Growing up, I loved kids. My first real ‘job’ was babysitting my brother, and those awesome tweeners in The Babysitters Club were all my imaginary besties. At one point (obviously before I experienced the joy of womanhood and puberty) I even wanted to be a midwife because I loved babies soooo much. I babysat through high school, got camp counselor jobs during the summers, and nannied quite a bit in college and beyond. Everyone was always telling me how I would make an awesome mom one day (although surprisingly, no one commented on my humility hmm).
Then I got pregnant. For the that first day, those amazing few hours after you pee on that stick and see two lines, I was ecstatic. I could not WAIT nine whole MONTHS and wondered quite often why I couldn’t just wait 63 days like a dog. I had lists of lists of lists of how I would go about mothering my child. Then the third month hit and I woke up one morning bloated, sore, and 30 pounds heavier, and I was so over all of it.
My pregnancy was really rough and my son came 6 weeks early in a quite dramatic fashion a la emergency c-section. I was petrified. I had no idea what to do or how to do babies or whatever. True story: when the nurses came in with the birth certificate form (and don’t judge please, this is as close to baring my soul as I get) I considered for a split second telling everyone I changed my mind and wanted to put my son up for adoption.
I traveled through a pretty moderate case of postpartum depression that lasted almost 5 years through the birth of my youngest, until my daughter was well beyond her second birthday. That’s a week’s worth of posts in and of itself, so I’ll spare the deets (until next month when I’m PMS-y and emo and want to tell you allllll about it). During that time I really only went through the motions. I did what everyone expected me to do as a mom; even in the face of my son’s autism diagnosis I didn’t feel anything – I just made phone calls and appointments and did the whole Mom Robot thing quite well.
I was a hesitant mother. I didn’t want to be That Woman, with lists and schedules, and recipes and activities. The ideas of PTAs and volunteering as a Class Mom were wholly unappealing. I would dismiss the idea that I’m actually a VIP for providing for my children with a “well they didn’t ask to be born” (which, as I now understand, is probably one of the grossest things a parent can say about their kids and there’s not enough words of apology for saying that about my kids). My proudly-proclaimed motto was “Kids Ruin EVERYthing!”
If I’m being honest (what a stupid saying because obviously I’m about to bring the honesty) it wasn’t until we moved to the area we’re in now that I started paying attention to the feelings I have about motherhood. I’m not sure if one particular event triggered my awakening or a cluster of small incidents, but something happened and I began to take pride in my motherhood. When I went back to work last summer I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, and I certainly didn’t feel like my kids were struggling because my role changed.
[Let me stop here to say that, despite the fact that it threw my family into a bit of turmoil, going back to work was one of the best things I could have done for MY own self. It allowed me to develop a new perspective on the PRIVILEGE of being a mom. I’m not going to pin our familial hiccup on me working because there just isn’t enough evidence to prove so. It was the right idea but the timing was all wrong.]
Slowly, though, it became apparent that my absence was being felt. My son was having even more social-behavioral issues at school and because I was working, I wasn’t in the primary disciplinarian (Dad’s turn now) and there were daily breakdowns in communication which didn’t help the situation at all. My daughter, who my husband and we used to lovingly (and privately between us) call Fat & Happy, turned into Sullen & Emo. Clearly my hesitancy was no longer quirky and counterculture; it was now a cancer that was growing rapidly.
As part of an elimination ‘diet’ to see what was causing this commotion, a few months ago I made the decision to work less which turned into the decision not to work at all. Miraculously the symptoms of the cancer started to diminish. There’s a marked difference in my son’s general attitude and while my daughter isn’t yet living up to her old nickname, I have high hopes for her as she just ate two cupcakes and smiled. And I’m not taking my motherhood for granted. I’m actually enjoying slowly settling back into my role as just ‘Mom’. I’m not quite ready for ‘Mama Bear’, and I don’t know if I will be. But I know this: I’m no longer hesitating.