Sometimes, when it comes to parenting, we already have what it takes — even if we don’t always know it.
t There’s a mom who lives a few streets over from us — let’s call her Vicky. I see her frequently at the park and the grocery store, and we’ve recently started getting our girls together for playdates. Vicky and I are relatively like-minded. We send our kids to the same type of alternative school, we embrace natural parenting techniques, and we’re both stay-at-home moms. She had a home birth last year — same as I’m planning to do in a few short months. We always have lots to discuss on the parenting front, and conversation is usually easy.
t But I have a confession: I’m a little intimidated by Vicky, and I have been from the get-go. For starters, she’s probably about 15 years older than I, and she’s beautiful. Not beautiful in a made-up, perfect-body and perfect-hair kind of way — she just has a natural beauty and is confident in her skin. Though she admitted to me that she hasn’t actually worked out since her daughter was born, she is healthy and fit from walking everywhere with her kid. She just has it all together — or she seems to, anyway.
t Vicky is an extremely dedicated mother. I work from home part-time as a freelance writer. Still, I thought I was pretty dedicated. I’ve been home with my daughter nearly every day for four years, but this chick takes dedication to a whole other level. She breastfed her daughter for two years and her new baby for his first year so far, without ever using a bottle — not even one little, measly bottle of pumped breast milk to give her mugs a break at 4 a.m. So she’s basically been attached to one of her two kids at the boob for three straight years.
t This mom is totally the tits — no pun intended. The first time I met her, I thought, “She’s the kind of mom I want to be.” She’s calm, confident and dedicated to what she believes is best for her children. She’s more hard-core than I am about limiting the kinds of toys she thinks are not good for her children, and she never turns on the TV. I’ve never even seen her look at her phone. She also has really cool clothes (not that it matters). I can’t imagine her ever yelling, and she is way better at modeling calm parenting than I am, no matter how hard I try — which is pretty hard.
t I’m sure it’s not a cakewalk for her. I’m sure she is trying way harder than it seems to do all these things, but she just has this kind of parenting grace that is so admirable and inspiring. She’s just a damn good mother, and her kids are really, really lucky. And I still feel all that.
t But I also realized something else recently: She’s not actually the mom I really want to be at all, because the mom I really want to be is actually… me.
t See, I’m all about dedicated parenting. I’m all about breastfeeding, too — even über-long-term breastfeeding that some people think is nutty. But I also remember how draining it can be to feel like your body isn’t your own. I’m only 4-1/2 months pregnant, and I’ve already been talking about pumping and dumping on our first family-of-four vacay so I can booze it up with a couple of margs. I’m salivating just thinking about it, right now. Mmmm… margs. I also want to go on dates with my husband, and I want him to feed our new baby — whether it’s breast milk or formula once in a while. If I never pumped a bottle, ever, I’d never have a girl’s night out, and I’d also never be away from my baby, like ever. I think I’d turn into a puddle of resentment every time my husband walked out the door, and it would wreak havoc on our marriage. Maybe I’m just a selfish scrub. (Wait… I’m not, right?)
t But the mom I really want to be cuts herself some slack. She has a messy house, and she gets mad sometimes. The mom I really want to be lets her daughter see her cry and is completely and utterly flawed. The mom I really want to be goes to yoga and reads for fun and watches horrible, horrible reality TV once in a grand while. The mom I really want to be kicks her 4-year-old out of bed almost every night when she comes in so she can get quality sleep — but she always, always snuggles her child in the morning. The mom I really want to be drinks wine and likes wearing workout clothes most of the time and has hairy legs. The mom I really want to be loves her husband because he does so much more than pay the mortgage. The mom I really want to be doesn’t feel bad that she wants things for herself. The mom I really want to be goes to bed feeling guilty sometimes because she made a mistake. The mom I really want to be writes. The mom I really want to be is a pile of imperfections but doesn’t mind them because they make her who she is, and she wants her kids to see that we are all learning all the time — no matter how old we get.
t The mom I really want to be isn’t perfect, and she knows Vicky isn’t perfect either. Nobody is. But the mom I really want to be does a whole lot of letting go so that she can live in a place where there is effort, but also ease. That’s why the mom I really want to be is a work in progress, but she is still completely and totally me.