A Thought on Motherhood

Standard

“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”

G.K. Chesterton

The Mommy Wars, we call them. And they’re all about choices. More specifically, they’re all about me trying to feel good about my choices, usually by defending them at the top of my lungs while waving my spear in the air and denouncing everyone else’s choices as primitive, selfish, or just plain uneducated.

Work or stay home?
Cloth diapers or disposable?
Breastfeed or bottle feed?
Pacifier or thumb?
Ferber method or attachment parenting?
Co-sleeping or independence?
Public school or private school? Or home school?
Spanking or non-spanking?
Barney, The Wiggles, or no TV at all?

If there is a decision to be made, you will find women on both sides of the line, fighting fiercely to defend their turf in the sandbox of parental proficiency.

To be honest, I have, at times, envied these women a little. Look into their eyes and you will see a passionate certainty, a blazing confidence that seems to say, “I’ve got this mommy thing all figured out!”

In the seven years I’ve been a mother, I’ve felt a lot of things. Joy? Yes. Fear? Almost daily. Pride, wonder, disappointment, amazement, frustration? Over and over.

Certainty hardly ever makes the list.

With every decision I make, on issues as silly as the Tooth Fairy or as serious as discipline, my overwhelming feeling is hope. Hope that I’ve set my child a step further down the path to integrity, independence, and faith. Hope that I’m not screwing up too royally. Hope that somehow, some way, despite me–and maybe even the tiniest bit because of me–my child’s canoe will make it through the all roiling rapids ahead without capsizing.

Parenting is a tough gig. And yet, rather than offer support to each other, many moms are at war, whether the battleground be bottles and bedtime or career and home life.

Why do we do that? Why undermine each other like that when we’re all basically fighting for the same thing–healthy, happy children? I’ve pondered this for a while as war stories have come in from traumatized friends and neighbors. Nothing can bring a grown woman to tears like an outside voice confirming her worst and most secret conviction: “You’re doing it wrong.” Isn’t that, deep down, what haunts us? I suppose that winning this sort of victory gives a momentary reprieve from the worry, from the nagging feeling that we could be better, that we could do more.

Fortunately, mommy guilt doesn’t cage me anymore.

For one thing, when you have a child with special needs, that yardstick you’re using to measure yourself against other moms pretty much gets thrown out the window. Suddenly, it’s all about what’s best for your child, with no thought to what the mom down the street thinks about it.

Second, as anyone with more than one kid knows, I’ve come to understand that every child is different, and so is every family. The gentle verbal reminder that brings one child to instant obedience doesn’t even make a blip on another child’s radar screen unless it’s accompanied by a swat on the bottom or the (serious) threat of donating all his worldly possessions to charity because he didn’t clean his room. Though I believe that there are sound, reliable principles of good parenting that are always true, the way that these principles are applied can vary widely with equally good results.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I’ve realized that, no matter how it felt when we nervously carried that little, vulnerable bundle of spit, poop and dreams home from the hospital, we are not in this alone. There is One who holds my children closer to His heart even than I do, and it is to Him that I appeal daily for wisdom, patience, understanding, patience, and help. (And did I mention patience, Lord?) He is with them when I cannot be, and I have faith in Him to smooth over the many mistakes I make in my stumbling walk through mommyhood.

So, to sum up, I’d just like to say to my fellow moms: Relax. You’re not doing it wrong!

(Except for you. Yeah, you! Cut that out!)

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19 responses »

  1. So well put. I too wonder why woman undermine each other when the goal is the same. And I agree that everyone needs to relax.

    My mother was a school teacher for 30+ years and her assessment of parenting was that kids grow up okay in spite of what parents do to them.

  2. Thanks for a very interesting peek into a world I do not inhabit. Just the other day I was talking to Christy about your blog and we said, “I’ll bet Katrina is a great Mom.” You were an amazing person “back then,” and I can tell through your writing you’re even more special now.
    You’re doing a good job. 🙂

  3. Nope Jules, I think she was talking to me! She just heard me yelling at my youngest about getting out of my bedroom – again – then misplacing (or losing, whatever!) my wedding ring because he managed to climb up just high enough to get into my jewelry box – again! When I agreed to being a stay at home mommy, I never dreamed that I’d be a zoo keeper to monkies 🙂

    Thanks for the encouragement Katrina! I love the inspiration you give (and are) to us other mommies that have chosen to walk the same paths…and very different paths…that you tread daily. Keep up the good work, girl!!!

  4. Very well said (as always!) and ooooh soooo true! We need to build each other up and offer hope and encouragement. Although, I do struggle when I see my sister give in time and time again for something and then wonder why her kids nag her but I need to let her parent HER way and know that she’s doing the best for HER kids.

    Thanks for the beautiful post, Katrina!

  5. I will join the chorus of “what a wonderful, insightful and loving post”

    I think you have expressed so beautifully what everyone feels.

    I am in love with this post, printed it and put it in my “reminders” box. I am sure one day soon in the future I will need to pull it out and remind myself that my choices have merit no matter what the playgroup moms say.

    Truly one of the best posts I have read in the my year of blogging!

  6. I know I do it wrong all the time, but sheesh…you don’t have to tell everyone. Actually, I do plenty wrong, I also employ the “asking for forgiveness” method quite a bit as well.

  7. You summed it up right here. Isn’t it crazy how kids can be related yet be SO different? It’s like you have to reinvent the wheel with each of them to figure out what gets their attention.

  8. What a great post.

    As a new Mom, I feel like I’m totally relaxed about all that stuff. Which makes me freak out…because I figure The Guilt will come and I’m afraid of it!

  9. Ok, so since there are so many mommies visiting this blog and in the mood to encourage each other…I need some advice. I have a 22 month old boy (my last, thank the Lord!) with a really bad temper – already! It doesn’t matter how I try to discipline him (for things like whacking his brother or sister with a car or his hand, throwing a temper tantrum and slamming his head on the nearest solid object, throwing his hands at me as if to threaten to hit, etc.) it just causes his temper to flair worse! I’ve tried time out, but that just elicited a bigger tantrum while sitting on the stairs, spankings just make him angrier, and ignoring it just makes it last longer. So, I’m wondering if anyone out there has already conquered this problem with one of their own offspring? My other 2 children never dared to react like he does, so I’m at my witt’s end when it comes to disciplining this child!

    And by the way, I know I’m not a bad mommy – I’m just feeling ill-equiped to deal with this particular personality at this particular moment 🙂

  10. Katrina, with this post, you’ve removed the fear from a ka-zillion Mommies. I can’t wait to see what God does with your legacy to your sweet ones.

  11. brilliant–Thank you so much! I’ll let my kids deliver the verdict on that one (but not for another twenty years; today they’re mad at me because I refused to watch Chicken Little for the four hundredth time…lol!)

    ally–Wow! Kudos to your mom! If anyone could write a definitive book on the subject, it’s a teacher! On a side note, I’d love to hear her thoughts on the changes the last thirty years have brought to the face of education and its function in society.

    Shell–What a sweet, wonderful thing to say! I sure miss you guys…

    Jules and Jennifer–Nope, it wasn’t either of you…this time. But I’ve got my eye on you! (heh heh…)

    Amy–Thank you! And you’re right. I think we all have blind spots as parents, places where a loving and well-placed word might give us the key we need for a particular problem with our kids. The trick is in the “loving and well-placed” part! Unless imminent danger is involved, I’d almost rather say nothing. (But I am a chicken that way!)

    Newlywife–Wow, thank you! I have so enjoyed reading your first year of marriage blog, and I can tell that you are going to be a great mom. (And you’ve got a sense of humor, which will definitely stand you in good stead the first time you have to take your little one to the emergency room with a Micro Machine up his nose.)

    Kassi–Yes, I, too, have to ask for forgiveness far more often than I wish! Hopefully my kids will at least grow up with a firm understanding of human frailty! LOL…

    Anne–That’s absolutely right. I felt like I was starting from scratch when we had Caleb. At first I thought it was because he was a boy, but even friends with two boys or two girls mentioned feeling the same way. I guess it’s back to on-the-job training!

    Isabel–Thank you! Don’t worry; Mommy Guilt is not inevitable. You might be one of those happy few with an inborn sense of balance and confidence in your mothering. It takes most of us years to get there! (Of course, maybe none of us should speak too soon–the teen years are still looming!)

    Rosieboo–Thank you so very much! I would certainly appreciate your prayers to that end. I need all the help I can get. 🙂

  12. Jennifer–It sounds like you have the textbook Strong-Willed Child on your hands! Have you read James Dobson’s book, The Strong-Willed Child? I also recommend a book I am just finishing, also by him, called Parenting Isn’t for Cowards.

    As to personal experience, my children have their strong-willed moments, but generally respond well to the measures you say you’ve already tried. I wish I could be more helpful! Maybe someone else will chime in. 🙂

    I’ll definitely pray about it!

  13. I did read The Strong Willed Child several years ago when my first was born. I thought he was strong-willed – then I had 2 more! I couldn’t have been more wrong about his character. He’s very sweet and sensitive and will break down in tears if you discipline to intensley. He’s very repentent – or at least he was until he figured out how to out-argue us! But, I digress…I was thinking about pulling that book back off of the bookcase and starting at chapter one. But, as I remember, Dr. Dobson didn’t give much advice when it came to actually disciplining the behavior. Maybe I’ve forgotten and he did, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough. I’m off to the bookcase… 🙂

  14. Wow…as I anxiously watch my belly grow, I am taking notes from posts like this one.
    I had to let go and ‘relax’ from week one when I thought I was losing the pregnancy. God can always takes the difficult and makes it beautiful! That is what I have to remember…

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