There are many, many things I’m terrible at. Basic math, for example. Folding sheets and towels properly. Any game where I must hit a tiny ball over a net.
Sticking to budgets. Giving the silent treatment. Running. Swimming. Packing light. I could go on and on listing things I either have to really work hard at, or flat-out avoid because I’m just THAT BAD at. It’s quite a lengthy list.
But there are also things I do well, things that come naturally and make me happy. When I’m doing those things – even when I have to work extra hard at them to succeed – I get a good feeling. Writing. Decorating. Organizing. Using a curling iron. Most of all, being a wife and mother. I’m GOOD at that.
I can deal with feeling like I’ve failed if I burn dinner or screw up our bills. I can handle not being the best at everything; I readily admit that I’m not the best at anything, except one. My family. I am the best at being a mom to my kids. I’m their mother, and I am always supposed to know best, right? When each child was born and handed to me, it felt like I was meeting someone I’ve always known. From that point on, I knew instinctively what to do to make them feel better. I bounced and walked and swaddled until I felt their tiny bodies relax. I shushed and felt their backs for fever and knew based on their cries if it was serious or not.
Then they got bigger and trickier and I felt like I didn’t know what the freak I was doing, but even then, I still knew more than anyone else did. Because mamas just do. I know before anyone else if something is wrong. I know immediately if something is right. Sometimes I try to explain to my husband how all of that “knowing” exhausts me, and I don’t think he understands what I’m talking about. And that is okay — part of being the best at being his wife is being okay with knowing that he will never understand.
Recently I found myself in the worst place of parenthood, where you don’t know what the freak you’re doing AND nothing you’re doing is working. It feels very much like failure. That sounds really dramatic and irrational, but hang with me … because if you’re a mom, you know what I’m talking about. I was experiencing some serious self-doubt. We’ve had a series of events that are separately not that big of a deal, but added all together make me feel like I not only suck at the silent treatment and folding fitted sheets, but I also don’t know how to handle my own children. Or worse — I’ve been doing it wrong all along, I’m doing it wrong now, and I’m messing the whole thing up. Failing. A mom flunkie.
People don’t talk too much about that part of parenthood — the uncertainty. You’d think a parent, especially someone who enjoys being one, would just know how to parent the right way. But no. Not always. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation you didn’t imagine yourself being in, and realize you don’t know how to fix it. Sometimes you suddenly realize, whoa. This is a major problem. No one can tell you how to proceed when the blocks you worked so hard to slowly stack, one upon the other, are knocked down suddenly. I feel like I should just “know” because I’m the mom, but seriously — I KNOW NOTHING. I’ve never raised kids before.
When I found myself surrounded by scattered blocks, I made a huge mistake. Instead of listening to my gut, I read too many articles. I Googled too much. I ordered books. I asked for too many opinions. I polled other moms. And then … I started to get confused because everything I read and heard was conflicting. What will work for MY child? What is best for MY family?
No one can answer that. Wait … no.
I can. I can answer that.
After hitting the rock bottom of uncertainty and slowly starting the ascent back up, I’m here to kindly whisper to all the other mamas out there: no one knows how to do your job better than YOU. There is value in professional opinion, of course. It’s good to learn from the experiences of those who have gone before you, and the wisdom of those you respect. BUT. At the end of the day your child is looking at YOU from across the table, waiting for you to figure it out. You are the one with the gut instinct. And you do have the answers, somewhere deep inside. You just have to listen and wait for them to come to you, instead of freaking out and running to the Internet and every wise-looking stranger in the grocery store for answers.
Our world is so loud. Information rains down on us 24/7, drowning us in knowledge. Right now, as I try to overcome the overshadowing fear of failing my kids, I’m learning the value in stillness.
Mother really does know best. Sometimes she just doesn’t know it right away.
Photo: Stephanie Precourt