No matter who you are, parenting is simultaneously magical and wonderful and terrifying and worrying. As a mother of two, the minute my first baby, a girl, was laid on my chest after delivery, I was immediately enraptured by this perfect and beautiful little thing that I grew.
I was confident, despite being only 22. I had done my homework and I had many idealized visions of what parenting and motherhood would look like.
Immediately, my girl proved that she was much more in charge than I was! Arriving three weeks early, tired and jaundiced, this sweet little baby of mine had no desire to latch or to breastfeed. It was simply too much work for her little body and, despite reading every book out there and looking for local support, I just could not get breastfeeding to work for us. I pumped around the clock and became an exhausted crazy woman before finally succumbing completely to formula.
Oh…the guilt. The guilt on this particular topic was incredibly heavy for me. I had done my research. I had taken several child development courses. I knew that breast was best. I was a perfectionist, and, for my sweet baby…I wanted everything to be perfect. But, on this basic element–feeding my baby–I felt like I had failed.
I know that I am not alone in this guilt and struggle. I have somewhat come to terms with it, and have since had a very different, and healing, experience through nursing my second child–I even became a breastfeeding peer helper for awhile.
However, this experience seems to underscore my struggles with mothering–especially with mothering a daughter…who I relate to and identify with on a different level.
It is the PRESSURE.
The pressure to do better, be better, protect her, give her more.
It is also the pressure to not become my own mother.
It is the FEAR.
The fear that I am not good enough, that I am failing, that I cannot keep her safe in this world, and that I will mess her up and give her my anxieties, perfectionism, and fears.
It is also the fear that we will not connect in the way I have always dreamed–the connection that I wish I had with my own mom.
I have not yet learned how to shed these pressures and these fears. Sometimes, I have an even bigger fear that I am letting them get in my way and am sabotaging my own relationship with my sweet girl.
I feel like I expect too much…that I am too hard on her. She is already very successful in school–a great reader, writer, and little scientist. It makes me so proud–and it also validates me, in a way. When she gets good reports and impresses others, I not only feel pride in her and her accomplishment, I feel vindicated–like, maybe, I have done something right.
But, then I worry. Am I creating pressure on her to always do well and impress? We know that I have those problems. Then, those feelings of guilt and failure rear their ugly head and I end up not knowing what to do at all…I cuddle, hug, and express my love–but I also worry that every day it might be too late. Will age 7 be the age where she gives her self worth over to other people? Will it be the age where she realizes that I am too busy? Will it be the age where she will wish for a mom with “more”?
More than anything, I want my girl to feel love, empathy, and connection with me. I never want her to hurt. I want to protect her more than anything…
I never want her to have the childhood that I had.
At times, it seems like an overwhelming task–raising little people who are healthy (physically and mentally) and well adjusted humans. I can only hope that I am doing some things right…