Friday, July 6, 2012

Mommy Envy

Let's get better acquainted, shall we? As you have probably ascertained by now, I'm a mom. It's not a particularly dramatic or sordid tale, but it's an integral part of who am today. I met a guy, grew a bun in the oven, had a baby. You know this part! If you don't, ask your mother. I was just a few months shy of my twentieth birthday when said baby graced me with his presence. Shortly after, I said goodbye to the guy.


6 months

Jared was my little soulmate from day one and I loved being his mom. But with single motherhood comes a special set of obstacles above and beyond normal child rearing. For one, I had to go back to work when he was six weeks old. Needless to say, breastfeeding ended around that time. I'm glad I experienced it even for that short period, but if I had it to do over again, it would have lasted much longer. I just didn't have the know-how to make it work long term. Also, I wasn't a fantastic cook, and although much better, I'm still not great at it. Baking is another thing entirely. If cupcakes were baby food, he'd have been all set. Alas, no. Another one of the world's cruel jokes, I guess. Instead, he ate Gerber baby food out of the jar (gasp!). Despite my many shortcomings, I think I did pretty well. He was a happy, healthy baby who rarely got sick. These days he's a happy, healthy pain in the rear who very rarely gets sick. I'd say I have succeeded thus far. Still, there a lot of coulda, shoulda, wouldas that persist in the back of my mind.

7 months

I have this friend who is an amazing woman. A real woman's woman. She gave birth to two of her three kids at home, nurses for a long time, and hand makes her kids' birthday cakes. When she was newly pregnant with her first child, we went over to her house for dinner. She served a home cooked meal with ingredients from her garden. My contribution was store bought bread and a bottle of wine. She was a natural with my son. The atmosphere was casual and relaxed. It was a great night. When dessert time came around she said, "I'll be right back. I just have to make the whipped cream." Excuse me? Make the whipped cream? Where are you hiding your cape, because you must be a superhero. She is a natural. At all of it. She makes breastfeeding and childbirth look like an art form. Despite this, she is one of the most real, honest people I know when it comes to parenting and its challenges. While I love seeing her in action, I also feel a pang of regret for what I missed out on. In her perfection, she reminds me of my own shortcomings. But I love her dearly.


14 months

This seems to happen to me occasionally. Even more so since I've been baby crazy the last year. A teacher I know well has breastfed for a year; even if it means sitting in a closet during lunch to pump. Why couldn't I do that? Did I lack dedication? She is amazing in so many ways. The reality of my situation back then isn't lost on me. I did the best that I could. Maya Angelou has a great quote that one of my professors recently shared with me. I often repeat to myself when I'm feeling inadequate as a mother:

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

 

Unfortunately, you don't get redos when it comes to your kids. I can't re-breastfeed my kid. Legally. I can't re-make his baby food. I can't gift young me with the money to take an extended maternity leave. It is what it is, and it wasn't that bad. Sometimes it feels like it because I know so much more now and am in the position to do things differently. On my own terms. Since my baby-making hormones are raging, I find myself dreaming about that redo with a new baby. I have a husband, comfortable financials and a college education. But having another child won't scratch out the old regrets. Then how do I get to a place where I'm not green with envy over the accomplishments of another mother? By focusing on what I did right.

 

4 months

Jared has never wanted for anything, even back in the early days. I was a savvy mom in that I knew what I wanted and found a way to get it. I went to night school to get some medical training and scored a great job at the local hospital as a result. I always had nice apartments and supported us financially just fine. We weren't well off by any means, but I found ways around that. For instance, I formed a relationship with my local Gymboree store, so they called me the night before they did major markdowns. Jared always had studly little outfits and they were the same exact clothes the rich parents dressed their kids in. I just paid a whole lot less. We got the most out of our local library. I'd go in once a week and check out dozens of picture books. We read every one of them by week's end...even when he was too little to know what I was reading. I'll never forget how peaceful it was to rock and read to him before bed. In fact, it became a ritual that continued on throughout elementary school. At twelve, I still read to him before bed many nights. I have kept him alive and well for twelve years! I've never kept a plant alive that long. The point is, we did okay and I wasn't a complete failure as a mother. Far from it. But we all have those moments, don't we?

5 1/2 months

So why do I still feel that all too familiar angst when I see another mom with her baby doing something that I wasn't able to? Why, in them, do I see my inadequacies instead of my triumphs? For goodness sake, when am I going to let myself off the hook? I think it may be the nature of the beast. Parenting is a minefield, my friends. Now matter how perfectly you may think you're doing, there is still someone who appears to be doing it better. But they aren't. They want to tear their hair out, scream and cry, and put their head down on the nearest surface and sleep, too. They yell at their kids, argue with their husbands, and neglect the laundry just like the rest of us mere mortals. And if not, well, then I am jealous.

 

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