Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a strong maternal instinct and a strong need to use it. But my two younger sisters saw no need to have two mothers when they already had one, and I put my energy into learning all I could about parenting and proper child rearing. That just thrilled my friends who had children before me.
When at last I became a mother at thirty-three, I was more than ready to put my instincts and all my years of reading on parenthood into practice.
Armed with my natural instincts and the skills I accrued during my ten years of working in the corporate world as an assistant to various financial executives, I set out to be my ideal of the modern educated stay- at-home-mom. There would be no soap operas and lounging on the sofa for me. I would not be running errands in my sweats without any make-up. I wanted to be a positive reflection on women who made the conscious choice to stay home with their children.
Boy was I dumb.
After I managed to get myself off the sofa from the sheer exhaustion of raising one very wonderful little baby, I started on my mission. As if my first born was just a small version of the executives I once worked for, I began scheduling our days with stimulating and educational activities.
My son and I took our first enrichment class when he was about seven months old. We started with a baby swim class, followed by a gym/swim class, then a play gym class, and several mommy-and-me classes. It’s never too early to instill a love of the environment, and that led us to do two sessions of “wee-sprouts” at a local ecological center. We rounded this out with several Gymboree classes as well as several mother-and-child music classes. This was all before he started pre-school at three.
Since my son had some speech and motor delays, he also started receiving early intervention services at home a few months before he turned two. Each week, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist would meet with him two times apiece for a total of six weekly sessions.
For fun we went to two different play groups each week, and had a host of play dates with age appropriate children. Occasionally we even went into the city to audition for TV commercials. We never booked a job, but we always had fun meeting more moms and children. My son happily played in his stroller as we would walk the streets of Manhattan and visit old co-workers or one of my sisters for lunch. If we had the chance to visit a zoo or museum, I felt even better.
On our “down time,” I carefully structured our play to include the activities I read about in parenting magazines and books. I made petting zoos out of stuffed animals and played sensory games and read lots of books. We did watch our share of Nick Jr. and PBS, but in my defense they were always deemed educational and age appropriate. I also managed to move houses and have a second baby at the recommended spacing of three years.
Honestly, I don’t know how we survived.
I’m surprised somebody didn’t plan an intervention, perhaps luring me with the promise of a parenting seminar and then holding me in a room while more experienced mothers pounded some sense into my head. My son’s physical therapist did comment once that he had never seen a more scheduled two year old, but I foolishly took this as a compliment.
As it turned out, I got my intervention. I had more children. All my carefully scheduled activities snuck out the window with the addition of our daughter. They were completely gone shortly after our youngest son was added to the mix.
Life required me to be more spontaneous. Especially, as it became more and more apparent that my daughter’s learning delays were much more severe than my first child’s. We then added even more complexity when my youngest also required early intervention. More therapists joined the mix. Formal school programs and other peoples schedules started to replace my carefully constructed plans. Our schedule was just as crazy. I just had less control over it.
The crazier and more intense my life got the more I had to let go. Instead of going to formal classes, my youngest and I counted fruit and vegetables as we went to the market. We sang songs while we waited to pick up my daughter from school or read a story while we waited for my eldest’s school bus. Fun was and thankfully still is a natural part of our life, not something I need to schedule.
I learned the hard way that motherhood is not something that can be done perfectly and orderly. Motherhood is messy, hectic, confusing, and fun. There is no one right way to parent nor is there a perfect recipe to raising a happy and healthy child. In the long run there is only one parenting expert we need to listen to, ourselves.
Grumpy Grateful Mom says
I love your sense of humor! I can definitely relate to this post.
I started out with some very set ideas also. I expected all of my efforts to produce perfect children. Hmmm. Things don’t always work out how we plan.
It sounds like you’ve been through a lot with your sweet children. They are lucky to have you for a mom. 🙂
The Nerd Mom says
Amen! I was once one of “those” moms – an anal-retentive Virgo accountant control freak. All my best laid plans went right out the window, starting when my first child was born 4 weeks early. It hasn’t stopped since. I’ve had to learn to be flexible – as hard as that is for me. Although no one would ever call me “spontaneous,” my kids HAVE taught me to be more adaptable and to just “go with it.” And I think I’m more relaxed because of it. 🙂
I’ve tried to just kind of wing it since my kids have been born. So far it’s working out! I love this post, thanks for sharing!
I got tired from just reading all that you were doing with your firstborn! CRAZY! I too had all sorts of plans and ideas about how motherhood would go. No TV, no artificial flavor or colorings, no diapers past 18-20 months. And now it’s ‘Hey Jack, here’s some M&M’s, go watch Dora while Mommy [insert activity here]. 🙂
Thanks so much for your comments guys! It is funny what we can put ourselves through isn’t it. Grumpy Grateful, your name really sums it all up for me!
Having a baby 4 weeks early is definetly a reminder that it isn’t always going to work on our time frame!
Lindsay you are lucky you started out “winging” it, I think it is a much better “plan”!
Thank you all again, your support means so much to me.
Nina, as always you crack me up! Thanks!
Stopping by from Bloggy Moms to check out your blog. I love this post!
Our stories are so similar, but a little different too. I also came from working in corporate america to being a stay at home mom and was determined to avoid the no sweats, no make-up lifestyle.
We lived in Southern California when my first daughter was born and I did EVERYTHING with her, to enhance her learning and social skills, to give her a great start to life, to fill her childhood with wonderful mommy/daughter memories…. and while I’m sure some of that stuff gave her a really great start, I don’t believe it was all that effective or life changing for her.
Honestly, she doesn’t remember any of the stuff we did together in her younger years. She’s almost six now and really only remembers things from two years ago, which happens to be when her little sister entered the picture and I finally let go of the idea of having everything perfect all of the time.
Now I strive for excellence, but cut myself a break, knowing that some days — or rather most days — I’ll have to be Ok, with just being me and being human and making mistakes. As long as my children know I love them, that’s ultimately all that matters.
Love your blog! 🙂
Seams Inspired says
Oh, girl, I am so with you! LOL I remember getting home with Son#1 and placing him in his crib, looking at my husband, and saying, “What do we do with him now?” ;o)
Thanks for sharing your perspective and heart today. Fabulous post! Happy Monday! :o)
PS…I don’t facebook, but if I ever decide to, I’ll be sure to ‘like’ you. :o)
Rebecca Bany says
I love your blog. You are so correct about parenting. I totally agree.
An Irish Italian Blessing says
WOW, that’s one crazy schedule. No one was able to do an intervention with you because you didn’t have anytime on your schedule!!
I must say I have had the same intentions with my little girl but the days just go by too fast. I always say if I can get us out of the house at least once, we’re good! We’ll see how it goes when #2 arrives but we’re gonna keep trying.
Hallelujah to that! 🙂
Found you on bloggy moms –
LOVE this! Kids don’t come with rule books so we always try to write one with our first. Then after the second you’re glad they didn’t come with rules because who has time for rules?!:) haha! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Thanks for all the comments and support, it really means so much to me! It does amaze me just how crazy we can make ourselves, although I admit I do take it to an art form! Lol! When I was talking over this essay with my husband and we were going through all the classes, I had forgotten a few, I said, Do you think that is why Tom is a little stressed and so driven? He just looked at me, laughed and then said, Well, he does have a lot of varried interests. I guess he knows what to say since we have been married 18 years! Thanks again everyone!
Letters From Home says
I loved this! You have such a great sense of humor and it definitely brought back some memories and made me smile. I especially like the end. You’re right, we moms just have to learn to trust our instincts.
Mama's Spot says
thanks for the visit I am new follower and FB fan you are almost at 25 now just one more! your children are beautiful and thanks for the sweet words about the house… 🙂 thanks…
I’m visiting from Bloggy Moms. How true it is that more children can create a “reality check”. I once heard a minister say that you haven’t really parented if you only have one. As an only child, I always resented that remark…until #2 and 3 came along..:D
Amen to this!
I basically just make parenting up as I go…
Romina Garcia says
This is such a beautiful post. Came at the right time for me also. I pretty much feel a failure as a mother for the most part of the day, every day.
I figure having four children under the age of five does them a disservice as there is simply not enough of me to spread evenly. Especially when I hear of other parents taking their only child to dancing classes or swimming lessons. I simply can’t do it. Our life is chaotic, but I do try to make it as fun as possible. I pray every day that this is enough for them.
I agree with what you say that sometimes you need to let go in order to move forward and just accept that sometimes, it is what it is.
Great post 🙂
Whew! What a ride!
Found you on mom bloggers. Following and looking forward to reading more.
Alicia Stucky says
Wow, this spoke to me so much. I wouldn’t be so critical of myself if I were in your shoes though… Before my husband and I ever thought we’d have the privilege of my being able to stay home with our kids, I was a nanny for 3 very, very busy boys who’s father (and at times, even me) thought that they were way too over-booked. Since I was the one taking them, it was exhausting not only to me, but I saw that often times especially the younger of the 3 would get stressed out. Sometimes we even had to eat dinner in the car between school and karate. But, in hindsight, the oldest of the three thrived with that kind of activity because he had this appetite for learning and the middle was so active, that he needed the constant stimulation. My son wouldn’t do as well with always have so much on his plate, but some children do.
Now I have friends who are just always on the go with their kids, and it made me feel inadequate that I couldn’t keep up with such a schedule having just had a baby. I thought that my son was suffering from it, but now that my daughters older I don’t WANT to be that scheduled lol, and we’re very happy settling into a happy medium.
Thank you all so much for the great comments. We are all so hard onourselves aren’t we. I know for me, and from a lot of the comments I’ve been reading, it seems whatever we choose to do we always have our doubts. I can see now that when my kids are happy I’m doing the right thing, whether that is when we are busy or when we are just hanging out, watching Mega Mind like we are doing right now. I better get off the computer now and enjoy the kids or that will be next weeks essay! Mother guilt, always a rich source of material!
lol didnt realise you had already been nominated! well ther you go thats twice now! x
you have been award the Versatile Blogger Award. check it out here:
so very true!!
I became a stay at home mom right before my third was born. I was teaching second grade previously, and when I came home I carried with me my teacher mindset and schedule. I went as far as jotting down lesson plans and scheduling “recess”… that lasted a few weeks (and a newborn later) before I realized that while it is a necessity in the classroom, it was all wrong for me & my kids. We still do lots of activities, but we tend to only do one structured one a day. The rest of the day is pretty free. I don’t normally turn on the tv for the kids, but we do have on the satellite radio (turned to kids place live) pretty much all day. They have a tv in their playroom that only goes to pbs, if they every feel the urge to watch some, but they typically just like to play or go outside. Occasionally we go to the park or museum, meet dad for lunch, or do a playdate, but most days are pretty relaxed and kid-centered. (oh, my yoga sweatpants are my favorite.)
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog mymomentsshared.blog.com
I love reading your post. After a busy day with my preschooler it was nice to be reminded that motherhood is not done perfectly.
Samantha Sotto-Yambao says
I couldn’t agree more. Being a mom isn’t about being perfect – it’s about loving our kids the best way we can. 🙂
LOL…that was me! Then I had another…and another…and another :P. I loved this post…brought back some awesome memories!
(I swear I commented on this; but maybe it was some glitch while I was in France 😉 )
Kathy, I love that you read my blog and always have the nicest, greatest things to say 🙂