ruined him, I just know it!, or telling my husband, I just don’t know if it’s in my DNA to be a mother, some people just seem to just naturally ‘have it’.

Well, one thing I’ve learned is that every other mother out in the world has moments of insecurity regarding their parenting. If they say they don’t, they are lying. Or a robot. One of those two.

I believe this “fear of failure” comes from the immeasurable amount of love we have for our children, and the desire to see them be happy and flourish, and we try and put all of that onto our shoulders.

One way we as women can ease this “mom insecurity” is to connect with other moms. Find a mom’s group, connect with your neighborhood mothers. And if you’re part of a church, join or start a mom’s group. There’s nothing more refreshing than sitting with a group of moms, and connecting with them.

Many times when I’ve shared a shortcoming with another mom, like the incident I had last week when I yelled at my son instead of keeping calm and collected, we see that we share the same struggles. Sometimes she will tell me when I’m just sweating the small stuff. There have been times when I’ve shared my fears with them, even my absurd fear of a plane falling out of the sky and directly into my child’s room, and we all get a good chuckle out my overworked hormones’ effect on my imagination.

I believe that women are naturally relational, and that it is so good for our overall well being to connect and share with another mom who is dealing with the frustrations, and fears of failure. Together, we can help one another recognize that perfection is not necessary, but love is.

And that’s my giving a hoot.

Emma is an extremely busy and proud mother of two young, strapping lads. She lives in the Phoenix Metropolitan area with her husband of six years and is an active member in the faith community.

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