I’m mesmerized watching her. Adopted from China just four months earlier, my youngest daughter holds her baby doll with its head cradled in her arm. She smiles at the baby and talks softly, telling her to stay with mommy so she’s safe. Next, she climbs up on the big green rocker and scoots her little self all the way to the back before beginning to rock the baby slowly.
I have lived and breathed endless hours in this rocker with my three older, biological children when they were babies. This rocker with big rolled arms gave just enough support to my weary arms and hands, heavy with the weight of a sleeping or fussy baby. And for the past four months, the rocker has held my newest daughter and me as we struggle to make up for all the time we missed.
On the day we met our daughter in China, we placed the same baby doll in her arms as a gift. In the weeks that followed, she carried the baby around awkwardly with one arm clutched around its neck. She didn’t talk to the baby or interact in any way other than to feed and change it. Her interactions seemed robotic in nature. The reality that she was mimicking the care or lack of care she had received in the orphanage broke my heart.
But today, in the green rocker, I see her reflecting a tiny glimpse of what is means to mother. And to tell you the truth, I’m shocked because many days my interactions with her have felt robotic and awkward. We are two strangers trying to become family. So I’ve whispered and fed, rocked and cried, and waited for something in her to begin healing from all the mothering she missed. Watching her care for her baby doll, I catch the first glimmer of hope that while my mind is still struggling to connect with her as I did with my newborns, my hands and feet have done the mothering for me.
As my new daughter begins to heal, I realize something is healing in me too. Honestly, I didn’t even know this wound existed. But here it is, the guilt of 11 years of imperfect mothering washing away. Like a breath of fresh air, my eyes are open to the beautiful mess of my everyday mothering. I’m realizing that I’ve lived under the weight of years of impossible standards and expectations for myself. I’ve wrestled with believing that I’m always falling just short of some magical good mom standard. I don’t play enough. I yell when I should stay calm. I let trivial annoyances steal my joy.
But here in this moment, I realize that even on the days when I feel like I’ve gotten it all wrong, something has gone right. And I see how my older children are happily attached to me and know deep down in their core that they are loved. I’ve sent a message of love with every extra glass of water, every book read for the hundredth time, and every question patiently answered. I am not a perfect mother, but my kids are known and loved because I show up to mother every single day.
Raising four kids through various ages and stages, I have had awesome mom days, good mom days, and epic fail mom days. I’m thankful to my new daughter for showing me that good mothering is the sum of acts of love. Even on the days when we don’t feel very loving. We don’t need to be perfect Pinterest moms or crazy spontaneous moms. My kids don’t need sandwiches cut into magical shapes or perfectly themed and executed birthday parties. Chances are I’m the only one who will remember the fails anyway. My kids just need me to show love, be present, and meet their needs. Watching my daughter and her baby doll, I’m reminded that I’ll never be a perfect mom and that’s ok. I’m working on becoming a good enough mom in the midst of all this beautiful mess.
And who would’ve guessed it? It is enough.
Beautiful article, sweetie! You’re a wonderful mom!
“…good mothering is the sum of acts of love.”
Beautiful quote! Such a great article. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Thanks Gretchen! I appreciate the feedback very much.
So much this. I love this article!
Thank you Rachel!
Love it . Miss you
Thanks Martha! Miss you too.
Very nice. As a dad of two teenagers, I often feel this same way. Yell too much. Don’t play enough. Rod is a good pick me up. They know they are loved.
Hi Jack! I appreciate your opinion from a dad’s perspective. Good to know we all struggle with this. Thanks for reading!
Love this!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and lessons!
Lindsay thank you so much for sharing. I just brought my 2nd son home from the hospital. He spent his first 3 months in the heart failure icu in preparation for a heart transplant. We were told that if he made it out of utero he more than likely wouldn’t survive. He has not only survived but is thriving with his own heart! Through all this trauma I have found it very difficult to connect with him on the same level that I have connected with my older son. I struggle with so much guilt while grieving over the infant I did not get to bond with. I found reassurance in your story because in a sense I feel as though I have adopted my son. I was so fearful to allow my heart to attach to him when he was born because of the unpredictability of his heart condition. After reading this, I’m realizing how much of my day I just go through the motions of caring for him without being completely present. At the same time I know my tendency is to be very hard on myself. So today, I make the decision to try and live in the present a little more and enjoy the process of healing and bonding because that is more than enough.
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