I will never forget those first uncertain trips out in public with a newborn. It took me weeks to gain my confidence and brave the unknown. The fear of being unprepared and forgetting something crucial was overwhelming. What if I forgot an extra set of clothes and there was a diaper blow-out to deal with? What if my baby cried uncontrollably and I was unable to sooth him? The list of “what ifs” went on and on.
Then, from the newborn years, it carried over into the even more unpredictable toddler stage. What if I encountered the dreaded tantrum or had to discipline in public with eyes watching in judgement of how I parent? What if I just didn’t do any of it right? And, of course, it didn’t help comparing myself to other moms. You know, the ones who have never forgotten the diaper bag, always have healthy homemade organic snacks in their purse, and somehow manage to dress their children in crisply ironed, white outfits without any obvious stains. I just couldn’t compete.
But then it dawned on me. Why exactly should I compete? If I was honest, I was afraid of appearing inadequate as a mother. It was more about the image I was trying to maintain rather than the experience of learning how to uniquely mother my child. Reality being, I was on the same learning curve as every other new mother. Rather than use all my precious energy trying to be that mom I see who has it all together for her kids, I can put that much more effort into being the best mom I can be for mine.
I adopted the mantra, “You just don’t know until you try.” It reminded me of the need to have grace with myself and the willingness to fail at times. This made my little victories all the sweeter and my disappointments less devastating. I began to practice my parenting in front of people without the fear of judgment and was encouraged when a single girlfriend once said, “Seeing you be a mother gives me hope that I can do it, too.”
Rather than take offense at the implication that I am a mother running by the seat of my pants, I took it as a compliment to my unique and real-life way of mothering my kids. I don’t have to act like I have it all together, because it is humanly impossible to anticipate every single need and challenge I will encounter with my children. I’d rather encourage and inspire other mothers by how I handle my mistakes than leave them feeling defeated by my attempt to one-up them.
So the next time you are out and see another mom (winning it or not) with her little ones, give her an encouraging smile and, if appropriate, a hearty “Team Mom” high-five.
Looking for more encouragement in your Mothering? Check out The Plight of the Perfect Mama or Mom’s Imperfect Perfection or I Was Gonna Rock This Parenting Thing.