I honestly have no idea what I’m doing. I know I signed up to be a mum, but I don’t think they interviewed me properly.
No one gave me a job description, no one clarified my roles and responsibilities. I received no handbook, no warning about occupational health and safety hazards. I was thrown into the deep end.
Am I doing it right? Or am I royally screwing it up?
Whenever I feel this way about any other job or task, I do what any sane, respectable person would do: I shelve it. After sitting on it for a bit, working out its complexities and requirements, I attack it again with success.
Apparently you can’t take the ‘shelving’ approach to parenting; it’s frowned upon.
Instead, we muscle through it, push those nagging doubts and guilt away. We do whatever it takes to survive.
I wonder if this is why parents so longingly ache for nap time (their children’s, not their own … though the latter would be nice too). Nap time is perhaps the one time of the day where, as a mother, I can be certain I’m doing a good job. It’s the closest I can come to ‘shelving’ my role as a parent. My little man snug as a bug in bed, while I do something that I know how to do… Then he wakes up and it’s back into the deep end without my floaties.
The fact that nap time is such an important part of the day bothers me a little. Why? Well, I love the time my son is up. Absolutely love it. We have a ball. Watching him learn, play, laugh (oh, the laughter is the best, absolutely); the world is a good place. Sure, there are tantrums and tears, too (both his and mine); it’s not all rainbows. But on the whole, it’s lovely.
Still, I find myself searching my son’s face for tired signs, checking the clock to see just how far away the next nap is. The anticipation of that golden hour—nap time—is palpable. As my son’s eyes close and his face melts into peaceful slumber, I can soak in the splendor of being in (relative) control. No little person to wrangle, no parenting decisions to be made, no doubts about whether yoghurt for lunch—again—is a good idea. For an hour or two I’m the best mother in the world.
The pressure we put on ourselves as mothers is a heavy load indeed. Every decision, every action, every activity is questioned. With no clear-cut rules of right and wrong, we’d be forgiven for riding the roller-coaster of doubt and guilt every day. But do we have to? Whose standards are we trying to live up to? Those of our friends? Our own mothers? Super-mum Mandy down the road?
When I’m really honest with myself, I know I’m a great mum. My son is happy, fed, clothed, loved. Sure, my patience can wear thin at times, my song and dance repertoire can grow a little tired (at least to me), the breakfast menu can become stagnant… but I do my best, and my best is absolutely good enough. And when I’m feeling less than perfect, when my doubts get the better of me, there’s always nap time to look forward to, an hour or so of perfect parenting.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel