Thursday, May 5, 2011

on motherhood

This week I found myself vaguely remembering something I learned in nursing school about mothers, how they progress through stages until they find their own mothering style, they "own" being a mom, basically. Had to go look it up because I couldn't recall the specifics. It's called maternal role attainment; a four step process. First, a mom looks to role models for examples, while anticipating the baby's arrival. When the baby arrives, the mom is still taking guidance from others and trying to act how they think she should. The third stage is when a mother starts to develop her own practices, and the fourth is when she really feels comfortable with the idea of herself as a mother and pretty much does what feels right to her. This process also happens with subsequent children, although it's usually more intense with the first child because of the massive lifestyle change.

I was intrigued by this, trying to remember what the process was like when I had Nicky. I do remember feeling frustrated by lots of advice thrown my way- I wanted to experience having a child for myself, and if that included making mistakes, then so be it. Not that I was completely closed off to advice. But I didn't think it was fair for older parents who had "their turn" so to speak to take my turn away from me. I wanted to own the experience, essentially.  So I guess I got to that final stage, but maybe not exactly following a linear path. I really just wanted to be allowed to find my/our own way. And I think we did, but it's funny that even now, I second guess myself a lot. It seems like a lot of mothers do. I feel lucky, though, that I have a group of friends who don't really get into comparisons. We just like each other, and we like each other's kids. Simple as that. I have of course received the random comment from time to time about my parenting choices, but I usually just laugh it off, like the other day when a cashier told me that the carrier I had Silas in looked "awkward". She  said she's allowed to say things like that, because she's a grandma. Oh, um, okay?

I do feel a lot more relaxed this time around. I can see that, even though I stopped breastfeeding Nicky at five months because it still hurt enough to make me cry, and even though he went to daycare sometimes, and he probably watched more tv than some would approve of, he's a great kid. I can see that Ricky and I were his primary influences, and I think that's what I was scared of losing. I didn't know then what I know now-little kids absolutely adore their parents, and would rather be with them than pretty much anyone else. There's no need to force anything, because nature already knows better.

So this time around, I'm with Silas 6 days a week, breastfeeding is going beautifully (after a few months of aggressive refusal to give up on my part, which I'm very proud of, because again it hurt like hell), and the cloth diapers that I bought to try out haven't really been used much (still waiting for that motivation) and everything's much more relaxed because Mama's more relaxed. Amen. I know now just how fast this part goes by, and then it's on to the next thing. I anticipate that he will be a very cool kid, just like his big brother. I think in many ways, kids teach us how to parent them, if we just pay attention. These two have certainly taught me.

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