What does motherhood mean to you?
Motherhood, to me, means being the one who tells your 5 year old that his shoes are on the wrong feet, the one who teaches him the importance of “yes, ma’am” and “excuse me”, and the one who screams like a wild banshee on the sidelines of his little league game. I could wax poetic about it all day long, but the truth is motherhood is simply a state of being where you can’t even remember what your life was like before your kiddo came along.
How has motherhood changed you?
I became a “mom” the day my step-son (who was 3 years old at the time) called me “mommy” for the first time. We have full custody of him and I have raised him as my own flesh and blood for the past two and a half years. But nothing could have prepared me for the emotional experience I had when he said that word (and then kept saying it… My heart!) Before he came to live with us I feared that I was too emotionally immature and selfish to put another (tiny!) human before myself. I worried that I’d resent the feeling of independence that I had lost, and that I’d be totally unable to cope with the changes considering I had zero time to prepare. At least with a biological child you get roughly 9 months of preparation… We had 24 hours to prepare for a toddler. But something happened… All of a sudden I was more worried about his runny nose and scraped knee than I was meeting my friends for mimosas at brunch. Rather than pine for the last minute road trips we’d take, I looked forward to the family vacations and trips to the zoo. Now that my husband and I are expecting our first biological child together, I’m not nearly as nervous as I was when we brought Toby home. I know that it’ll just come naturally. Toby will be the very best big brother. He has taught me that blood certainly doesn’t make you family. He’s my little prince for sure.
What is the hardest part of being a mama?
If we’re talking about the “internal” process of being a mom, I’d say it’s finding a balance between structure and patience. Sometimes mom-guilt creeps up on me at night when I’m laying in bed and I think “I shouldn’t have raised my voice” or “He wasn’t hurting anyone by stomping in those mud puddles!” Sometimes I forget that Toby is just a little boy… I look at him and see how much he’s grown in the past 2+ years and it feels like he’s a little man already. It’s tough trying to navigate the roads of motherhood and childhood, that’s for sure.
What is the biggest joy that your children have given you?
The little things that Toby will say are what makes me fall in love with him more and more each day. When he was 3 he told me that I looked “like a princess in your pretty dress, mommy!” – Just out of the blue! On a random, totally not special day. And that meant everything to me. Now he’ll randomly come up to me and give me a hug for no reason and say “I love you, Mom” and my heart melts into a giant puddle. And my favorite – Just the past week or so he’s been “talking” to his little brother (currently in the womb! haha) and he makes sure to tell the baby goodnight and goodbye every time he goes to bed or leaves for school in the morning. It’s simple things like that that really bring the process full circle.
And this little bean I’m currently carrying around – His little kicks when I go to bed at night are everything! No matter what I’m doing when he starts tumbling around, I have to stop and just take in the moment. Pregnancy is such a special and crazy experience. I had no idea what to expect. Now I’m relishing in every single moment because I know it’s fleeting. I want to cherish every moment that I have with this little guy before he comes into the world and then I have to share him! Maybe it’s selfish, but I love having him all to myself for these last few months.
What one piece of advice would you give a first time mama?
I feel like that’s such a hard question to answer. Being a mom is such a relative/subjective experience. There are so many kinds! Step moms, adopted moms, biological moms, hands on moms, from-a-distance moms, etc. I think that no matter what kind of mom you are (or want to be), the important thing to remember is to be gentle with yourself. Motherhood is not something to compete over. It’s not a race or a community challenge. And it’s certainly not a “sport” where anyone is perfect. Mom guilt is a real, tangible emotion and it’s so easy to beat ourselves up for our assumed shortcomings. The world will continue to spin if we raise our voice one too many times, or if our kids eat a PB&J for dinner one night. Kids are resilient creatures on a pretty epic journey, and all we can do is be there for them along the way.