Ever since I was little I’ve been drawn to the ideals of motherhood. I would prance around the neighborhood with dolls piled high in my best friend’s stroller. We would set up shop on the lawn with blankets made into makeshift beds and clothes sprawled out everywhere. When I was 12, I took a babysitting course and went around the block knocking on doors and telling the neighbors I was ready for hire. I babysat regularly and was known as a baby whisperer.
My life’s goal was to be a mom, and my whole life everyone told me I’d be a natural, but here I am as a mom of four and I don’t feel like one.
The thing is though, I don’t know if there is such a thing.
Parenting is so different than I thought. I couldn’t fathom the love I’d feel. The awe and wonder that would well up inside of me each night as I went to fix my kids’ blankets before I went to bed. How I’d reach for the light and often pause and marvel at the sight of these sweet kids that I grew in my womb, utterly amazed that they’re mine. And it’s remarkable because no matter what happened that day, my heart would swell with pride. I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but I never knew I could love my kids this much.
This morning was magical. Two of my sons woke up early and came to snuggle before the morning rush and I reveled in the wonderful feeling that I was so lucky. So blessed with my four kids. Fortunate to have such an abundance of love. I knew that motherhood would have these moments, in fact, I thought it would be filled with it, but I didn’t expect the other side.
I didn’t see the challenges that would come.
I thought I’d be a natural and I was blindsided when I realized that concept was an illusion.
I have felt more lost and confused in motherhood than confident, and I never expected to feel this way. I once swore I’d never be the mom whose kids would eat nuggets and fries, and now I’m just desperately trying to get them to eat anything. I thought bedtime would be a tender and peaceful process, in reality by the time 7 p.m. rolls around I’m often maxed out and frustrated. And I’m challenged with each and every stage, questioning my decisions at every turn and wondering if I’m doing it all wrong.
I didn’t see it coming.
I didn’t know how hard it would be.
I thought I would always know what to do, and my instincts would be spot on, but instead, I’m forever second-guessing myself.
I try so hard, but I also don’t try hard enough.
When I was a little girl, I dreamed I would be a magical mom. The kind that would always be up for whimsical play and adventure, and sometimes I am, but most of the time I’m just too exhausted. Mentally and physically tapped out like a toy that’s low on batteries and doesn’t have the power to sing the same tune it once did. Sound comes out, but the lyrics and melody are broken and faint.
Instead of confident, I often feel inadequate and the guilt of not being enough weighs on me.
I can’t help but wonder if some of the weight of guilt I feel stems from the lie that being a mom can be “natural.” Sure, love can come naturally. The unconditional love I feel for my kids is wired into me. It’s pure and intrinsic, but the rest is anything but. Knowing how to raise a child isn’t instinctual, it’s intentional. It’s trial and error. Making mistakes and humbling yourself enough to say sorry.
It’s anything but natural—it’s work.
Beyond that, it’s so subjective. Each child is different and has different needs and as much as I would love a clear and direct instruction manual, it just wouldn’t work.
Sure, there’s research and methods, but if it was so straightforward and natural, the consensus would be the same. Instead, everything is conflicting. What one parenting book recommends the other says will completely ruin your child. Basically, being a “natural” is a myth.
Parenting is confusing, and difficult, and often draining, but it’s also wonderful. Some days it feels carefree and simple and then others it feels impossible. And I think it’s important we call out the lie that it’s just natural for some people because it just plays into our insecurity.
Parenting is a steep learning curve for everyone, and we put impossible expectations on ourselves when we believe any different.
It’s not like we imagined, but worth every bit of the struggle.
We are challenged far more than we expected, but we’re also learning and growing along the way.
We fall for this “grass is greener” lie. The one that says the mom down the street has her act together because she parents so effortlessly. In reality, there is no “effortless.” There is no easy. There is work. There is struggle. There is trial and error, and sometimes it does get easier along the way, but it didn’t start off that way.
You’re not broken because it’s hard, that’s just the way parenting is, because there is no such thing as a natural mom, the only thing that comes naturally is love.