Mothers are, well ... motherly. They're effortlessly patient, affectionate and nurturing, and it all comes naturally from a place deep inside. Right? At least that's the world's perception of what it takes to be a mother—a good one anyway. But it's not always true. Not every mother feels like a natural mom. Some of us weren't born with the same deep maternal instincts that help us cherish every moment and never doubt our abilities as parents. Not every woman who becomes a mother feels like she was absolutely destined to be one. Some moms have to work a bit harder to embrace motherhood and all of its constant demands.
And while it might mean that all our journeys as parents don't look exactly the same, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It doesn't make you any less of a mom to admit that being one is harder than you thought or more difficult than you would like it to be. It doesn't make you a bad parent to admit that the joy you get from parenting doesn't always radiate from your body. It doesn't mean you aren't a real mother if being a mom doesn't complete you like you imagine it does for others.
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Still, for a mother to say these things, to admit she doesn't always love being a parent, is something women get conditioned not to do, no matter how hard parenting can be. If you even hint that you dislike being pregnant, are having a hard time dealing with sleepless nights during a fussy baby's infancy, or don't enjoy playing make-believe with your child, someone will jump to tell you to enjoy your children more. I mean, isn't enjoying your children why you had them in the first place? What kind of mother are you if these things don't come instinctively?
But they don't always come freely for every mother, and that's okay. No two mothers are alike or should be alike. Besides, the range of emotions involved in parenting can be vast and overwhelming. In just one hour, we can go from joyful and care-free to angry and depleted. Our kids sometimes push us to our limits, demand more from us than we have to give, and love us so hard it hurts. Some of us are just built for the emotions involved in mothering, but some of us have to work hard to not let them get the best of us.
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Some of us prepared for years in every way, and some never planned on entering motherhood at all. And even those who grew up with younger siblings, babysat a lot, or spent years trying to get pregnant, don't find that mothering comes as naturally as they believed it would when the demands of life with children set in. And why is that? Because there's simply no way to prepare. No matter how we step into parenthood, the truth is, few transitions in life are as extensive and all-encompassing. You're no longer the keeper of your own time, and so many things are suddenly so fiercely out of your control.
And yet, once you're a mother, you're always a mother. Becoming a parent is one of the most permanent and life-altering decisions a human being can make. But even so, we're not allowed to express negative feelings about something that can, at times, feel like more than we can handle. We're told constantly that we should enjoy mothering, that some moms are left feeling that there must be something wrong with them if they have any negative feelings, even though there's nothing wrong with feeling that way.
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And what about talking about those feelings? Forget it! Most of us like to put out the vibe that we've got it all figured out. But few of us actually enter parenting with that kind of know-how or perspective. While some might have a handle on small duties, like how to change diapers, that hardly makes the all-encompassing journey of being a parent much easier.
The obstacles involved in parenting are challenging. They're rarely cut and dry. They force us over and over again, to push ourselves to the limit because being a good parent matters, maybe more than anything else we ever do. So we strive to be so much better than we ever thought we could be. But being better doesn't always mean being happier. Sometimes, you just put in the hard work because it needs to be done. We can do our best to enjoy it all, but it's not always possible for all of us. And that leads to feelings of inadequacy or questioning whether we have what it takes, simply because of how high the stakes are. We don't want to fail our children. But not feeling like a natural mom doesn't mean you aren't a good one. It just means you're a work in progess, like we all are.
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So, to the mothers who doubt yourselves or wonder if you're a good parent, I'm guessing you're already a good one. Because the fact you're taking the time to worry about it, shows how much you care about your children, which comes naturally to all mothers.