I, like most moms, just do what feels right. Just like my mom did. Image: Thinkstock.
I look back now and realize how much of a superhero my mom was — and still is.
Some of us look like our moms and sound like our moms. I even sneeze like my mom.
There’s no guarantee you’ll be the same mother as your mom was to you, though, despite your mom's influence on your DNA and your upbringing.
I wouldn’t say I’m the black sheep of the family, but I’m pretty sure my mom isn't surprised that some of the choices I’ve made in raising my son have been a little different from the way she did things.
My mom gave us all she could. She stayed home to raise my sister and me for most of our childhood; she only returned to work to help put us through college. My hazy childhood memories consist of home-cooked meals, intricate Halloween costumes, and generous assistance with school projects (I remember a lot of poster board and sugar cubes).
I was one of the lucky kids. Things like career sacrifice, long and thankless hours, and endless generosity from parents don't register when we’re happily basking in the blue glow of 1980s game shows.
Like most kids, I took my mom for granted — until I became a mother myself.
Only two years down the bumpy road of motherhood and already I am humbled by how all-consuming and one-sided this emotionally-fraught and heartbreaking mess of an experience has been and will continue to be for the rest of my life.
And while I hope to emulate my mom in many ways (I'll admit, my sewing skills will need some work, though), in many ways, I’m doing things my own way.
If you think I have the time to worry about what other parents do or what they might think of me, ask me first how often I get to wash my hair.
To illustrate some of the differences between my mom’s experience of new motherhood and my own, allow me to render myself a cartoon of new age motherhood:
I had midwife-led maternity care.
I had my baby at home.
I hired a doula.
I’m still breastfeeding.
I use cloth diapers and babywear.
My toddler’s a vegetarian, a concept that's perhaps foreign to my parents. His first food was avocado, not baby rice. He doesn’t drink much cow’s milk. He hasn’t tasted a cupcake yet. (And yet, somehow, he has survived!)
Nothing on this list makes me a better mother.
I don’t normally list my parenting choices in such a reductive way or even talk about them much out loud. If you think I have the time to worry about what other parents do or what they might think of me, ask me first how often I get to wash my hair.
I, like most moms, just do what feels right. Just like my mom did.
You may choose to co-sleep, cry-it-out, eliminate-communicate, or helicopter until your arms fall off. You may adhere to a single parenting style, or pick and choose (as I do) from the experience of friends and family who have done it all and going with what your gut tells you to do.
My choices just happen to make me different from my own mother, but only in the minor details.
I am now a person who is confident in my choices... simply because of the love and inspiration [my mom] has given me.
The similarity that remains is the motivation behind the choices. The pure love that hits you like a freight train when you look at your baby. The way your heart breaks every time your child gets hurt.
Then there’s the unrelenting exhaustion, the creeping feeling of inadequacy, the glorious moments of accomplishment (he took a nap!), the feeling of bumbling through each day pretending to know what the hell you’re doing.
As a kid, I never noticed those things in my own mother.
But I look back now and realize how much of a superhero my mom was — and still is.
No matter how you choose to sleep, feed, birth, and raise your kids, the common thread of motherhood is that unwavering love, the sacrifice, the veering from the career path you were certain was your destiny, the compromise, the loss of the self you knew, and the birth of the mother (and woman) you’ve become.
My mom may find my baby food choices a bit weird (and my desire to have babies in my living room even weirder), but I am now confident in my choices, able to learn from my mistakes, able to ask for help when I need it, and able to defend my choices when I don’t, simply because of the love and inspiration she has given me.
When it comes down to what's important — the love, the simple goal to do our best — we’re really not all that different.