It was shortly after my birthday when my boyfriend popped the question. It wasn’t a marriage proposal, but a baby one. He was twenty five and wanted to be a young dad and at twenty years old, I wanted nothing more than to be a mom. We didn’t tell anyone what we were planning. Our friends and parents already thought we were a crazy impetuous duo, having moved in together after just six months of young love, but hey, we’d known each other for two years!
It was ten long months later that I finally registered a positive on the stick. In that time I had become slightly, um, obsessive. I read everything I could get my hands on relating to conception and pregnancy and in my crazed state, I seemed to have lost my ability to count properly. Thankfully, once I figured out my actual ovulation dates, we were golden.
Throughout my pregnancy I continued to read, and form opinions. Opinions on the best prenatal care, the most natural way to give birth, how my baby would eat and sleep. As my belly got bigger, my social life shrank. I still had movie nights with friends, and I’d attend the odd concert, but their lives of partying and serial beaus seemed farther and farther away from my own in a committed relationship, contemplating my future as a mother.
Then, our beautiful baby boy arrived, and the friends? They disappeared.
I joined our midwives’ baby group and forged new friendships with moms who wanted to talk about latching on and sleep deprivation while delighting in the tiny gurgles and darling face contortions of our babies. But at twenty-one I always felt I had something to prove to these parents. To everyone. With few exceptions, these parents were much older than me, and I often felt an air of condescension in our interactions. I felt rather isolated.
In lieu of great friends in the same boat, I clutched on to a raft of ideals and parenting books. I made impossible rules for myself and my partner. We could only use cloth diapers. I would not leave my baby alone with anyone- rarely even his own dad! I would only give my baby organic homemade food, and shunned any toy that was plastic, relenting only if it was second hand. What was supposed to be a joyful time in our lives felt like a constant battle I was fighting to ensure we were doing everything the right way. We suffered. We fought. Miraculously, we stayed together.
Fast forward nine years and I am on the brink of thirty. I am still usually the youngest amongst friends, though I rarely think about that now. We have two more beautiful boys and a harmonious relationship. What has changed is me. Slowly as resentment set in and things were looking bleak, I realized I was living up to an impossible ideal. I bought some disposable diapers, and used both. I began reaching out to other moms who didn’t follow my own parenting practices to a T, and I learned from them. I began to let my husband have a say in what our kids played with and watched, and everyone started having more fun. Most importantly, I began to explore aspects of myself beyond mothering, taking various courses (including Meagan Francis’s online writing course!) and pursuing hobbies I could indulge in around my kids, like knitting, writing and yoga.
I had heard all the sage wisdom before; feed yourself! You can not give to your children what you do not have. It just took a little growing up to really get it.
I still hold my values and mother passionately from them, but I’ve also humbled. Relaxed. And my family is so much happier for it.
To all the young mamas and papas out there, I wish for you to feel secure in your age and inexperience. You have gifts that are different from those of a more mature establish parent. You have a youthful approach to life; honour that and be playful. You are still discovering yourself; let your kids see that curious passion, it will fuel their own desire to learn. Most importantly, take it easy on yourself. If you are loving your children and following your own intuition, you are doing a great job, no matter what the latest book says or what the seemingly together mom in playgroup does.
Be unapologetically you. That is the mom your kids need.
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Gwynyth is a homeschooling mama to three rambunctious boys and a dog. When she’s not out adventuring with her brood, you can find her writing, drinking tea, or cozied up with a good book. Stop by for a visit at www.grapefruitjam.com