A Lesson In Imperfect Mothering

Pre-mothering is nostalgic. It is Norman Rockwell postcards. It is idealistic thoughts of family dinners, holidays, vacations and such, where you as mother cook a five course meal for your prefect children who appreciate it and grapple over seconds. It is perfect husband then gathering and washing all the dishes, pots and pans, it is children eager for bed; their prayers and bedtime story.

Pre-mothering is the calm before the storm, it is reading ABOUT parenting, because you actually have time to read. It is a chance for you to further your perfect concept of child development and you as mother. It’s scrapbooking baby shower photos, decorating nurseries and preparing your calendar for all the sequential developmental milestones your child will go through as noted in chapters of well studied child rearing books.

And then you HAVE a baby and become a non-perfect mother, with non-perfect children and a non-prefect spouse. And all the parenting guides have not prepared you for the reality of this life-long job you have committed yourself too.

Let me begin by telling you that your role as Mother is fluid; it is ever changing as are your children. Some of these transitions will be painful, they will draw on your physical and emotional reserve, but with patience, faith, a sense of humor and the community that develops around you, motherhood is an embraceable role.

My journey into motherhood began a little rough, I followed the well versed and meaning instructions about not taking anti-depressants during pregnancy, so I dutifully stopped and I only skimmed over the two page section on colic because that was not going to be MY baby.

So when post-partum depression kicked in, and my colicky baby screamed in digestive pain every night (from birth to the age of two ) and the ER admittance staff knew my husband and I by name I was at a bit of a loss. I had no idea about the mental and physical exhaustion that would accompany mothering.

When sleep is a concept only, and you find your place on the couch sleeping upright with a baby on your chest because of C-Section pain and fear of SIDs, and your only luxury is a warm shower to wash away the tears, sweat, spit up and leaking milk from your breasts (who apparently have forgotten to fulfill their role described in Chapter 5 Proper Lactation) … CONGRATULATIONS … You are NOW a mother. And this man next to you with the bewildered look on his face is FATHER and somehow between the two of you will sustain this life. AND you will do it perhaps several more times because you think you have the baby stage thing all figured out AND can still cling idealistically to the chapters on parenting teenagers.

If you are just beginning down the road of motherhood let me offer you some advice, ditch the parenting books, because children and mothers don’t develop according to some prescribed milestone chart. Children and mothers are individuals that develop at the rate in which God has designed their neurological, physical and emotional make up.

Each of my children has developed differently; there have been areas of giftedness and deficiencies in each of them and I have made an effort to mother accordingly. I have tried fostering my children’s gifts and pushing a little on the weaknesses in hopes of growth. And I’ve done A LOT of praying for them; that mercy and hope exist for them in life when they struggle and experience pain, and that their triumphs find them gracious and loving.

I also recommend ditching the articles and debates over parenting issues. Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, spanking, homeschooling, etc., etc. .. don’t even waste your emotional energy. You will take a stance and change it several times because theories and ideology don’t take into account human emotion and temperament, they are short answers not meant to necessarily address the longevity of the job of mothering.

As Mother, you will judge and be judged and often the issues so apparent to you with one child will absolutely throw you with the next child, and in the end you will do what is right for your child and family, and if others don’t like it they can pray for you in the confines of their own home.

Most importantly, accept yourself and your children for who you are.

Years ago, I spent $200 for a homeschooling seminar on teaching your boys to love reading literature. This lovely women promised if we loved reading beautiful and rich literature and read to and with our sons, they would develop the same love. I loved her seminar, her enthusiasm was almost magical and her grown son seemed so well rounded and successful.

So I devoted a whole summer to reading with with my 7 and 9 year old sons and asking them insightful questions. We read Treasure Island, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Farmer Boy, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. When no magic happened in my house, and neither of my sons begged for novel time I was disappointed in myself and in my children, we had somehow failed in my mind.

Looking back, I can actually laugh about this idea that my boys were going to quote Shakespeare to each other and such. I’ve accepted who they are and am happy they’ve turned out to be decent readers, even if it’s computer programming books and mountain bike repair manuals. I now take my children’s and my temperament into account when setting goals and making plans. I’m high strung and my kids are on their own program, so I don’t put us into situations that are going to work against this dynamic. I don’t feel pressure to participate in what doesn’t work for us as a family.

My family is NOT a Norman Rockwell postcard we ARE a Malcolm In the Middle Family. We actually sit around together and watch it and laugh hysterically at them and ourselves. Yep …no one is reading the Classics independently here, we’re watching Netflix together and enjoying each other’s company. We are imperfectly living and loving one another under the umbrella of Christ’s Grace, praying the same for your family.  ❤️







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