This is a guest post by Chaunie Brusie of Tiny Blue Lines.
When you hear the word “Mom,” what image comes to mind?
Do you picture a woman who is polished and put-together? A mom with her hair carefully blown-out and her children’s calendars color-coordinated?
In my mind, a mom is someone who has her act together. After all, she is the source of stability for her children. The one who will stand in the kitchen with homemade, freshly-baked cookies as her children gather `round, drawing from her wisdom and strength, whether they realize it or not.
And while I can admit that I have the cookie thing down pat, I’m not so sure about the rest.
Part of me is afraid that I’m not mom enough for the mom club.
After becoming unexpectedly pregnant with my oldest daughter during my senior year of college, at the age of 21, my entire life as I knew it went into a tailspin.
I questioned everything I thought I knew about myself—my major, my future marriage, the entire life plan I had so carefully laid out.
But above all, I struggled with one question:
How could I figure out who I am if I’m busy pretending to be a mom who knows what she’s doing?
Up until this point, with three kids five and under and a fourth on the way, I kind of feel like I have been winging this whole motherhood thing. With play dates and finger paints, my kids are pretty clueless to the fact that their mom doesn’t really know what she’s doing. But now? Now that my oldest has entered school this fall, I feel like I’m braving the real face of motherhood—with a lot of moms who are older and wiser than me.
For me, one of the most important parts about motherhood has been how important it suddenly became to realize who I am as an individual in order to be strong for my children. When I think of the best mothers I know, they are always, without a doubt, women who are strong as individuals first. Insecurity and doubt aren’t exactly good cornerstones of motherhood, am I right? Someone who is wishy-washy about their own decisions in life can’t exactly steer the next generation in the right direction.
I realized that I wanted to be strong. I want to the pillar of strength for my children. I want them to be able to know, deep down, without me telling them, that their mother is secure in who she is. I realized that inner strength and stability are important to me and will have an affect on how I raise my children. I want to do motherhood on purpose.
So, how do I become the strong, secure individual that I believe is the basis of a good mother?
1. Give myself permission to have room to grow.
While part of me lamented the fact that I didn’t fully cultivate that strong basis as an individual before I became a mother (getting pregnant in college might do that to you), the other part loves that I have grown and cultivated myself alongside of my journey to motherhood. It’s like a mommyhood buffet, where I have been able to pick and choose the best aspects that motherhood has brought out in me, to create a whole, new, and hopefully better person.
2. Cultivate my passions.
As any mother knows, this one is a constantly fought battle. And some days, it literally feels like a battle to have any sort of time to do anything other than laundry and break up fights. It’s amazing to me sometimes how much I don’t do in a day here at home with kids because the day disappears in a cloud of seemingly meaningless diaper changes, naps, and preschool.
But even though it’s taken me some time to even figure out what my passion is (who has time to have passions when you’re breastfeeding for five consecutive years?) the fight to find and cultivate my passion has been the basis of redefining myself as an individual and as a mother. Which, I am starting to see, although they are intertwined, are not mutually exclusively. There will come a day when these little people don’t always need me every second of the day, even when I am peeing. And then what?
3. Let go of the guilt.
Ok, see #2 up there? You can’t have it without this one. It’s like PB & J. They just go together. Because there may be a period of time—years even, as it was for me, when you are searching just to find your passion or you really don’t have time for anything else. I’ve learned that motherhood is so seasonal and eventually, things do balance out. So biggest lesson of all—figure out what you need to do and just do it. Maybe that means exercising every day or working more than “the other mothers” or scrapping it all until your kids hit school-aged. Whatever it is, stop apologizing for your choices as a mother and let go of the guilt.
4. Realize there is no one path to motherhood.
We all get here a little differently. And that’s ok. So maybe my kids won’t have a mother who always has her nails painted or knows exactly what she wants, but they will always have a mother who is willing to grow right alongside of them. As moms, we all have unique strengths and abilities and I’m learning to forgive my less-than-perfect moments while admitting that you know what?
I’m not always put-together.
But I’m a pretty good mom.
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Chaunie Brusie is a writer, labor and delivery nurse, and young mom of three (soon to be four!). She began serving as an advocate for young women facing unplanned pregnancies after becoming a mother during her senior year of college. Chaunie has been published on sites like The Bump, Babble, and Parents and will see her first book released on February 10. Chaunie blogs at www.tinybluelines.com.