10 June 2009

The Good Mother...

My father-in-law, upon learning the news that we are planning to adopt, says to Chris "It's the most important thing you'll ever do." Of this, I'm certain. However, I do - even in the midst of the joy I'm feeling now that we're on the road to being Plus One - have that one really niggling worry...

What if I'm not good enough?

For a lot of years (more than I'd care to recollect or admit) I had no confidence in myself - professionally or personally. The story I told myself over and over:

I'm not good enough.

I was (and sadly sometimes still am) plagued by fear, doubt and a rather unfortunate tendency toward perfectionism... not an ideal combination of qualities because they most often seem to result in the "If I can't do it well, I just won't do it at all" syndrome. Over the years I turned down several promotions, ran from relationships, sabotaged myself in grad school (twice), and certainly didn't take the kinds of risks that could have and would have greatly enriched my life...

like becoming a mother...

All because I convinced myself that I wasn't "good enough" to either engage successfully (or perfectly) in those professional/educational/personal activities. And I'm sure that a big part of me simply didn't believe or accept that I was "good enough" to deserve good things in my life.

Thankfully I didn't run from Chris (8 years of marriage and counting!) and even more thankfully I am opening myself up to motherhood.

But what does it mean to be a "good" mother?

Are all mothers assailed by doubt?

When I study my sister-in-law as she navigates the waters of motherhood I'm always amazed by the vast amount of patience she seems to have for her little girls. She rarely seems phased... Disgusting dirty diaper? Whatever. Screaming 4 year-old? No problem. Toys all over the house and piles of laundry yet to fold? Hey, it is what it is.

My sister-in-law has settled into motherhood with a lovely kind of grace - like it's what she was always meant to do. My nieces are for the most part very happy little girls - the oldest a story teller and artist who chatters away and the baby a smiley little thing who has a wonderful disposition.

It's the same way with my friend E and her two Little Ones - daughter F & son A. I have yet to hear E raise her voice when F and A are bickering or getting out of hand. Nor have I ever heard her treat her children with any less respect than she would another adult. Because she has always treated her children like adults they are incredibly articulate, respectful, mindful and truly amazing little people.

I look at my mom, at my mother-in-law and at my father-in-law's lovely wife and marvel at the their skills, talents and patience as mothers and human beings. And I realize that I have so many resources from which to draw strength, inspiration and support. These are the women who are good mothers.

Today I happened to be in Whole Foods Market and had to make a trip to the ladies room. Upon opening the door I came upon the following scene: A mom on her knees in front of a little girl (obviously her daughter - maybe 5 years old) who has a her pants down and is crying a little. The mom looks at me and in a very calm voice says, "We spilled some hot soup" as if she has to explain this to me.

"Oh, dear," I reply.

The little girl snuffles a little as her mother applies to the reddened area of the girl's leg a paper towel that she has soaked in cool water. "OK," the mom still in a nice calm voice, "that's nice and cool isn't it?"

The little girl nods. Snuffles a little more.

"This is going to make that hot feeling go away," says the mom. "And you know what?"

"What?" asks the little girl.

"They have some really nice lotion here and we'll put that on your leg after it's all cooled off so it will feel just like new."

A nod from the little girl. Then she looks down and says something too quiet to hear.

"What was that, Sweetie?"

"I spilled the soup on the bench," she says just a little louder.

"Well, that's OK. That should be pretty easy to clean up," says the mom in her very calm voice as she continues with a new cold compress.

"And," says the little girl, "I spilled all over the table, too."

She looks embarrassed.

"You know what, Sweetie? People spill here all of the time so they make the tables really easy to clean. It's not a problem at all."

After I finish my business in the ladies room, I leave the mom and her daughter behind to finish cleaning the jeans of soup stains.

I think to myself, "That lady is a good mom."

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