Mom #1: She rolled up to the park with a fully stocked diaper bag. She brought enough organic pouches of baby food to last several days, the cloth diapers were fresh and bright, and her hair and makeup were in place, fresh from that morning. Her baby was carefully accessorized from head to toe and still smelled like the lavender lotion she applied after her daily bath the night before.
Mom #2: About 5 minutes late, she pulls up in a minivan. A few goldfish fall into the parking lot as the automatic door opens. A preschooler hops out and mama grabs the baby. She does a quick clean up of his face and tosses the wipe into her purse. With the baby on her hip, she tightens up her messy bun and grabs her big girls hand.
Mom #3: The last to arrive is the mama of three. She rolls up to the park in her minivan with the soundtrack of Moana blasting. She hands her kids the drive-thru hash browns she so lovingly cooled by jamming them into the AC vents and tells them to eat quickly. She shakes the Cheerios off of the little one’s tushie, straps the leash- erm backpack… on to the toddler, and the big kid runs to catch up from behind.
As I parent my three children, I can’t help but smile as I think about how differently I have mothered them in each season.
My oldest got Mom #1– Super together on the outside to compensate for the complete lack of experience and confidence on the inside. She had no idea what she was doing, so she googled EVERYTHING. She parented accordingly and was convinced that her well behaved, healthy little girl was a direct byproduct of her stellar parenting. And though she would never say anything unkind out loud, she was silently judging the parents of the tantruming toddler in Target.
“Geez, Susan. Pick up a parenting book. Your toddler has absolutely no self-control.”
My middle man was born to Mom #2. She was almost completely self-sufficient. She homeschooled and coordinated play dates. She found some amount of balance and she knew who she wanted to be as a mother. She was kind and patient with her children more than she wasn’t, and she felt as though she was beginning to find her own way. This middleman, however, well…he was the tantrum in Target type. Mom #2 may have often been embarrassed, but she’s far less judgmental for it.
Mom #3 came about after becoming Mama for the third time. She was no longer self-sufficient, but instead, crying out for help. She couldn’t shoulder the responsibility of a newborn, a one-year-old and a five-year-old. For the first time, she began to REALLY rely on strength outside of herself to sustain her. She learned to set boundaries for the good of her family despite the expectations of others. She lowered the bar for the work in her house and, instead, turn her attention to the people living in it.
Mom #3 finally understood that there is no right way to do all of this parenting stuff. She may lose her patience more days than not, but she’s not afraid to apologize. She isn’t too proud to serve up frozen pizza with some baby carrots for dinner, but she’s almost always first in line at her daughter’s (not home) school pick up line.My kids have had completely different moms from season to season, and they all had different strengths and weaknesses. Each child brought about an evolution of who I am as a woman and, therefore, who I am as a mother.
So often in the early years, I was so set on doing everything right. It’s only after seeing myself mother three different children in three different ways with the same unconditional love that I realize how silly it was to think there was a single correct way to do this parenting thing. And how much sillier was I to think I would find the magic answer in a google article written by someone who would never know my child.
Maybe the reason none of us parent exactly the same is that our children are all so wonderfully different. What works for one of my kids doesn’t work for the others. Each of their personalities requires something different. Instead of comparing our unique motherhoods, or even our unique children, maybe we can learn from each other and celebrate our unique strengths. (I mean, sure, Mom #1 may have been a little judgy, but could she please come back and organize our closets?)
How have you evolved as a mother? What strengths have you found in yourself?