In my first year as a parent, I thought I was falling short in so many ways. I had no idea that some of the “mistakes” I was making turned out to be completely fine choices — and actually things I’d do exactly the same if I had it to do over again. Here are four things I think of often, whenever I’m doubting myself as a mother:
1. We stayed in our apartment. Pretty much all the time.
I felt a lot of pressure to take the girls out of the house during the summer when they were babies but it was just so so hard. It’s just what I had imagined being a mother should look like: sunshine and lots of outings. But the reality turned out to be that constant feedings, endless diaper disasters, crying … it all kept me from ever really getting my act together to get out. I tried to reassure myself by thinking about the many years to come in which we would have plenty of time running to kids concerts, street festivals, sports, art classes and the rest. Sure enough, now the tide has shifted and we rarely spend an entire day in the house. And I realize how precious that intense time together indoors really was. It was a great bonding time. And even if we tried to attempt it at the ages they are now, we’d drive each other crazy.
2. Motherhood was the thing that finally made me connect with my community.
I imagined that I should form deep roots in my community before I became a mother. But during my first ten years in New York City, I never knew anyone under the age of 20 or older than 35. I would meet children and people over 40 at work or occasionally at a party, but in my actual circle of friends there was no diversity in age — it was all students and young professionals. Now I know people of all ages, and indeed I’ve built roots in my community. If anything, the kids have kept me local. My double stroller and the subway stairs are not a match for lightweights. We walk almost everywhere and we’ve developed relationships with local store owners, grandparent-types and other families with kids of varying age. My daughters seem to cause even the shiest person to strike up a conversation and we’ve grown attached to our community.
3. A consistent sleep method never came to be.
There is no right way to get a baby to sleep. That’s right, I’ll say it again: there’s no right way to get a baby to sleep through the night. I’ve fostered five babies now and the one thing they’ve all had in common is — nothing. This is the exact opposite of what all of the sleep books and zen baby books say out there. I wanted so badly to believe in a system or program that would help my kids to sleep, but eventually I resigned to the unknown. Babies all have their own sleep styles and trying to shape them is trial and error. One of my foster daughters slept through the night at a few weeks old but another didn’t until she was almost two years old. It’s really hard to feel as though there’s nothing we can do and that we don’t have any control over the situation, but sometimes that’s the case. Surrendering to the unknown and remaining flexible turned out to be just the right thing to do.
4. Though it didn’t seem like the ideal thing to do, I adopted two babies at once.
I would have never set out to adopt two babies at once, but life and circumstances wound up working out that way. I thought long and hard before accepting my final foster baby, who is now my adopted daughter, Clementine. I didn’t know that the foster child I had, “Sandy”, was also going to be available for adoption, but I knew it was a possibility. If I would have passed on Clementine and then if “Sandy” was sent back to her birth family, then I could have ended up without any children at all. I thought long and hard about how that regret might feel if I was sitting around with empty arms. And then I tried to imagine regretting having them both. A couple of years later, no matter how hard life with two toddlers gets, I’ve never regretted having both girls.More On