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Jennifer Garner on Motherhood: "How Do I Know If I'm Getting It Right?"

Jennifer Garner.

Being a mom means questioning your every decision from the moment the baby arrives till the day he moves out – and beyond. Show me a mother who seems to have all the confidence in the world, and I’ll show you a very good actress.

Well, very good actress Jennifer Garner is just as unsure of herself as a mother as those of us who don’t do photo shoots or collect movie millions. In her new blog for iVillage, she freely admits that when it comes to motherhood, she’s a bundle of anxiety and self-doubt.

One of the issues that’s been on her mind is how moms help their children reach their goals without being too pushy – if your son decides he wants to quit piano lessons, do you let him do it or insist he keep at it because he might just decide he enjoys it again?

“This is the kind of mothering – okay, parenting – conundrum that keeps me up at night,” Garner says. “How do I know if I’m getting it right? Isn’t it my job to parent, to encourage, to help my child define themselves? Or should I step out of the way and let them be led by their passions?”

Another big dilemma moms face is reconciling their hopes for themselves with the realities that often body-slam those hopes into the ground. Garner cites the age-old issue of breastfeeding as an example. A mother who envisions herself as “some kind of mom-Mary Milk Maid” nursing her baby to healthy toddlerhood often feels like a failure if she can’t produce enough and has to switch to formula. “The shame. The tears. The reorganization of your own self-image as MOM. What else will you fail at and how many more times will you let your child down? Many, many, many.”

The issue of parental expectations vs. realities are at the heart of Garner’s new film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, in which she plays a mother of a child who comes into her life in an unusual way. When it becomes clear that Timothy isn’t like other kids, she’s not sure how to deal with it.

“Somehow, in Cindy’s need for Timothy to not get hurt, she fails to see what makes him so extraordinary,” Garner says. “Talk about shame. When YOU’RE the one who’s trying to hide their challenges under a bushel? NO!!”

Garner saw an early screening of the film with her two closest mom-friends and was surprised to see how different their reactions were to various scenes. But both of them were damp-eyed at the end because the movie resonated for both of them.

“Tangled up in this little magical movie, they saw themselves,” says the star. “(I did, too, but that’s a little different. It IS me. Weird job.)”

I can sure relate to Garner’s insecurities. How about you?

[Photo: via PacificCoastNews.com]

Read more of Shana’s writing at Momsperiments.

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