Two weeks into my new life as a mother, a friend of the family came up to me and whispered with a smile, “Isn’t motherhood wonderful?”
“Yes!” I replied dutifully, knowing that "wonderful" was certainly not the adjective that sprung to my exhausted mind. I didn't yet know how to describe motherhood but it wasn't yet wonderful.
Years later, when I recalled that incident, I understood that the family friend was referring to her own sum total of motherhood.
When she saw me with my little baby, she didn’t remember motherhood at two weeks and I was in no position to calculate a sum total of wonders in my new role.
Today, just seven years on, it's hard for me to remember the everyday moments of new motherhood.
I also can’t remember how I coped with my most challenging days in motherhood to date. For example, I don’t remember how I managed to care for a six week old baby and two young children with chicken pox because it wasn’t a single moment in time; for a few weeks it had become my reality. Three years on, I can only remember that it happened.
I'm sure it's a good thing that I don’t dwell on tough moments. They happen, I cope and move on. Yet I hope I would never dole out an “Isn’t motherhood wonderful?” comment to a new mom because I'd remember that our memories are selective and continually changing.
And it's not just more experienced mothers who often can’t remember early motherhood.
When we compare ourselves to our mothers, we don’t remember them in early motherhood.
Over the holiday season, there was much written about memories of our own holidays as children. Many mothers today, myself included, hope to live up to some standard of days gone by. And yet, what standards are we judging ourselves by?
When a new mom wants to make her holidays as wonderful (and organized) as those she remembers from her own childhood, she's being unfair on herself.
None of us can remember the holiday dinners, or even birthday cakes our moms made when they were new moms. Not only that, if things didn’t go to plan back when we were children, would we remember the details?
We’ll never remember the birthday cakes our moms made that didn’t rise. When we were children, they looked like every other birthday cake we'd ever eaten. Yet, it's easy to judge ourselves on the birthday cake that we made that didn’t rise, as if it were the first cake never to have risen in history.
I did some research. Do you think I look devastated?
We can’t remember our mothers as new mothers and neither will our children remember us that way.
We remember the sum totals of motherhood and our children will too.
So if your house is a wreck, you burnt a recent holiday dinner and the last cake you made didn’t rise, don’t worry! You have years to practice before your home, holiday dinners and birthday cakes become the ones your kids (and hopefully you) remember for the rest of your lives.
And of course, the sum total is made up of a lot more than dinners, cakes and tidy homes.
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