One of my favorite novels is The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler. The story follows Michael and Pauline, two starry eyed lovers who marry during the Second World War. I’ve read the book several times, fascinated by the characters as they navigate through the complexities of marriage, all while having no idea how to find their way. As much as they try to grow as a couple, they remain amateurs, never really moving forward.
If Michael and Pauline were amateur spouses in an amateur marriage, then I was once an amateur mother, navigating my way through an amateur motherhood. This is my story.
I became a mother at the age of eighteen. That was when I met my husband and his daughter. It was love at first sight. I was hit by a lightning bolt that came without warning and created the pathway to my destiny.
After a few years of dating, my husband and I were married and our family of three was born. At ten years old and without a permanent mother in her life, my husband’s daughter was eager to welcome me into their home. I accepted the challenge with a driven enthusiasm. At twenty-one I was a child mothering a child, desperately trying to compensate for the void in her life while trying to stay afloat in my own.
Our first few years as a family were spent in a haze of fierce love and utter devotion. I wanted to prove that I could be the quintessential, Leave It To Beaver, always smiling, forever optimistic mother. This proved to be a difficult endeavor as a young newlywed who was fresh out of college with no real experience in the big bad world. However, it didn’t matter where I was in my own life. This girl needed a mother and I had answered the call.
The responsibility bestowed upon parents is grand and unforgiving. While I was naive to this fact then, I currently claim it as my mantra.
The transition to parenthood was shocking and bewildering. Most skills eluded me. I discounted the necessity of certain responsibilities and over compensated by stressing the importance of others. I had yet to learn that love should be shown and not just spoken and that life is more about others than yourself. I was the amateur mother.
As the years went by the realities of motherhood forced me out of my novice status. While I was no June Cleaver, I had found a rhythm that worked for me. Most importantly, bonds had been formed and ties had been bound. It was time to remove the stepmother designation and proceed with adoption. For the first time since I said “I do”, I didn't feel like such an amateur.
As is well known, the adoption process is not for the faint of heart and our story was no different. Our days were riddled with home studies, attorney meetings and court hearings. We were simultaneously trying to add to our family via the traditional method and things weren't going well. The cards seemed stacked against us. I was distraught, overwhelmed and daily searching for miracles. Achieving the extraordinary takes extraordinary perseverance; that’s a lesson I learned from the trenches.
The adoption was finalized nine months to the day after we filed the papers. The irony of that time table will never escape me. Three weeks later I discovered I was pregnant. Life is full of beautiful, calculated surprises. Without them I’m not sure the daily grind would be worth the effort.
My grandmother claimed that Bug was God’s way of rewarding me for adopting my daughter. While it’s a pleasant thought, I don’t feel worthy of rewards or compensation. I did what I thought was right and ultimately, what I wanted to do. My daughter is now grown, a wife and mother in her own right. So yes, I am a grandmother.
I look back at those years when I was blindly stumbling through with extreme gratitude. Some may say that my daughter was lucky to have me but the reality is that I was blessed to have found her. She taught me to be a mother, in the most unlikely of circumstances.
I weave the personal into my writing when it advances the message that I aim to share. At one point every mother is an amateur mother. Therefore, the point of sharing this part of my life is pure and simple. It’s okay if you feel lost. You are not alone. You will get there and your children will never know the difference. Trust me in this, I speak from experience.
I can proudly say that I am no longer an amateur mother. Unlike the characters in Anne Tyler’s novel, I've grown from my experiences. I may not be a pro. However, I now have a map to guide me through these eternally choppy waters and I’m going to thank that lightning bolt for that.
This post was originally published on Express Bus Mama.
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