Motherhood is a very competitive sport. It’s true! Any Mother, new or old will tell you. “Are you nursing?” “Did you have natural childbirth?” “Do you cloth diaper, organic home made baby food?” Etc Etc Ad naseaum.
Answer wrongly and you will be shunned by what I refer to as “The Muffia” We all know the type, perfect hair, clothes without baby urp stains. The ones that seem to be able to handle the rigors of motherhood and look good doing it. The ones that
Do everything by the book. The ones that make the rest of us look inferior. Feel inferior.
But motherhood is full of dirty little secrets. No one tells you just how hard it is. We are, as girls from childhood, led to believe that motherhood is peaches and daffodils. We are surrounded by these strong women in our lives that make it look effortless. We walk into this dream of motherhood ill prepared for just how very much of ourselves we are asked to give to others. We don’t realize how much of us we are going to sacrifice. But it’s more. We know there will be sleepless nights. We know a lot of it is thankless grunt work. We don’t have a clue as to what being a “mother” really means. We glimpse it, this secret club of motherhood, very fast. While our new babes sleep we are trying to cram everything into this short space, this nap time. At least I was. I like to think that maybe I wasn’t alone. I didn’t stop and just BE a mother. I didn’t stop and just let the wonder of this life, this soul that is part of me and not part of me. I didn’t, if you will, stop and smell the roses. I just survived. I got through it. Sure there were moments of pure bliss. Wrapping my beautiful son in towel after his bath, snuggling him for a moment before I got back to the work of “being a mom” Lotioning, diapering, dressing, feeding. Maybe because I was such a young new mother, I felt I had to prove something. Be the perfect mother. I held such shame that I didn’t nurse my son, cloth diaper him, feed him the best organic fare I could find. I was, essentially in a hurry to get somewhere. To become that perfect specimen of mother. And then, time got away, and pretty soon this new babe, this magnificent little lump, became a CHILD. A BOY. No longer a baby. I blinked and my onesie, diaper clad baby became my Osh kosh wearing, truck playing BOY. And then. And then. I blinked and all of a sudden I had this FAMILY. A boy, age 3 and newborn twin girls. These teeny tiny little fairy babies, and this rough and tumble chocolate pie-eyed boy. My family. And I was so busy DOING. So much shame not nursing my son, so I forced myself to nurse these girls. I nursed, at one point for 15 hours a day. I nursed, while trying to read to my son. I nursed while teaching my little boy, my darling darling baby boy to say his letters. I nursed while saying; not now honey, mommy’s busy. I nursed, exhausted from no sleep, from trying to be perfect while pretending to be interested in what this tiny boy was saying. Not really hearing him, and sometimes wishing he would omg shut up be quite and stop talking, stop talking stop wanting, needing omg! I nursed these girls until they were 15 months. They were cloth diapered, organically fed. I tried to be super mom. I tried and tried, but I failed. Maybe to the outside world I appeared to be superior than most. At least in my heart that is the image I so wanted to send out. I am a better mommy than you because I… (Fill in the blank) I perpetuated this competitive thing, this ugly side of mother hood. Instead of nurturing the sisterhood that mothering should bring, I perpetuated this model of perfection. And when I laid my head on my pillow at night, I still was not satisfied with my self. I still felt inadequate. So I tried harder. I tried harder to be this June cleaver-esque mommy. To out mommy the other mommies. And still. And still I wasn’t good enough. There came a point, a day where my father had come to visit and was appalled that I still had Easter eggs in my fridge a month after the holiday. My perfectionist father sat in my home and JUDGED my parenting. Questioned my parenting. My fridge, and my dammed eggs. And this perfect mother act (because it was all just a farce) it cracked and crumbled. It smashed like those damn eggs that were a month old. And I cracked, and I crumbled, and I swear to you I literally lost my mind over these eggs, this judgment. I proceeded to have quite the nervous breakdown. I was tired, exhausted and my eggs were OLD. I failed as a parent! I had to go away. I had to get away from this shitstorm I had created and rest. I had to get myself back. So I left. I left and I checked myself into the crazy house and cried and wailed and rested and medicated, and found myself again. Meanwhile, my mother watched these kids of mine. She fed them (gasp) creamed tuna on toast and paper diapered them. I was horrified. I’m sure my medical file states how I cried for days about my children eating tuna, creamed or not. And the subsequent mercury poisoning I was sure they would suffer. I was, in a word, batshit crazy.
And then I came back. I came back like I was never gone. I came back quieter, with less of a crazy perfectionism glean in my eye. My fire, in a word, had been extinguished. I realized that in my race for perfectionism, in the best mommy in the world pageant, I was the only damn contestant, and I had lost. In losing that perfectionism though, I gained something else. I stopped, and I slowed down, and I was able to sit and be not the gold standard model mommy but the mommy that I should have been all along. The fun mommy, the silly mommy. The perfect mommy for MY kids. I still struggle. I struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I struggle with still wishing I could be that magazine perfect mother. I wish I could honestly care more about toys and monkey bars and all the things my kids love. I wish that I could bake decent cookies and keep a perfect house. But most of all, I wish in my heart of hearts that I hadn’t lost those years with my babies. Those important years. I hardly remember them being tiny little things. I was trying to survive. Not enjoy, just get through the day to day. I missed the wonder in their eyes as they discovered the world around them. I missed this, and I look at them sometimes, and I wonder, “Do they know?” Do they mommy wasn’t there? Do they know they have a supremely flawed mother?
Do they know, that even now, as they sleep and dream in their messy messy rooms, that I will be there, sitting by their bed, brushing the hair out of their eyes, rocking back and forth, whispering; I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.