This morning I had every intention of being a perfect mom. My in-laws were coming to take my daughter for the day, so I wanted to make the most of our moments together. I woke up full of gratitude for the little life cuddled up next to me. I drank in the sweet scent of her as I held her soft hand and squeezed her tight, thanking the good Lord for blessing me with the beauty of her presence.
Then she got her sweet little three-year-old self out of bed, and things took a turn for the worse.
The next hour and thirty-six minutes became an endless stream of semi-coherent demands and mini-tantrums at every turn. I tried to get some food in my system to curb my irritation. I drank some water. I spoke in a calm voice. I took deep breaths, and I repeated myself kindly until the cows came home.
Then you know what I started to do? I started to yell. The three-year-old and I started arguing. It wasn’t my best moment. When my in-laws arrived and my little cantankerous sweetheart walked out the door, I nearly burst into tears. I missed her so much it hurt, and I chastised myself like crazy for not meeting my own expectations of the morning.
Becoming a parent was one of the best things that ever happened to me, but there was a lot that took me by surprise. It’s a crazy ride, to be sure, and the one thing that still takes me off guard to this day is the constant, nagging, unrelenting sensation of inadequacy.
In moments like these, I find myself missing the pre-motherhood me. I had this confidence and self-assurance that followed me everywhere I went. I miss that girl. She drank dirty martinis and wore high heels. She did her hair everyday, and her clothes didn’t contain a lick of lycra. She knew what she wanted out of life and she went after it, laying those obstacles down in her wake.
The truth is that pre-mom me was still a hot mess. She just happened to be a lot more insulated from the knowledge of her own limitations. There is something about being a mom that has acquainted me with my own humanity like nothing else ever has. It’s a feeling of being stripped and laid bare, like a sea snail yanked out of its shell, lying on the sand with its soft underbelly exposed to the heat of the sun. It’s not necessarily painful, just really, incredibly disorienting to have all that vulnerability out on display.
Parenthood is, at its core, a transformation of identity. It is about setting aside the old and becoming something new. We are the proverbial caterpillars, emerging from the chrysalis in foreign bodies, engaging the world in an entirely new way. In the midst of all this change, I wonder if the feeling of inadequacy is an expression of our disorientation and fear. Maybe the sense of certainty that eludes us is about us adjusting to the reality that the old is gone and the new is come.
So here is what I am trying to do. I’m trying to crawl out on that seashore in the light of day. I’m trying to lie down on the warm sand, as I let the salty air and gentle waves touch that sensitive new skin. I’m trying to take deep, cleansing breaths as I allow myself to be new and unformed and incomplete.
I want to believe in the possibility of a different way of being, one in which I welcome the novelty with open arms, and embrace the new me that I am becoming. Transformation is a process, and I’m smack dab in the middle of it. I’m still a hot mess, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all. Maybe it’s beautiful, and maybe I’m exactly who I’m meant to be.
Jayna is a San Diego wife and mama who became a writer and stay-at-home parent when her daughter, Jude, was born three years ago. She is married to her high school sweetheart, who loves and inspires her everyday. She and her family recently transitioned to the (almost) country life, where they spend their time enjoying the fresh air, growing vegetables and making reclaimed wood furniture. Her blogs can be found at www.jaynarae.com, and www.jlondonfurniture.com/blog. (Bio photo by Katie Gardner)