Sunday afternoon I had the opportunity to make some new mom friends through the boys’ MDO. I was beyond nervous, man–I sat in the car in front of the nail salon and messaged Jared, “What if they don’t like me? What if I make things awkward? What if they’re too polite to tell me they don’t like me, but I don’t pick up on that?”
As you can tell, I make new friends quite easily, and all the time. I’m a regular social butterfly.
…Not. (Hey, everything else from the 90s is coming back; “not” jokes might be cool again soon!)
So. I told my social anxiety to get stuffed, took a deep breath, and walked into the nail salon for a long-overdue pedicure. And I had fun! Plus my toes are a pretty cherry red now.
After the pedicure, we went to a restaurant to eat and continue getting to know each other. I mentioned my chemistry background after a question about my caffeine molecule necklace and one of the ladies asked, “What was the hardest part of transitioning from working to staying home?”
I’m not sure I had ever verbalized this to anyone outside of Jared, but the hardest part was believing that I was capable of being a full-time parent.
While I was in graduate school, C was in daycare. When I graduated and started earnestly looking for a job–applying became my job, in a sense–we kept him in daycare. I left him there full-time, reasoning that surely I’d find something fairly soon and the less changes to his schedule, the better.
Then I couldn’t even get an interview. I was overeducated, or didn’t have enough experience, or something. I was also pregnant and, not wanting to feel like I misled an employer, mentioned it and that I had continued my chemical research and worked up until labor with C. That probably didn’t work in my favor, either.
I was depressed, and feeling even more depressed and anxious as I continued sending resumes and job applications into countless black voids. I contacted my alumni association and my professional organization for help with my resume and still no improvement.
After breaking down over not getting a summer science camp position I hadn’t really even wanted, we decided I would stop looking for a job and wait until K was a few months old to resume the search.
I kept C in daycare.
Even though I was home.
Why? Because–and this hurts to admit–I truly did not trust my own parenting abilities. My depression whispered things like, “Those daycare teachers? They’re better than you. He actually naps there. He doesn’t throw tantrums there. They. Are. Better. Than. You.”
And I believed it.
We moved and I put C in daycare again. K was born and I kept C in daycare. The job search petered out again and I began to wonder whether I could handle having both of my boys at home with me.
By this time, I was becoming mentally healthier. Not by a lot, but enough to realize that I’m not as crappy of a mother as my depression told me I was, that I wasn’t as terrible as my anxiety claimed. We gave his daycare a two-week notice and then kept C home with K and me.
It was tough, at first. It was tough because it was something I had never done before. Juggling a rambunctious toddler with a nursing baby who loves his naps is hard. It probably doesn’t matter how much confidence you have–it’s going to be tough.
Over time, as I started meds and journaling and getting mentally healthier, I began to realize that a lot of the anxiety I had about being a stay-at-home mom was wrapped up in this idea of HAVING to be THE PERFECT MOTHER.
I don’t have to be perfect. I just need to do my best. Sometimes, my best isn’t going to be as good as I wanted, but you know what? That’s okay! I am human and I have off days, bad days, grumpy days. It happens. I need to be kind to myself and recognize that I just need to be me.
That’s who my kids want. They want me. They don’t want Perfect Mom. They want me. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to really get that and understand it.
My answer was a shortened version of all that above. As I talked, they nodded in understanding.
I am not alone. I’m not the only mother who second-guesses a lot of decisions, who regrets losing her temper and hopes the kids aren’t scarred for life, who wonders often how good or bad of a job I’m doing.
The fact that we care tells me we are doing something right. That’s what we need to keep in mind.
I will keep doing my best, because that’s all I can do.
And that’s what my boys want.