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.