I can still remember the pain from the night my daughter flat out refused me for the fifth day in a row. I never got to have closure in our breastfeeding relationship. She was just done. Cold turkey.
I felt so much grief when my daughter weaned at 10 months, instead of nursing for years like the World Health Organization recommends. Then came all of the questions. What could I have done differently? Did I try a nursing vacation? What herbs did I try? How was this going to affect her lifelong development? Was I really going to start feeding my baby that chemical-laden formula?
If anyone is reading this and feeling at all outraged for my sake, let me add one more detail. The grief and shaming was all coming from one person and one person only: me.
In my own personal mommy war, I am my own enemy. I am my own victim.
Time and again this realization has struck me. Only recently have I realized that all of those times I look at myself as a “failure”, I place my daughter in the role of “instrument to failure.”
My sweet, wonderful daughter, who was born independent and fiery. Who takes over a room of strangers with her infectious smile and raspy voice. She, like any human, has her own tastes and preferences. Every time I beat myself up because she isn’t eating the homemade organic veggie puree I lovingly concocted – I’m turning her uniqueness into my failure.
So, I’ve decided to actively change my attitude. I am a mother. I love that role. My daughter has inspired an ability in me to love, surpassing all of my history exponentially.
But I am not perfect, and my daughter will not grow up perfect. There is simply no such thing. Humans are incapable of perfection; it is an ideal that has no existence in reality. I need to let go of my expectation that I will always do the very best possible thing. I need to stop expecting that my baby girl will validate how well I’m doing as a mother.
E is just now becoming a toddler. I haven’t even had to deal with tantrums, friendships, or the teen years. If I don’t learn to celebrate my role as a mother and all of the daily imperfections that come with that role, I’m in for a lot of grief.
If you’re like me, you have a lifelong history of being hard on yourself. If you’re now a parent who won’t stop waging war on yourself, I invite you to actively change your attitude. From everything I’ve read, heard, and experienced, parenthood will be random and chaotic enough. Don’t add your own unrealistic expectations into the mix. Isn’t loving your child and doing what you believe to be the best for them enough?
I believe in myself. I believe in you. Set yourself free and love your family. It is enough.