As I discussed in my last post, there are myriads of definitions that parents have of what being a parent means. The more experienced you are at parenting, the more you realized that those definitions typically don’t hold much weight when you’re staring the down the barrel of reality.
As I was talking with a mom-to-be friend of mine, I heard in her words several of the “good mom” statements that I had said myself, before I actually held any of my children. I thought it would be a good use of time on this site to explore some of the most commonly held expectations and deal with them honestly.
Confession: I didn’t bond with my baby right away. Maybe I should restate that: I loved my daughter immediately, but because of what I’d heard from other parents about the magical, instant connection between mother and child (you know the one…where heaven parts, the angels sing, rainbows descend into the hospital room, the baby looks dreamily in your eyes, and you instantly know what their every need is and how you should respond) didn’t happen with me. In fact, I must admit that even after a few days of being trained in the arts of nursing, bathing, changing and swaddling this baby, I still brought home a virtual stranger. I remember looking at my husband with the beginning edges of panic joining with my words as I asked, “What do we do with her now?”
Over time, as I began to be able to read her sounds, create a workable schedule, and learned to appreciate the wonder of who she was, I relaxed and gracefully stepped into the long journey of parenting.
Two and a half years later, when we repeated this process with my son, I found myself crying in my car one evening, terrified by the fact that I didn’t love both of my children at the same time. At least that was the way it felt. At times, I resented my new son for infringing on the special times that I was creating with my daughter, and other times I resented my daughter for stealing time away from the pure joy of caring for my new baby. I really thought I was either going crazy, or somehow lacked the “mother” gene that I was supposed to have to make room for more than one child.
And what made it worse was that no one around me was talking about this phenomenon. I had no one to either commiserate with me, or put my mind at ease, and no one to tell me that I wasn’t going crazy. In reality, what I really needed were the magical ingredients of time, fellowship, and sleep.
I can only imagine what it must be like for moms who suffer with postpartum depression, or moms who adopt a child/children that take extra grace to bond with.
We’ve got to take down the walls of perfectionism and isolationism to reveal the healthy and normal varieties of experiences found in bringing our babies home, and rearing them through all kinds of situations. We’ve got to be willing to be real with those around us so that we destroy the myths of the ideals that we expect. Sure, there are some absolutely ideal situations that we experience with our families. Those should be shared freely. But with equal candor, we need to share the days that we find ourselves at a complete loss, the days spent in tears, and the days that it is only by the grace of God that we don’t climb into our beds, vowing not to get out until the kids are in college!