I have been blogging about motherhood far less these days. I’m knee-deep in navigating toddlerhood as well as still adjusting to parenting two under three. Add to that another cross-country move in two weeks. You could say life has been busy.
As I dust off the keyboard and gather my thoughts while sitting on a moving box, I also feel like part of my silence was from a period of retreat. One that I’m finally ready to talk about.
I didn’t see it coming, but I just graduated from what feels very much like another fourth trimester. It caught me off guard to feel so new and fragile at motherhood again, especially being well past the immediate days of the literal fourth trimester that is childbirth recovery. My recent period of growth is proof that there will be times in motherhood that throw us back to the beginning. Parenthood truly is a lifelong journey. It is not a race, nor is it linear.
When I gave birth to my daughter last November, I knew this would come with tremendous change evolving from a family of three to four. What I didn’t see coming was a secondary recovery that would be isolated to my first born and I. I’m not necessarily talking about the struggle of helping him be a big brother – that was to be expected; I’m talking about the struggle of discovering myself as a mom who was brand new to toddlerhood.
When he turned two, that meant I had gained two years of wisdom. But it also meant I had 16+ years of inexperience ahead of me. This is the hardest thing about your first born – you’re never really ahead. That new-ness and that fragility that you feel when holding them in your arms for the first time never goes away. There’s a continued vulnerability I carry with me when I hold his hand through new chapters.
He had questions. I had questions. He had opinions. I had opinions. So did the rest of the world. And we both had big emotions about all of it.
This all started around 18 months when his baby days melted away and the word toddler began more appropriately suiting him, especially in comparison to his then-newborn sister. Then once he hit two, things really took off. I face-planted into a brand new realm of stay-at-home motherhood in which onlookers are no longer annoyingly-but-simply asking, “Does he sleep through the night?” Instead we are now being evaluated by whether or not we are doing enough to ensure that we are raising a good human being. Phew.
Suddenly this inexperience smacked me in the face. I dove into student mode. I wanted to learn. How do toddlers work? Why do they do the things that they do? How can I best handle this? What can I do to help him fulfill his greatest potential? Queue my Montessori journey, a path to early childhood education that I abruptly and intensely dove into. It was the perfect thing for me to grip onto where my intuition fell short. This is historically how I operate. I love to research. It is what led me into a journalism career before this whole kid thing.
Still, this was an intimidating learning curve during an intimidating era of digital motherhood in which comparison is always in our faces, immersed in an intimidating age group in which everyone starts to hold big opinions and judgments alongside how they are raising their little humans.
And as I come up for air on the other side of this intimidating period of growth, I realize that there is a huge difference between what it means to be the best and my personal best.
I love the Montessori philosophy, and you will still find me sharing our journey on it. I will never master this philosophy because I am not a certified teacher nor is my home a classroom. I am mediocre, and that is my best.
I love the questions that arise in the terrible twos, both the ones that are asked of me and that I am asking. I genuinely enjoy exploring the different approaches of parenting and understanding the impact it has on their futures, but I will never have all of the answers or best responses. I am mediocre, and that is my best.
I love the differences that grow more apparent as our children grow and evolve, and as we evolve with them. I deeply respect and empathize with every family’s right to do what they feel works best for them. I will never take the stance that my way is the best way because I can only speak for my family. And in trying to find the best for my family, well, I’ll make mistakes. I am mediocre, and that is my best.
But here’s the thing. Raising children is a job that truly looks different for every single one of us. It’s a job that has no singular “best,” but should rather be evaluated by way of intangibles like love and respect.
This, I have mastered. Love and respect. And I’ve grown to be totally proud of this. I love wholly and I respect fully, both towards my family and towards others, even in the areas where I’m probably just mediocre.
I think I fell silent on here because I lost confidence. I lost confidence because I wasn’t at my best. I wasn’t at my best because I was so worried about the best. And I see this a lot today. We as mothers kill ourselves over trying to be the best.
Motherhood is not something to be mastered. It is something that is always changing. It something that we are always learning. I love that. I respect that, and I’ve learned to surround myself with others who also love and respect that.
I have come full circle. I am leaving the town where I became a mother with a renewed confidence.
We may never be done recovering because we are never quite done being born as mothers. We are works in progress just as our children are. Learning to embrace that is a lesson I deeply needed at a time when my mothering was thrown into the spotlight more than ever before.
To all my fellow first-time toddler moms, you’ve got this. Even when you feel mediocre at best, which is unfortunately easy to feel these days, trust that you cannot fail where you have love and respect.