• I’m Not the Kind of Mom I Planned on Being

    by Theresa Reichman

    I knew exactly what kind of mom I was going to be.

    I was going to be a co-sleeping, baby spankin’, stay-at-home kind of mom. I’d read books. I wanted the close bond of sharing a bed with my child; feeling their rhythmic hiccup-y breath against my cheek. I wanted a child who knew that “no” meant “no”, not some spoiled little brat who always got what she wanted. And I was going to be a true top-notch mama, and forego the workplace to nurture and raise my own child; to do crafts and sing songs and teach her how to bake and count and read. I was going to be the latest and greatest version of “Mom.” Mom 5.0.

    Then I had my daughter.

    The first two weeks we did co-sleep blissfully on the couch. And then I realized that I was more terrified of bringing her to bed and my heavy-sleeping husband squashing her in the night than I was that our two to three hour increments of time apart would warp our mother-daughter bond.

    Next I had an epiphany: Spanking was an unnecessary form of punishment. As my stepmother has said, “A child who needs spanking won’t respond to it, and a child who would respond to it doesn’t need it.” True story, folks.
    I’ll admit: I’ve been the spanking mommy ogre. In my oldest daughter, spanking produces nothing but guilt on my part and a feeling of horror and betrayal on hers. All that is required to get that kid to snap back to attention is a solid time out or sometimes even just a disappointed and stern look. My second daughter? I’ve smacked her hand a number of times and she remains undeterred in her naughty-quests. She’s a determined little sprite and I’ve learned that redirection is really the only thing that works. Sometimes constant and repetitive redirection…

    Ahh, and stay-at-home motherhood. I knew it was a privilege. Not every mother could be with their child day and night. I spent three glorious years owning that stay-at-home mom status. Every play date, load of laundry, every doctor’s appointment and dirty bib echoed my occupation.

    Then last summer my car died unexpectedly. With two children in diapers, a new mortgage, and then a new car payment, my husband and I came to the decision that a part-time job was a smart move. So, with nothing but a high school diploma under my belt, and two toddlers under my feet, I rejoined the work force.

    I felt guilty. My decision to get a job was not a mandate shouted by our bank account (although perhaps a whining plea). Was I being selfish, choosing work – monetary rewards – over quality time with my girls?

    Then I started working. Oh sweet, unadulterated adult interaction! My four-hour non-choke-able portion work shifts have turned into my childless oasis. And this amazing thing happened… I anticipated watching my maternal mojo deteriorate. Instead I’ve watched it blossom.

    With 15-20 hours a week dedicated to something other than breaking battles between siblings, dicing food into corn-kernel sized bites, and yelling things like, “Get your hand out of your diaper,” I actually find myself more present when I’m at home.

    I’m making time for “This Little Piggy” and silly songs before bed-time. I enjoy plopping the girls into the bath tub midday simply because they felt like splashing around in the water. I snuggle a little more and yell a little less.

    I thought I knew exactly what kind of mom I was going to be. What I didn’t know then was how intrinsic motherhood is. After growing my child in my womb for nine months, breathlessly birthing them into the world, nursing them at my breast, cheering them on as they inch-wormed their way across the room for the first time, and kissing away their tears, I am convinced that the best parenting tactic is simple instinct. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t just be molding my children. They have molded me, and I’m so glad that they have.

    • Very well said. Glad you found your balance.

      • Erica

      • February 20, 2011 at 11:22 am
      • Reply

      Theresa –

      It is an amazing privilege to watch you grow from an inexperienced, highly principled nanny to an experienced, flexible mom. What works for one mom works for one mom – and as you go through all the stages of raising your children you will continue to find that it is impossible to predict what choices and decisions will be the right ones for that child and that phase of your family’s life.

        • Theresa

        • February 21, 2011 at 8:20 pm
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        Erica, I still remember that day I came to work and told you the big news! I wasn’t even 100% decided when I came in if I should tell yet, or wait until I knew I was out of the woods and that the baby was going to stick. Seeing as I was so young, I was nervous how people would react whether I was married or not. You welcomed me into the world of motherhood with such excitement and enthusiasm I felt like family.

        You were always such a level-headed parent. I feel fortunate that I had you to shadow during my first pregnancy. I remember the first time I held Grace. She was so tiny and wobbly and I was so nervous. Even though I was only with her for 20 hours a week for 9 months, she gave me a HUGE head start with motherhood and I will always love her for it!

        Anyway, now that this is more of a message than a comment… 😉 Thank you for your continual support! So glad that we still keep in touch!

      • Heather

      • February 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm
      • Reply

      Beautiful Reesie! This makes me so excited to join the sacred realm of motherhood. Are you SURE you and Scot don’t want another?…like maybe when I have my first? 🙂

      • Pappap

      • February 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm
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      Kids have a way of grooming their Parents,rather then the other way around, and you don’t even see it happening. Anyway, you and Scot have done a great job parenting. (And so have your Kids) Nice article Theresa. Love you

    • Beautiful piece, Theresa! Love the message and how you put it out there.

      • Rachel

      • February 20, 2011 at 5:41 pm
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      Okay, so maybe I’m just hormonal since this is the second week after having our first baby, but this spoke to me and made me cry!

      • Christy

      • February 20, 2011 at 9:27 pm
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      So, so, so true. I also had wild fantasies about motherhood, and about my feelings towards different parenting decisions. My greatest realization is that parenthood requires immense flexibility, and that it takes a lot of planning, but your planning never really works out. Our relationships with our children are growing, developing, and an ever changing relationship. I’m glad you’ve found a nice balance for now…any I’m sure at some point you’ll need another readjustment.

    • I’m glad that you mention the simple fact that being a stay at home mom is a privilege. It’s something I sort of have to come to terms with myself, mostly because it’s a simple fact that I will never be able to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m the main breadwinner for my family, I’m the one who will have the Master’s degree (and my field makes more money than my husband’s would even if he went to grad school), and even right now with my BA vs my husban’s BS, I make 10k more than he does. So if anyone’s going to ever stay home (unlikely, we live in a city, where two incomes are pretty much required)…it’ll be him.

      It’s really aggravating sometimes to live in a world where you’re torn. The world tells us to be stay at home moms, or else we’re bad moms. But if we leave careers behind, then we’re giving in to the patriarchy. It’s like moms are going to be judged by society no matter what, so they judge *themselves* and are prone to feel guilty for choices they shouldn’t feel guilty about, and they make grand perfect plans…which will then change, because that’s how life works.

      • Carin

      • February 21, 2011 at 8:52 am
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      I loved this! I love every article of yours though, Theresa. You make me wants kids more and more! 🙂

      • Roxane

      • February 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm
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      What a beautiful article.
      You are a wonderful mom, and a fabulous writer.
      I love you,

    • Funny how things work out, it’s nothing like your sweet little imagination.

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