When I reflect on what it means to be a mom, it sometimes brings a smile to my face and at other times, fills me with anxiety that I’m not doing the job as well as I should. I have learned that there is a distinct tension in motherhood. It is never really black and white, yes or no, and there are no perfect answers. Through my behavioral health background, I know that there are certain times where I must create black and white scenarios for my children allowing them to make clear choices, but being a mom means following your heart.
Trusting in your heart is an individual evolutionary process. As soon as I thought I had motherhood figured out (bedtime routines with babies, managing toddler tantrums, etc.), something changed and I was forced to adapt. I recall being a brand new mother and even though I worked with other children in the past, I would read parenting books during my daughter’s naptime to figure out our newest challenge or milestone. Was it normal for her to wake up half way through her nap? How do I overcome diaper rash? What were the best homemade baby food recipes? No matter how tired I was from my day, as a mother, you dig deep in order to be the best parent you can be. Yet, digging deep all the time can overcome you, and I quickly discovered that while I wanted the best for my child, I had to acknowledge that I was sleep deprived and mentally exhausted.
Not long after I caught up on some sleep and felt more confident navigating motherhood, my son was born. Once again, I was pushed to new limits that I never imagined. He is a completely different child than my daughter. I’ve changed many “motherhood systems” that I had mastered with my daughter in order to allow myself to truly understand his unique personality and ideas. I began to read even more parenting books to help our family adapt to the new dynamics. We had to find answers to questions such as: How do I avoid negotiating with a 4-year old? How do you manage sibling rivalry?
I was under the assumption that as my kids got older I wouldn’t have to adjust as much. I could coast. It would be a little easier. That is far from reality, as I now embark on different challenges related to electronic devices, internet safety and teaching them how to be a good sport/person. I went from being the tantrum negotiator, toy repair specialist, hair stylist, and sleep navigator (working mainly the night shift) to becoming a personal chauffer, family law enforcement officer, social calendar secretary, safety monitor, and manners expert.
My kids are now eleven and eight years old and I’ve heard people say I’m in the “sweet spot.” They are still young enough to cuddle, take my advice, and think I’m the best mom. I try not to take one moment for granted, as I will be forced to adapt to their continued exploration and independence. I still second guess myself at times, make mistakes, and recognize areas of improvement, but overall I follow my heart and feel content. I smile thinking of all the memories and all of our personal growth my entire family has undergone in the last eleven years. Yet, the anxiety re-emerges as I reflect on what is yet to come. Being a mom is hard and exposes some personal limitations, but there is no greater opportunity for personal fulfillment in the world. At the end of the day, I am confident that being perfectly imperfect is part of the job and I look forward to my future evolution as a mother.
Marcie Herzog is a director of High Risk Populations at Southwest Behavioral & Health Services.