I had my first baby six, almost seven, years ago. I remember everything about the birth. Honestly, who can forget that anyway? Nothing – nothing at all – short of seeing another birth prepares you for giving birth and I had been sheltered.
I remember riding in the car with my husband and heading home. I remember the colors appearing more vivid. I remember thinking a baby truly does change everything.
I also remember the intense loneliness of being a first time mother. I remember my first panic attack.
I remember people looking at me – us – differently. We were a family now, legitimate, bound. We needed to be left alone, our time together kept sacrosanct. No longer could neighbors and friends just “drop by.” These were not my rules, by the way. They were just ones that fell into place, somehow, mostly because of other well-meaning people who never asked me if that’s what we wanted.
I remember being consumed by the baby. Was she okay? Why was she sleeping so much? Was she breathing? Was she okay? Why was she crying? When would she stop? Was she okay? Was she okay? Was she okay?
In my frantic, worried lonely mind, every decision I made took on monstrous proportions.
Diapers? Mattered. Breast milk or formula? Mattered. The right stroller, the right car seat, how long the baby napped or didn’t, whether I picked her up or let her cry it out – IT ALL MATTERED.
I was a new mother. Part of me was still posing as a mom.
Part of me wasn’t yet a mother and in this in between space, I was choosing, blindly, hormonally and binding myself to my choices based on – what? Perceptions and tiredness? In my bleary-eyed sensibilities, I chose and defended my choices with the kind of ferocity I should have saved for cuddling my pillow at night for a blissful but short three hours at a stretch, for ravenous midnight eating sessions, but didn’t. I poured the full wrath of it onto the mom I perceived myself to be. Anything attacking my perception was met with anger.
It was the beginning of the time of my personal mom war.
It wasn’t until later, much later, five years later maybe that I realized that all those things I had so desperately held on to did not matter. The children were fine, my real convictions had surfaced, my passions were pretty obvious, as were the children’s personalities, and all the things that didn’t matter, well, really, truthfully didn’t matter.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Do it until…?” “Fake it till you make it?” Well, I had.
I realized I had done it until. I had chosen to fake it until I made it. But when I did actually make it, I had become it. And when I became it, there was no need to fake it. In fact, there had never been the need to fake it. The mom wars were far behind me.
When my identity was no longer tied to a brand of diapers, breastfeeding, car seats, when I became so entrenched in being a mother and less concerned with behaving like what I thought one should be, the mom wars didn’t matter any more. When I didn’t have time to compare myself to other moms, when true convictions formed, I could shrug my shoulders and move on.
I was free to make mistakes. I was free to change my mind. I was a mom and my duty was to God, my husband and my children. And honestly, who had time for anything else?
The cure for mom wars is time and truth. It’s admitting that you don’t know it all and by the time you figure it out, you’ll also know what really matters.
And it’s not what that mom over there is doing.