Becoming a Mother
When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I experienced a delicious and terrifying cocktail of emotions. I knew I wanted to be a mother. It was the one thing I was always totally certain I needed in my future. But I wasn’t planning on motherhood just yet. My husband and I had been married for just over two years. I was 24 years old. My plan for the immediate future was traveling, partying, being young and spontaneous for a little while longer. I knew that the little plus sign on the end of a stick was changing my life, and I didn’t feel like I had truly chosen that change.
I knew what kind of mother I would be. This little person would be the love of my life. I would stop caring about anything else and be consumed by my child. I was anxious for him to arrive so that I could fall in love, trade my anxiety and uncertainty for the overwhelming and steadfast love I knew was coming.
And I was right. After 26 hours of labor, I was handed the most perfect baby boy in the history of mankind. He was beautiful and pure and worth everything. I held my purpose in my arms when I held my baby. The world fell away and every bit of longing for the life I had before I got pregnant seemed ridiculous. I could never want anything else but this life, this child. I was made to be his mom. It is what everything in my life had prepared me for. My husband and I were chosen by God to raise this perfect boy.
Becoming a Mother Again
Fast forward 2 years, I am pregnant again, this time planned. I had no preference in whether my second child was a girl or boy. But when I heard the ultrasound tech say, “It looks like a little girl in there,” I could not control my tears. This girl would be my best friend. I had visions of the two of us sitting on my bed, me braiding her hair while she asked my advice about a boy she likes in her class, shopping for a dress for her to wear to a school dance, teaching her to drive. There was something about being a mother to a daughter that I knew would be different.
The Hardest Part in Raising Girls (so far)
The anxiety started about a week after she was born and it hasn’t stopped. What if I say the wrong things to her? What if I don’t assure her that she is beautiful and smart and strong and ENOUGH? I am deeply aware of the fragility of a woman’s heart. As women, we spend our existence seeking approval. Is it wired in us biologically or do we teach our girls that they are nothing unless someone says so? Raising a girl is such an enormous pressure. Don’t get me wrong. I know that my son is also very dependent on the environment and upbringing that my husband and I provide him. But the world will tell him that he is enough. The world will not try to break him like it does little girls.
I always swore that I would raise a girl and a boy the same. It drove me nuts that people accepted different behaviors as acceptable from boys that they would reprimand in a girl. It still does. But now that I have a girl of my own, I get it. I carry her with a softer touch. The purity and sweetness of her spirit is so overwhelming; it makes me want to keep her in a little bubble where I can just hold her forever. I worry about what she will face in the world. It is not because I think that as a girl, she is less-than or less capable. It is because I know too much. I know how impossible it can be to stay true to your heart and balance all of the crazy standards that society places on you.
Are there women who feel like enough? Who don’t struggle between putting themselves first and being selfish? Who assertively ask what they want of life and aren’t labeled as a bitch? Do those women exist? What about women who don’t internalize every comment on their appearance, their sexuality, their career choices, or relationship status? I want my daughter to be a woman like that. To be brave and bold and WHOEVER THE FUCK SHE WANTS TO BE without ever worrying about who she is supposed to be. To be unapologetically herself.
My “No-Plan” Plan
I worry that I will break her spirit when all I want to do is protect it. That 20 years from now, she will be sitting in a room with a friend or her partner, explaining that her parents did something wrong and that is why is broken. What if I say the wrong things? What if I am not a good enough role model? I worry that I will either be too lenient or too strict. I want to build her up without making her entitled and self-centered. How do I do that? What is the balance?
How do I raise a girl to believe she is worthy of love and joy and connection, and remain humble? Currently my approach to this question has me shifting my attention from my daughter’s sense of worthiness to my own. I am trying to work on myself. Reading about love and connection, really focusing my mind on being present and assessing what I need and want. I am taking care of myself, really for the first time.
One of my favorite mantras is, “You are nothing to anyone if you can’t take care of yourself first.” But taking my own advice is a struggle. As mothers it is tough to put yourself first. But I think, especially now that I am a mother to a daughter, it is crucial to providing a strong example for your kids to look up to. I don’t think I can teach my daughter how to be brave and feel like enough, unless I am brave and feel like enough. So that is where I am starting, at the beginning. I figure the rest will fall place, and my daughter will have the space, the support, and the example to be the best version of herself.
What are your fears in raising your kids?
Do you feel that you project your own insecurities on to them?
Do you have any advice in the parenting of girls vs. boys?