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How to be a good mother when you just can't

I hesitate to give this piece any more advertisement than it has already received, but just so we are all on the same page, here goes.

Marie Claire magazine, which is pretty standard fashion/ads/young women in America stuff, recently printed an article about women who were miserable as moms. MISERABLE.

"The regret hit me when the grandmas went home and my husband went back to the office and I was on my own with him," she says. "I realized that this was my life now—and it was unbearable."
And:
"I wish I would never had kids [sic]. I realize I am not mother material, and I am terrified thinking how I am going to be forced to take care of it."
And:
She envies friends not for their spontaneous vacations and naps, but for the time and space they have to think. "I hold a lot of data in my head," Ananya says of constantly keeping on top of all the details that go with small children: doctor's appointments, weight, height, most recent allergies, toys they want, foods they will eat. "I long for a life without this mental clutter," she explains.
Dear heavens. I hope that somehow the children of these women don't stumble upon this someday and recognize their mothers.

Ann Landers (a syndicated advice column which ran for years) floated questions to her readers: "If you had it to do over again, would you marry the same person?" and "Would you have children, if you had it to do over?"

The results were overwhelmingly negative. I was in middle school at the time. I remember being so devastated that so many people would dump their spouse that I asked my mom, "Would you marry Dad again?" She said she absolutely would, that my dad was the best man she had ever known, save her own father. That gave me some peace of mind, but the whole thing still rattled me. (Please know, dear readers, that I grew up in a very small town, and our parish was the center of our lives. I truly didn't know anyone who was divorced until I was in college. It wasn't in my realm of experience.)

Back to parenthood. It seems that many folks stumble into parenthood rather casually. "We weren't really planning but now I'm pregnant so ..." or "Well, we'll have one kid and see how it goes. We really don't want to change our lives much ...."

I know people who put more forethought into adopting a dog than they do in bringing a new human being into the world.

In some ways, I can sympathize with the women in the magazine article above. Being a mom is nothing at all what I expected. It's hard. It's Marine bootcamp hard. And no one can really prepare you for it.

Dear Husband and I had our two oldest, both boys, for about a month (we were fostering, waiting for the adoption to be finalized.) The boys were 2 years and 10 months. We went from having no kids to having 2 toddlers. I woke up some morning and thought, "What the heck am I going to do with them all day???"

Then our oldest got sick. He was feverish and snotty and miserable. And of course, it was after office hours. So I put him, in his blue footy pajamas, and took over for urgent care. Which was packed. With a bunch of feverish, snotty, miserable people. The little boy in the blue footy pajamas played for a bit, then crawled into my lap, and dozed.

And I thought, "He NEEDS me."

Something flipped in me. I went from being this kid's non-stop babysitter to knowing that his very life depended on me. I became a mom. A mom of a feverish, snotty miserable toddler, who needed me.

To those moms out there who think they just can't be a mom to the baby, the toddler, the teen: you can. But you'll need help. Sometimes, you'll need girlfriends and wine help, sometimes you'll need husband help, and sometimes you'll need professional help. If you think you can't, you can. You won't love every minute of it. Some of it will be hard. Sometimes you'll dream about driving away, far away.

But that kid - your kid - needs you. Needs you right now. Will need you a billion times between now and forever. Step up. We other moms will help. Let us know what we can do to help. We can listen. But don't think for one second that you can skip out on this, or take your regrets out on your kid. You are needed.
 
 

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