I've kind of mentioned this here or there in the past, but I've never written a whole post about it. And then the other day, my Chrissy wrote this beautiful post all about her transition from single gal to live-in girlfriend of a man who has two children, and her journey to being a mom in that regard, and I just loved her honesty about the whole thing. So here's a whole bunch of my own honesty (don't worry, it has a good ending).
I have friends who are kid people. You know what I mean.....they gravitate toward children, could play for hours, are really good at pretending, etc. I think about pretending to be a pony for a couple hours (or a few minutes) on end and I want to poke my eyeballs out with the nearest capable object. (OK, dramatic. But it falls into the same category of hating improv games and karaoke -- you could say role playing is not my thing.) I don't know kid things. What snacks they can't eat, how to put a carseat in a car, how often they're supposed to nap, etc.
I kind of approach children like little adults. I like to ask them what books they're reading, how school is going, etc. I don't do well with kids who need to be constantly entertained. Or kids who whine incessantly. (I mean, we all whine sometimes, but, you know the type.)
After a few less desirable babysitting experiences as an early teen, I swore it off.
I got a job at age 15 in a shaved ice hut in a parking lot....in the summer....in Arizona...so I could make money some other way. I would turn down babysitting requests when they came in through family friends. The idea of being trapped in a home for a few hours with a few littles I didn't know at all ignited all kinds of anxiety in my insides. (Still does, even now, just thinking about it.) I'm not always quite sure how to talk to or interact with a kid I've just met, which is especially awkward because their parent is usually watching as I fumble through that initial scenario.
I had a f'reals complex about this for a long, long time.
The religious culture I grew up in places a lot (see: all) emphasis on the ultimate female role of motherhood. And every time I heard people talk about that subject, it kind of put a weight in my chest. I felt so unworthy, incapable, broken, flawed, etc. I'd watch my friends gravitate toward children and I just felt like something in me wasn't adding up right. Like somehow I was missing a fundamental piece of myself that I was being told I was supposed to have.
Imagine it this way: think of something you don't feel like you're good at, e.g. math, sports, science, etc. Now imagine that from an early age, you were assigned to a career in that particular field. And you were told on a weekly basis that this was THE most holy option for you, and THE only right way. Kind of feels like impending failure, right? A little bit like being trapped into something you're totally incapable of and totally afraid of.
So yes, I had a complex. I felt like other women were better than me, in some fundamental way. I felt like I had a stupid, dirty secret, that, if the nice Mormon boys I went out with knew about, they'd realize how much I was lacking and they wouldn't want me anymore. I'd think about meeting their families and be filled with terror at the idea of the guy seeing me awkwardly interact with his nieces and nephews without a chance to warm up to them or get to know them. Yikes.
But then...I became an aunt.
And suddenly, I discovered that I could like children. Not *all* children....but I liked those children. I liked the ones I knew. I could talk to them how I wanted and however much I wanted, I knew their personalities, they didn't fall into the categories of whiney or constantly-needing-entertainment...so we got along. And I discovered just how much I love being Aunt Katie (which is A LOT). And that gave me confidence that I'd someday like my own children, too. And occasionally, I come across other children I'm not related to who I get along with (like my roommate's nephew, who left me this note outside my door last weekend). It's usually the smart, self-entertaining-yet-quirkily-chatty-when-they-want-to-be type. (So, pretty much what I enjoy in adult humans as well :)
I appreciate the candid honesty of other women who can admit to not liking children that much, either.
I had a teacher in high school, who had two teenage daughters of her own, who openly owned up to not being a kid person....but that she loved her own children. Is that possible? I'd wonder to myself if maybe that would be my own saving grace. And I think it will be.
One thing that really helps me is to remember that not all good, effective mothers are the same.
Some moms play with their kids every hour of the day. Some moms work full time. Some moms are good at being silly and playing pretend, and are highly involved with entertaining their children. Some moms let the siblings or little friends entertain each other while they get other stuff done. Some moms like to have book clubs and science projects with their children. Some moms like to hang out at home with their kids in the backyard or living room. Some moms like to go on adventures and field trips.
There's all kinds. It takes all kinds. And so many kids, from so many different types of moms, are still turning out normal and wonderful.
I've learned to believe that it's not about being one type of woman so that I can be one type of mom.
And once I realized that, I began to realize all the traits that I have that are going to make me a kicka$$ mom.....despite my non-love of make-believe and role-playing and all cheesy things in general :)
And since we're being all open and honest, here's a few of them:
- Insatiable curiosity
- Delight in simple things (like a ceiling full of glow stars at any age)
- Sense of humor
- A love of any and all babies (I'm all about that starter phase :)
- Celebrating people's big and small achievements
- Empathizing easily (my heart's all full of secondhand squish)
- An ability to forgive quickly when people disappoint me
- A general aversion to yelling or snide remarks
- Validating people's feelings, big or small
- Going out of my way to make people happy
- Love of travel, adventure and exploring
- Deep desire to bedazzle/create something every day
- Little need for things to be overly classy/perfect (Will I put your odd, finger-painted masterpiece above the mantel and wear that macaroni necklace in public? You bet I will.)
- Love of sports (both playing and cheering my people on)
- Endless encouragement of others' dreams
- How much I love being a big sister (overlaps with mom-hood, in my mind)
- A willingness to just BE with my people. (If my kid has a bad dream or a bad day and just needs someone to sit on their bed with them and cry, or giggle, or pet their hair and quietly count those glow stars on the ceiling? I'm all over that. I already am all over that for my grown-up people.)
...so that's just a few. And no, those might not be some of the more "typical" traits that I always equated with motherhood and measured myself as lacking. But I eventually learned to look at myself and realize that, if I had a mom like me, I think I'd be OK with that. And that took a lot of soul-searching to finally realize.
You know....square peg, round hole. Good mom? I believe so.
Now here's several photos of me and my children. And by that I mean, my siblings' children. And therefore mine. You know.