I’ve had this sitting unwritten in my draft folder for a long time. Sitting there, because I felt like it needs to be written. Blank, because I’m not sure how to write it or where to take it. I’m not even sure what exactly I wanted to accomplish in writing it, which is unusual for me…but I still feel like it needs to be written.
I think, at least partially…I just want other people to know I’m not perfect. Partially because I know sometimes it’s encouraging to hear about others’ imperfect lives. And partially…because I don’t want my ideals to keep me from being able to be real- from being given the chance to be accepted for who I am, even at my worst.
I want to encourage people and share high aspirations for motherhood. As a passionate idealist, I have strong ideas and high standards I hold myself to. I desire to be the very best mom I can be….sometimes in a radical direction. I cling to goals and ideas that seem to many to be impossibly unrealistic- I know, because people don’t mind saying so. I throw my whole self into this journey…my energy, my passion, my thoughts. It’s who I am…and in a lot of ways, I think it’s a good thing. I like it….I can’t imagine floundering through each day without goals and ideals to strive for. It helps me to think and rethink through what I’m doing, and what I believe in, and whether or not it’s the very best for our children. I’ll never reach them perfectly…but in striving, I’ll reach higher than I could’ve otherwise.
But my journey isn’t perfect…and like everyone else, it’s fraught with struggles. Because when I don’t uphold my ideals perfectly, I feel like a crashing failure. Many mornings after a long night I’ve indulged in a cry and begged God to help me be a better mother….to help me cling to what I believe and know is best. And yet…I fail again. And sometimes, it feels lonely….because I know that I should be living out my ideals, and what on earth would people think about me if they know that I fail? That I can’t even live out what I passionately believe in?
But, the raw and honest fact of the matter is that, although I strive for the very highest- although my dreams, ideals and ambitions are sky-high…I’m not there as a mom. I wish I could say that we perfectly practice everything I write about here…but I screw up. I wish I could say I had the patience of a martyr…but in the end, I’m just a human. I wish I could look back on my parenting journey with no regrets….but the truth is, there’ve been imperfect days- and especially imperfect nights.
There’ve been nights- when we’re up at 2 am for the 6th time that night, or when it takes over an hour to get Vivi to sleep- when I wonder what it is that was so bad about cry-it-out. Yes, even though I have very specific reasons for being opposed to it.
There are nights when I get so frustrated with the constant wakings that my frustration turns into stress- and what would’ve been being up for an hour or two with Vivi turns into three, because my stress doesn’t exactly help sooth her to sleep. And it ends with me begging God for forgiveness…and patience to better nurture my little girl at night. And it’s only then that she finally drifts back to sleep “for real” and stays asleep for a little bit….safely nestled against a relaxed mama.
Nights when I don’t even enjoy nursing Vivi, and it’s just a chore…and I would just like space and sleep.
There was a night recently when Vivi was up around 5, crying. And instead of reaching for her and drawing her close, I lay there, paralyzed. Fighting an emotional and mental battle while the rest of me was still. I was frustrated….frustrated that for the past 7 hours, she’d woke up every time I started to drift off. I was desperate to be allowed to just fall asleep. And yet I knew…Vivi needed me. For whatever reason, she was having a hard time sleeping, and I knew she needed my help. But I also knew that if I picked her up right then, it would be in frustration, unless I got past myself…and that wasn’t going to help anyone or be very comforting to her. And, I couldn’t just break through my selfishness to take care of her needs…like a good mom would. Moms are supposed to devote their whole lives to selflessness…and I couldn’t get past this one little thing without a struggle…couldn’t just be rational. And then Ben came (who’s been sleeping on the couch for a long while, now, due to a severely irritating poison ivy rash that makes the living room more comfortable)…and patiently walked with and held Vivi for an hour and half…while I slept and cried and prayed. (Not the first time Ben’s helped in the night…he’s pretty awesome!) When Vivi came back to me, I was ready for her….ready to comfort and soothe and get back at it…
Somehow…I’ve had a harder time dealing with all the nighttime wakings lately. In general, I didn’t have a problem dealing with them when she was younger. But somehow, it’s harder to remember now that this is what she needs. In not remembering…I fail.
There are days when I find myself counting hours to bedtime…even though I want to cherish every moment with my little girl.
Days when I let stress creep in because I’m not getting everything done- even though I know how harmful it is to my family…. when I suddenly realize I need to stop- everything- and sit with my girl and enjoy her, because stressed-out me trying to get caught up while Vivi cries on my back for no particular reason isn’t helping anybody.
There are days when my shower’s a highlight, and I thoroughly enjoy the minutes alone….untouched, unneeded. Even though I’m passionate about babywearing and meeting little ones’ high touch needs, and believe that God gives the grace to fully meet our babies’ needs.
Days when I ask Ben why Vivi can’t be like everyone else’s baby we know and, on a “bad” night, wake up 3 times, instead of 10 or 12. And I have to be patiently reminded that she isn’t “everybody else”…she’s Vivi, with her own set of blessings and challenges…and she needs us to remember that, and to meet her unique needs. (Side note: I’m sure it isn’t everyone’s baby we know that has such good nights….it just feels like it when everyone you talk to has a similar story!)
Days when I’m all too eager to send her Ben’s direction for a while….while I regroup and catch up on stuff that Vivi was determined shouldn’t get done.
So, we have our moments…and brief times when I consider throwing in the towel on something that rationally, I passionately believe in.
But for the most part, life is good. For the most part, it’s a fantastic journey we thoroughly enjoy as a family. Usually, we have good days and we enjoy whatever gets thrown our direction. Vivi and I have lots of fun sharing life together…and most days are filled with pleasant memories- small and big- to cherish and hold on to. Most nights I smile as I pick up all Vivi’s messes…all the little reminders that she exists in our lives. Most nights I suck in my breath at how sweet she looks sleeping in the middle of our bed…and I enjoy all the midnight snuggles that accompany nighttime nursing. We grow and laugh and play together…and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. It really is my dream job…and it really is more wonderful than I could’ve imagined.
So I’ll continue….to nurture my family, to meet their needs, to throw out stress, to love life and laugh often, to cherish the little things that slip by too fast, to reach for the best. The thing is, it is a continuing process…continually picking up from a failure, dusting off, and with God’s help, trying harder. Continually moving towards being the better mom I so much want to be….but could never achieve on my own. Life is good, but we haven’t arrived.
Because when all’s said and done….I’m just a mom, and an imperfect one at that.