I'll be honest—I'm used to being good at things. I was always top of my class, got the scholarships, won the prizes. I'm used to excelling and having things come naturally to me. I think I always assumed motherhood would be the same way. My baby would sleep at night. He'd breastfeed easily. I'd love every single second I spent with him. He'd read at age two. Maybe he'd skip a few grades in school... You get the idea.
And the reality: motherhood has rocked my world! (Surprise!)
Especially life as a newborn mom. My oldest is six now, but I still remember those early months and years vividly. Breastfeeding was an enormous struggle for us. I had trouble bonding with my son—possibly because he only slept six hours a day and screamed the other 18 hours. (Colic is no joke!) I struggled with postpartum depression. And in general, I struggled to find fulfillment in my new day-to-day life. I was bored; and yet I was the busiest I'd ever been.
Even as my son entered the toddler years, I still found myself struggling to feel secure and fulfilled as a parent. My son didn't sleep through the night, not even once, until he was one. (And I swear all my friends' babies had slept through the night once they were six weeks old!)
He walked later than other kids I knew. His speech was later than what is "typical." He seems to hate healthy foods. He threw some epic tantrums. I never thought potty-training would work. He was the mean kid on the playground a time or two. Honestly, I found it some of it embarrassing and was insecure about it all. I felt like everyone else was a much better mom than I was, and I just wasn't cut out for it.
Fast forward to now: I now have three kids, ages six, four, and 18 months. My perspective is 100% different. I feel so much more comfortable now, with some experience, owning my strengths as a mom. And I am So. Much. Happier.
I think I'll always be the mom that is completely overwhelmed with a newborn. I've struggled with postpartum depression after every birth. Breastfeeding has been hard for me every time. So yeah, newborn life is rough for me.
But guess what? That's okay! Turns out I'm pretty great at parenting older kids. Once my kids turn four, something magical happens and I find so much fulfillment and joy from being their mom. I have friends who are just the opposite. And that's okay too!
And when I go to my friend's house and her son is reading at age two (seriously!), her house is always clean, and her kids have never seen a screen a day in their life—I don't feel any worse about myself. Sure I'm terrible at all those things, but I'm good at other aspects of parenting and I truly believe I'm the exact right mom for my kids.
Some of my parenting strengths include having a very close friendship with my kids, fostering creativity in our home, modeling independence, teaching music from a young age, planning meaningful family trips and activities, and instilling a strong work ethic. So it's okay that I'm not the mom that throws epic birthday parties, can play blocks for two hours with a toddler, or who always has dinner on the table right at 5:00.
Also, I don't blame myself for the struggles my kids have like I used to.
For example, my parenting style hasn't changed much, but my second son never really threw epic grocery store tantrums like my oldest did. My parenting isn't to blame for everything—both the good and the bad. My kids are unique people with their own strengths and weaknesses, and not everything they do is a reflection of my parenting.
My oldest son who I felt was a late reader, is now the top reader in his class. He plows through chapter books like nobody's business. He eventually learned to sleep through the night, potty trained, stopped hitting other kids at the park, and though he still won't touch a vegetable, all-in-all he's turned into a pretty fantastic, smart, kind, wonderful kid.
So to the new mom who feels like she's failing at motherhood—I get it. I've been there! But I promise: things change. Your perspective changes. You'll find the things you thrive at as a mother. You won't be good at everything, but you'll be good at the things that matter to your child. And that's what's important.