Last year at this time, 34 weeks pregnant with my first child, I was blissfully unaware of what laid ahead. Enjoying the friendliness of strangers, the excitement from my family, and as much pickles and cheese sticks as I wanted – I was in the moment of pregnancy and unprepared for what awaited us.
Oh, we were “prepared” – we had a bassinet, crib, swing, bouncy chair, wraps and Ergos, sleep sacks and footed pajamas. We had some bottles that mimicked breasts; others that promised to reduce colic and fussiness. We had countless gifts and hand-me-downs from friends, cousins and even our neighbors.
What we completely missed was the parenthood part. When you’re pregnant, there is an end date – delivery. After you pop that baby out, there’s just … parenthood. For the rest of your life. And it becomes your life.
So unconsciously, naturally, I found myself putting my Little Squish first, before anything and everything – as he should be, in his early infant months. But as time wore on, my slavish devotion to my child began to challenge all aspects of life as I had known it for 32 years, and its associated strain became more and more obvious.
If I was vain before, now I was paying for it – even nuns were more fashionable than me. I managed to shower every day, but only because I was breastfeeding and didn’t want my kid to have a gross boob. One day I found myself cutting out knots from my hair rather than taking the time to brush it.
My obsession with being the Perfect Mother tested my relationship with my spouse. For the first time in the seven years I had known him, I seriously contemplated leaving him. He had the same thought. We both had these thoughts more than once.
It also left me with a forced job change. Things I loved doing I gave up completely. Until now.
This year, I vow to be a better parent by giving myself permission to be me again. It’s hard to say because it feels a little selfish, but I know now that my child does not need the Perfect Mother.
What is that, anyway? The mom who stays at homes, breastfeeds exclusively, doesn’t use bottles or pacifiers, and screams at her spouse for trying to light incense because oxygen replacing pollutants increase the risk of SIDS? Been there, done that, and a happy mother it does not make.
But a happy mother is important. I know my child senses my emotions and stress. My tension carries over in my tone and patience. Being a Happy Mother It is much more important than the Perfect Mother – which, in actuality, doesn’t exist. You have to give yourself some leeway; like all things in life, this job has a learning curve. This year, I will choose to be a little more relaxed and do the best I can rather than experience mommy guilt for just needing some alone time.
Because my kid doesn’t need the perfect mother. He just needs me.