I’m Still Not Comfortable As A Mother

screaming babySince suffering through that impossibly difficult first year with a challenging baby, I have never really allowed myself to get into a groove as a mother.  This isn’t a sob story about how kids constantly change and ruin your perfectly laid plans. I gave up those expectations years ago. I have learned to really go with the flow in practice. Yet in my mind, I find myself always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Four years and two kids later – despite many more good days than bad – I constantly wonder “when is it going to be like that again?”

I thought I was prepared for the shock of new motherhood. I was ready for the responsibility, I had longed for a child for years, and I had even had my fair share of practice with all-nighters and general lack of sleep.  Of course I had also heard the whispers that babies were so easy. All they did was eat and sleep, right? What could possibly be so hard about that?

I had a baby who did nothing but eat and scream. As in all the time. He cried if he wasn’t being pushed around in a stroller outside throughout the day, whatever the weather. Between the hours of  four p.m. and  eight p.m. he cried no matter what you did. I get chills when I think about how strung out, stressed out, and down and out I was during that time.

Around nine or ten months he started to sleep in the stroller as I pushed him around. By a year we had something that resembled a schedule. I can remember writing in my journal how good it felt to not have a screaming baby on my hands at all times. By that time he was mobile and verbal and he just seemed happier, as if he had been trapped in that baby body and hated every moment of it as much as I did.

Having finally nailed down a schedule after a year of trial and error, I hated to see things change.  Of course, that’s exactly what babies do — they change all the time.  He dropped from two naps to one, he moved into a toddler bed from a crib, he was informed he would have a baby sister coming soon.  But even with all that change between his first and second birthday, he and I had a rhythm to our dance, and we kept up with the constant music changes effortlessly.

Yet I was always nervous.

What if things went back to those early days? What if I couldn’t figure out how to deal? What if I couldn’t find a solution to his problem (which of course, would become my problem)?

Even though I could have breathed a sigh of relief, I never did.  Things never got as bad as those first few months, but I always dreaded they would. So I never really got comfortable as a mother.

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You can reach this post's author, Carinn Jade, on twitter.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

    Carinn – being in a comfort zone as a parent is something only you control. The way you make it sound is almost like going through days on auto-pilot. My parenting comfort zone means that I embrace my mistakes, learn from them, and move on to the next challenge without batting an eye. Parenting is like nuclear fallout. You never know how what you’re doing affects your kids until waaayyyyy later down the road. But guess what? When your kids look back on this time of their lives, they’re not gonna be picking it apart to see what mistakes you made. They will know that their mother loved them and was there for them. And that is the best thing you can do for them.

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      I love your perspective. I don’t feel like I am on auto-pilot when I’m with them, in fact I feel completely aware and present. It’s when I get into my mind – at night or during a rare quiet moment – that I wonder when the other shoe will drop. When I think about it, I’m waiting for something bad to happen, something I can’t handle, even though it never comes. That doesn’t mean shitty stuff doesn’t happen. My daughter fell off the top of a big slide a few weeks ago, bit straight through her lip. She was covered in blood. I handled it just fine. I’m totally competent in reality, it’s my mind that clings to those times I felt overwhelmed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

      Honey, you have to let all of that go. At least you aren’t so focused on the bad that can happen that you miss out on the here and now. Staying in the moment with your kids is very important. Just take a deep breath and remember that shit happens. Your kids are gonna get hurt. They’re gonna fall off of slides and get scrapes on their knees and bitten by other kids at daycare or playdates or whatever. They’re gonna keep you up all night because they’re teething or their bellies hurt or they’re having bad dreams. You CAN handle all of it. And you will because you are a mother and that’s what mothers do. I told my sister once that I was in complete awe of her after I had my son because she was a single mom of two that were only 16 months apart. I told her that I didn’t know how she did it because I only have one (at the moment) and I am married and my husband always has been a wonderful help. You know what she told me? She said, “No matter what needed to be done, you would just do it because you have to.” That kinda stuck with me and helped me a lot. And one day, your kids will have kids that are keeping THEM up all night teething or colic-crying and you will get to give them a little laugh and say, “Oh yeah, I remember THOSE days!”

      You’re doing a great job, Carinn. You are a MOMMA! Let’s hear your Mom Roar! There is no creature on the face of this planet tougher than Momma.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fiberandpaper Belinda Roozemond

      Hi Valerie, I’m honestly not trying to start something but I’m looking at what you said from another perspective. I most certainly do look back at my childhood picking apart things that I feel my parents did wrong. I use it as a way to be a better parent to my child.

      I generally had a nice childhood but there are also a lot of things that I wish my parents had done differently. I honestly (as an adult) have the impression that they didn’t really put any thought into how their lives affected ours.

      I get what you’re saying, but a lot of adults certainly do look back on their lives examining the job their parents did.

    • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

      I think everyone picks apart their parents techniques to adopt some of their own and discard others. While there are lots of things that my mom did that I don’t with my son, I still can’t look back on those times and think that my mom didn’t love me. There’s a big difference between wanting to parent your own children a different way and not loving your parents.

  • Justme

    I don’t know what to tell you that will help you get to that “comfortable” stage. But I can relate to some degree…I only have one child and she is that “easy” child. The one who is compliant and sweet while still having a deliciously delightful personality. I guess you could say that we are “comfortable” as a little family of three, which is why I don’t want to rock the boat and add another one.

    I also think that parenting is a front-end kind of job – you gotta put in all the hard work in the beginning so that someday you CAN hopefully reach that level of coasting where the kids are taking care of themselves and you can let out that big sigh of relief. I remember when I was fresh out of college and living on my own, my mother still was trying to MOTHER me and I finally looked at her and said “don’t you trust that you’ve done a good job raising me to make the right decision on my own?” She backed off.

    Perhaps as mothers we also have to look at our realm of control. There are things out there in the world that could harm our children that are 100% out of our control but what is in our control is teaching our children about strength, resiliency and having courage. I worry about my daughter’s future self-esteem or the boy who might treat her poorly…all the things I struggled with growing up. But I can’t stop girls from being mean to her, nor can I make sure all the men she encounters are gentlemen…but I can show her how to have confidence, be assertive and centered in who she is – and then I just cross my fingers, pray and hope for the best.

    • msenesac

      Ha!! I LOVE your “parenting is a front-end kind of job” comment. So true!

    • http://twitter.com/carinnjade Carinn Jade

      What a great comment. You are so right. Of course I don’t want them to have to endure the pain I had to but that’s not for me to decide. I can’t control factors outside of my parenting. I hope I am giving them the tools they need to navigate all that stuff – and even more importantly I hope they always know the door is open to talk. Reality is never as awful as what goes on in my head. I think if I could embrace that fact I could find that “comfort zone.”

  • msenesac

    Kudos to you (and all parents) who have to manage a child who has difficulties with getting into the groove of things (like sleeping). My first was one of those “easy” babies. Even at 15 months he still sleeps 11 hrs at night and with 2 naps during the day. I’m not pregnant with #2 and am terrified that the next one will be the opposite. I have co-workers who had planned to have several kids but after their first (that was difficult) they decided one was enough.

  • drinkpepsi

    Beautifully written. Keep this in mind as wel:

    We do not remember the days. We remember the moments.

  • Janeway

    Thank you for making me feel I am not alone. Same situation: challenging first born, still changelling at 4, and angelic second baby, and I feel the same way. This sentence ” no one wants what I’ve made for breakfast, lunch and dinner” is the description of my week-ends, but during week days, with granparents or in kindergarden, they eat almost everything!

  • http://twitter.com/loriming loriming

    Is it only in the realm of parenting that you feel this way, or do you worry the same “amount” in other aspects of your daily life (other family members, work, etc.)? I only ask because from what you’ve written you seem to have symptoms of an anxiety disorder. I’m no dr., of course, but I went through very similar thoughts and medication and therapy worked wonders for me. Just a thought?

  • Exhausted Mommy

    It’s nice to know that I am not the only Mom with a 5 year old boy who STILL does not sleep through the night. I battled with him at bedtime, naptime, it didn’t matter. Now he is much better after his sister arrived last summer, but the fight continues when it comes to sleep and him. It’s completely exhausting and at moments I don’t think I will EVER get through it. I have been suffering from severe baby blues since we had our daughter and some days it feels like it would be easier just to bow out, but in reality. They are my kids and I love them more than life and wouldn’t change it for anything. Thank you for the read! I needed it! Good luck!

  • Klb29

    I can totally relate…my first was a disaster of disappointment in myself and the way things went down from labor and delivery to breastfeeding to sleeping, at least through the first year! I finally felt “comfortable” with him around 18 mos until #2 was born when he was 28 mos. I keep looking back to that time, wondering how to regain that grasp, where I really felt pretty confident, patient, etc. And my big guy (at 4.5) is the one who inspires some guttural discomfort in me, like I’m going right back to that first floundering year.

  • http://twitter.com/LeslieSholly Leslie Sholly

    I hope you won’t think I am being off base or critical but as another poster mentioned I really think you might want to consider whether you are suffering from depression or an anxiety disorder. While it’s totally normal to doubt your parenting skills, it really isn’t normal or healthy to worry so much all the time. It sounds from your writing as if you are doing a fine job with your children, and you might enjoy them more if you can eliminate whatever is causing this underlying anxiety.

  • Outlaw Mama

    I definitely missed the train. Actually, I don’t seem to do “comfort zones” ever. Anywhere, but it would have been really nice to catch this one.

  • Lisa

    Wow, can I relate. Our son was also difficult as an infant (reflux/colic), and while he ended up being a good sleeper (through LUCK, I am convinced, and not anything we actually did!), my husband and I both still have those early-months flashbacks. We’re always waiting for the next shoe to drop…what will blow up the day next? When we step back and look at things, we realize that while we definitely have a “spirited” and stubborn 3yo, he’s a perfectly normal, active toddler who brings us tons of joy every day. But there’s always that little bit of anxiety sitting there.

    I have learned to accept it and embrace it. I call it my “First Baby Reflux PTSD”, and I know a tiny bit of it will always be with me. (No, I am NOT minimizing what people with real PTSD have gone through…but I do think there are some parallels. I still feel my blood pressure skyrocket when my son cries…still remember the utter terror and helplessness I felt when he would start screaming as a newborn.) I’ve always been a bit on the anxious side, but as long as I *realize* it and consciously label it as anxious behavior, I can step back and turn on the logical, less dramatic side of my brain to help keep things in balance. Because the LAST thing I want to do is project that anxiety onto my son. I refuse to allow that to happen.

    Thank you for sharing…you are NOT alone. And you’ve helped me realize I’m not alone. We are stronger for having experienced this….I truly believe that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1432700192 Gail Hanson

    If regrets (the past) or worries (the future) are stealing joy from the present, then it may be useful to learn some different self-talk strategies. There are many hard days in the career of any mother, but on those good days it is a sign of gratitude to simply take the joy and savor it. Sometimes worry is a little prompt, there is something you should be preparing for. Evaluate the worry, and if there is an action you should take–take it and then enjoy the day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1206115511 Grace McNamee Decker

    How did you feel, most of the time, before you had kids? Were you a happy-go-lucky gal? Or kind of a worrier/overthinker? While I can TOTALLY relate to the “fussy baby creating constant self-doubt” (had one of those) I am more able to shrug away my worries. I don’t think there’s a blissed out “comfort zone” in parenting…ever… but it does sound like you are a bit consumed by it….