Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Secret to Motherhood

"How do you do it?"

(image by bonnie-brown and appears courtesy Flickr CC)

The question was asked of me in the middle of an intensely therapeutic phone conversation with my best friend who lives seven states away from me. I'd just been detailing the latest trials and tribulations of my perpetually sleepless son and his food reactions and she'd been telling me all about her two children's health issues and sibling squabbles. Her kids are only thirteen months apart and were aged 3 and 2 at the time. As a (now) single mom, she often has her own hands full. I think that was what surprised me the most about her question. It had been one that I am often on the verge of asking her! I told her this and I could almost hear her shrug over the phone. "Honestly, I don't know how I do it some days, but I just do, I guess." I had to admit that my answer was pretty much the same. I'm not sure there is any truer answer than that, but it's not the whole picture.

It seems to me that becoming a mom is like showing up for your first day of work and there's no one there to train you, you are under intense pressure to perform, and you have no idea how you are doing until years down the road! In response to this pressure, when my son was first born, I read every article I could get my hands on and studied every mom I saw relentlessly looking for whatever it was that I was apparently missing. Everyone else who had kids seemed to be happy and together and I felt like I was constantly drowing. Nothing I ever did felt completely right and everything I read seemed to give me different answers. In fact, the more magazine articles I read, the more utterly hopeless I felt! Not only did I feel like I was failing at being the kind of mom I wanted to be; I was also failing as a researcher! Meanwhile, I was terrified that someone would find out just what a mess I was and how little I deserved to be entrusted with such an amazing little soul. It's not that I didn't have a supportive partner and supportive families behind me, I just felt like I needed more . .. particularly during the hours when it was just me and the baby and prayer!

Being a mom is an awe-inspiring, powerful, and sometimes scary thing. This is especially true now, when it seems like there is so much more information out there and so many more options than our mothers or our grandmothers had. Many of us are attempting to do things that have not been done in our families for generations. Some of us are choosing (and struggling) to breastfeed, cloth diaper, co-sleep, stay home or work out of the home. Many of us live far, far away from our families in communities that may or may not agree with our choices. It's not that our mothers didn't feel the way we do about mothering, but we have many more choices and opportunities (and more access to information) than they had and that can make our decisions more difficult. There is no more "everybody's" doing it this way, because through the internet we can find people doing things in a million different ways. That's where building your own community comes in. That's where other moms come in!

I found that the more I talked to other moms, the more I realized that we were all in the same boat with many of the same insecurities and the same concerns. I also found that the more open and honest I was about my own struggles, the more forthcoming other moms would be with me both in person and online. It's important to find those moms in your community for connection as much as possible, but for times when that is not possible, it's important to also reach out online. With the internet, we have a powerful tool that our moms didn't have. We can find likeminded moms anytime of the day or not and connect with them. We can build our own "mom" communities. In fact, without my "mom" community, I don't know how I would have survived the past seventeen months. Whether it was a shoulder to cry on in a support meeting at the local yoga studio, heartfelt advice given in response to my latest status update about the trials of breastfeeding/teething/sleeping, or just desperately googling the words "my seventeen month old has never slept through the night" just to know I wasn't alone (I'm not!), other moms have lifted me up and made me believe I had strength I never knew I had before. It is through talking about their own trial and error parenting, that I've found the rhythm of my own mothering.

The only secret there is to successful motherhood is that there is no secret to it! Reaching out to others, building a community (both locally and online) is the only way to survive the greatest, most rewarding, and challenging experience of your life. Motherhood is dangerous territory and no mom should do it alone! That's why I'm so excited about joining the blog here as a contributing author. Now, I have the chance to build a community with you!

-Connected Mom, Shawna


Amber said... [Reply to comment]

You couldn't have said it any better! I am so greatful for my "mom community"

Marion said... [Reply to comment]

Other Mums have kept me going and continue to be my support when I am feeling discouraged or like I am not doing a good job. I have hunted out other mothers because I need people around me so that I don't feel like I am the only one feeling this way. Mothering can be a lonely task.

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks Marion and Amber! God bless the internet and other moms! I would never want to mother without them!

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