I am at the point in motherhood where, when people talk about being a great mother or even a good mother, I no longer feel like I qualify. I’m bad at setting strict bedtimes or following schedules and I probably don’t Purell my hands enough. I sometimes let my older son wear a T shirt he loves and then sleep in it and then (sorry, I know this is terrible) wear it the next day. I don’t have a calming, maternal singing voice and don’t know many lullabies so often I’ll ease my newborn son’s anxiety by whistling or humming or singing The Safety Dance by Men Without Hats. I have no idea what the most effective way is to discipline a child and every time I do it I am positive I am doing it wrong.
So when people bring up the idea of being a good mom I admit that, by many people’s standards, I am probably not one. Which is a little depressing to say. I am not even sure how to become a good mom. BUT, I tell people—if you’d like to focus on the positive for a moment– I am a great dad.
All the things a great dad would do with his son are things I do! I put my son in a blanket and then spin the blanket around like a centrifuge because he totally loves when I do that, even though there is a chance he could get hurt. I encourage his fascination with slugs. I happily let him fill his pockets with rocks and bring them home, even though it means our hardwood floors are constantly being eroded by gravel. Sometimes we sword fight each other using those long, wooden paint-stirring sticks Home Depot keeps giving us.
I don’t cook much since it seems crazy to spend so much time cooking when we could be doing other things? But I eat dinner with him all the time, even if sometimes it is only kidney beans out of a can, and I taught him the “Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit” song, which he enthusiastically sings to anyone who will listen and often to many people who won’t. Occasionally I will lovingly get him dressed in outfits that do not match or possibly have stains on them, and the other day I bought a Sound Effects machine for him, which makes sixteen fun noises—among them a cash register going “Cha-ching,” a lady doing a horror movie scream, and a person farting. There is a tiny part of me that feels like I should be buying him science toys or teaching him how to add or read but there is a much larger part of me that always wanted a sound effects machine for myself and is so excited that now the two of us can enjoy this together. *FART NOISE* *WOMAN SCREAMING* *CHA-CHING!*
My favorite part of being a good dad is that I am allowed to make mistakes, which is fantastic because I make mistakes all the time.
I am not positive what it means to be a good mother. I am always self-conscious when other people watch my mothering because mothers are expected to have some sort of instinct which I am not certain I have. When I hold my newborn in my arms I feel less like an iconic image of a mother cradling her child and more like Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby.
I do wonder, sometimes, whether whatever worry or maternal concern he is supposed to get from me he will grow up without and it will leave him lacking somehow. And no sooner do I worry about that than my husband arrives home, nervous about the fact that I am spinning our son around in a blanket because “am I sure that’s safe?” and asking if it’s ok that that baby is propped up on the Boppy pillow like that because “couldn’t he slide down and maybe suffocate?” And I tell him “It’s fine—I’m being careful with both of them, you don’t need to worry about stuff like this,” but then think better of it and thank him for being cautious. Sometimes I think of my husband as too nervous or overly concerned about everything, but in the long run, that’s what makes him a wonderful mother.
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Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the post, my book Welcome to the Club: 100 Parenting Milestones You Never Saw Coming is a fantastic gift for anyone you know having a baby and can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indiebound. It can be also be purchased at a “bookstore,” which is a type of store where you walk into it and they sell you books. You can also buy it for yourself if you are having a baby. You can also buy it for yourself if you are NOT having a baby. You’re limited only by your imagination here, people.