One Year Later

Last year on Mother’s Day I got to give my mom the news that I was joining the ranks of motherhood. As a woman who adores and spoils (in the best possible way) all of her grand-babies, you can imagine that she took the news all but jumping up and down, shouting for joy rather well.

That technically first Mother’s Day for me was full of excited anticipation for the little one who might one day proudly gift me handprint crafts, weed bouquets, and sticky breakfasts in bed. Now that he’s here and though a little young for those things yet, he leaves me no less in awe of the fact that this is my life now. I am a mom. I get to be his mom. I could not be happier. Motherhood is awesome.

But it is also hard.

Reaching adulthood, I thankfully made it to the point of maturity where I apologized to my mom for all the rotten things I ever did growing up. It didn’t take long after the birth of my son for me to feel I needed to make that apology again. (Make that within the first 18 hours of labor.) Being able to swap happy Mother’s Day wishes with my mom is something I don’t take for granted. This year, I especially respect her for every minute she sacrificed precious sleep for my benefit and each stream of spit-up that missed the burp cloth and ran down her back. I hope to live up to her example and value her encouragement. Support from other moms who lovingly share their wisdom and commiserate with me on the tougher days is invaluable considering the aspect of mom life I was least looking forward to — the Mommy Wars.

My first encounter with “mean girls” happened in the fifth grade, but I’ve witnessed and experienced the same nastiness beyond middle school bullies. Thanks to the Internet (I’m looking at you, social media), it feels like the judgment is inescapable, that there is no parenting decision that can avoid disapproval by someone from the minute the test indicates pregnant. It is the subject of many a blog post, article, YouTube video, and other media. It’s a well-acknowledged mess, in the middle of which is the plea that we all get along. What matters are children who are healthy, safe, and loved, in whatever form that takes.

The concern for what people think of me is something I’ve always struggled with in general. Thanks to the Mommy War message, it’s as though I am conditioned to expect scrutiny as a mom. As if fluctuating hormones, fatigue, and figuring out how to care for a tiny human aren’t enough to deal with on their own. While pregnant, I dreaded unsolicited advice and grabby hands reaching for my baby bump. (It never happened, but maybe I don’t get out much.) I am flustered as heads turn when my son cries in public. When asked if he is my first baby, I wonder if it is only that I’m out and about with one kiddo, or is it somehow that obvious I’m a newbie.

Motherhood is a joy, a challenge, and longed for by so many. It is not a competition. Let us not be so discouraged by the fear of criticism that we are overwhelmed by the tough days and ignore our instincts about what works best for our families. I am early in this adventure and there is a lot I’m learning as I go. As we honor the mothers in our lives each Mother’s Day and throughout the year, may we remember to respect every mom who is giving it her best.

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