The Perfectly Imperfect Mom
From the get go I was going to be a supermom to my oldest (who’s almost ten). The ultimate Super Earth Mom! I daydreamed about being the perfect co-sleeping, breastfeeding, taking-my-child-everywhere-strapped-to-my-torso type of mother. I even had a vision of me growing out my natural hair into a hipster millennial afro (never mind that I’m neither a hipster nor a millennial). That’s what all the parenting books said I had to do (minus the growing of the hair) and I’m a very goal oriented person. But here’s the thing, my mom never did any of this stuff (she grew out her hair later) because she was busy being a single mother, working full time and getting her master’s degree – and I turned out okay. Al though that’s debatable considering I’m an addict in recovery. Laughing emoji. Winking emoji.
My first goal was for all of us (my daughter, husband and me) to sleep together every night. One book promoted co-sleeping as the ultimate way for mom and baby to bond thereby ensuring that baby doesn’t end up in juvie by age twelve, which is what all the studies cited in the book said would happen WITHOUT co-sleeping. Sigh emoji. Plus it sounded so convenient; baby sleeps between mom and dad, when hunger wakes baby, mom whips out boob for feeding, dad awakens to offer moral support, eye roll emoji, then they all go back to sleep in a cloud of bliss. All hail the miracle of co-sleeping. But that’s not the way sh*t went down.
During our first night in the hospital after she was born, the nurse came in at 1am and offered to take our little bean until 4am. Needless to say I didn’t have to jump out of bed post c section to kiss her feet because my husband beat me to it. I could not believe that we wanted a break only a few hours after bringing our bundle of joy into the world.
Our first night at home I was ready. My husband and I created a space in bed between us, situating ourselves on either side of Baby Girl and after getting comfortable we settled in for the night. Five hours later picture us stiff as boards, wide eyed, staring at the ceiling, terrified of moving for fear of rolling over and suffocating her. The next night we put her in a bassinet next to our bed and left the bathroom light on. Five hours later we were peering over the bassinet, wide eyed (again), listening to all of the squishy new born baby sounds she’d been making ALL NIGHT. And then came the third night. By then, in all of our exhaustion we’d given up. Baby Girl was sequestered to her room, in solitude, with my husband and I listening to a baby monitor, wide eyed (again) and still not sleeping.
My next Earth Mom fail was when I couldn’t breast feed. I was devastated. It was as if I failed at motherhood before even getting started (since breastfeeding is the most basic thing a mom should be able to do, right? And ALL my friends seemed to LOOOVE it – ugh emoji). But no matter how hard I tried, Baby Girl would not latch on. She screamed bloody murder every time I took out my boob. A friend suggested I call a lactation consultant (I had no idea!) who wanted me to suck up my postpartum depression, pack up my (hangry) screaming 1-week old daughter AND my industrial sized electric breast pump (with all of its accoutrements: big metal box, tubes, wires, cups, bottles, etc) … and bring them to her office. Should I bring the kitchen sink and the dog too?? Wtf?? I thought she’d be coming to me but apparently not. So I ghosted her. Smile emoji. Ultimately I and ended up using my loud industrial sized breast pump multiple times a day for three months (it was too loud for me to hear the television or my phone ring). Juvie here she comes!
Lastly … I dreamed about wearing flowers in my afro and carrying my little bean around with me everywhere I went. Farmers markets, long hikes, parks, petting zoos, farm to table restaurants … which meant MORE bonding. According to The Book you must bond constantly all damn day; walking, sleeping, grocery shopping, cooking, bitching to your friends, peeing, bathing. Wide eyed emoji. (I was willing to do anything to keep our Baby Girl out of juvie) The Book even devoted a few pages praising moms in developing countries because they strap their babies to themselves ALL DAY as if they’re still pregnant! Apparently we’re missing out on so much here in Westernized countries with our strollers, baby sitters and nights out here and there away from our babies. (Juvie!). Thinking emoji. Considering all of that overwhelming evidence I decided to try wrapping Baby Girl in a sling up against my torso so that she and I could spend the next two years literally attached at the hip. (No Juvie!) But it was awful. It was uncomfortable. And what made it even worse was seeing so many other moms “attached” to their babies all looking so happy! Wtf was wrong with me? My back hurt, my sciatica started acting up, etc, etc. So I bought a different brand of carrier. That one made my hips sore. Then I tried a third brand of carrier. That one shifted Baby Girl’s weight to a weird position so that every time I took a step the arches of my feet got even flatter. Shit emoji. Do I have to tell you that nothing worked??? I’m annoyed all over again just thinking about how desperately disappointed I was, AGAIN. There is no emoji to convey that. All the books I read. All that f’ing advice from all those f’ing experts. I ended having to do it all my way. I had to end up becoming my own expert through trial and error. (Definitely Juvie).
With a sigh I can say that I never became the free spirited, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, take-your-baby-everywhere type of mom. Too much pressure. I continue to be the neurotic overly exasperated person I’ve always been. But luckily none of my kids are in juvie. Yet. Laughing emoji. There’s just too much pressure today to do everything a certain way. Tell someone you aren’t breast feeding your kid until kindergarten and they look like you just literally threw your baby out the window with the bath water (I like utilizing hyperbole to prove a point). Tell them your kids eat sugar every once in a while (or more than every once in a while) and you get a tense look that says it all. And TV? Just don’t tell people you let your kids watch TV and you’ll be able to avoid a whole other level of judgment. So far I continue to do all of the things I promised myself I’d never do as a parent; I let them eat sugar, they watch plenty of TV, and sometimes I bribe them to get them to do WHAT the hell I want – WHEN the hell I want. I’m such an imperfect mom it’s not even funny. But I sometimes think that’s why they love me so fiercely; they see my imperfections and know that it’s okay for them to have imperfections too, that my imperfections are what make me human. They know it’s okay to make mistakes, f*ck up big time and still come back from it and learn something. They’re learning that being vulnerable won’t kill you.
Life is full of risks and rewards. So yeah, I let my kids (my oldest daughter now has twin siblings three years younger than her) walk the three blocks to school alone sometimes, because even though the world is scary; I want them to learn some common sense and street smarts, I want them to know that they can do things on their own without me always having to be there, otherwise they never grow up. And as my mom once said, “You don’t want Maya standing in your kitchen when she’s in her 40’s asking you for money because there was a glitch with her unemployment check … AFTER she tells you she might need to live in your basement for another month.” Blank face emoji. Hell no, I don’t want that to happen. I want my kids to know what it feels like to work sh*t out on their own and solve their own problems. I want them to know that even though their daddy and I think they’re super amazing, not everyone else does, so with other people they’ll have to put some work in and do more than just show up. But most of all I want them to understand that being imperfect is what makes them the beautiful little humans they are, with good hearts and open minds.