This time of the year is all about honoring mothers. Over the next two weeks, we have International Bereaved Mothers Day (May 5), Birth Mother’s Day (May 11), Mother’s Day (May 12), and Step Mother’s Day (May 19). In recognition of this, we will be featuring a different post every day this week from a PAIL reader who has volunteered to share her thoughts about mothering. We hope you enjoy reading everyone’s posts this week!
This is what I wanted, right?
Many women I know struggled a bit when they initially became mothers – even those who had planned and hoped and prepared for YEARS – with not knowing exactly how to “handle” a newborn, feeling like they didn’t know what they were doing, and spent much of the early days feeling stressed and out-of-control.
I was the opposite. Of course, I had my moments, but in general, I felt like I intuitively knew what A needed and that between us, S and I were generally able to provide those things for him. That all changed when A turned 11 months. All of a sudden, my relatively “easy” baby was a TODDLER. Forget the terrible twos…I wasn’t sure we were going to make it to two!
We went from “wow, doesn’t A have a great attention span?” to “damn, that kid is stubborn!” He didn’t want to do any of the cute toddler crafts or activities – if it wasn’t his idea, forget it – and spent days, weeks, months just walking around the house pulling things apart. Add in the fact that he was a late talker and used a lot of shrieking and screaming to communicate, and I spent many days feeling like my head was literally going to explode.
Don’t get me wrong, he was still a “good” boy, but A spent so much of his second year alternating between being the cutest little cuddlebug and such a fiesty little BOY that I questioned whether we were even the same species, let alone the same family. I literally have compared it to a pint-sized version of the Bruce Banner/Incredible Hulk transformation, on repeat. For months.
I continuously felt like I was doing something “wrong” or wasn’t doing “enough” and was filled with guilt that I wasn’t enjoying my son every moment of every day. Especially after trying so hard to have a baby and to work out a way for me to stay home with him, I felt like a total failure. I just couldn’t believe how different reality was from the images I’d had in my head. I spent most of the time worrying about how I was going to raise this one child, forget about the other(s) that we had wanted to try and have.
We went through a particularly bad period around 17ish months – luckily, I was at a playdate with some very good friends when I finally snapped (just public tears, but that was enough). Funny enough, all it took for things to start looking up was the acknowledgment from those friends and fellow moms that A was “tough” and a lot of “work.” I know that some of you might have been offended by that, but for me, it was validation.
My secret fear that I was missing some vital “mom” gene started to fade into the background. I stopped wanting to punch people who said “isn’t this a great phase?” and started working to change my labeling of and response to A’s actions. Instead of looking at him as a stubborn, rambunctious PITA, I’ve worked to appreciate him for the active, tenacious boy that he is. We still have some hard days, but we’re learning and growing together and I feel so lucky to have been given this smart, funny, little boy.
In fact, there was enough light at the end of the tunnel that we recently felt comfortable heading back to the RE to start the process for baby #2! A turns two in less than a month and I’m looking forward to where life takes us as a family.
Here’s to the people with the hardest job in the world…Happy Mother’s Day to you all!
Jeannine from Life by the Day is a part-time editor and full-time SAHM and spends her days managing a three-ring circus (dog, cat, and toddler)! Her son was conceived during their fifth (and last-resort) IVF cycle after five years of infertility. Check our her “About me” and “My infertility story” pages for more info.