Each maternity leave, there was one commercial that would send me to tears instantly. The first time, it was a commercial that reminded me that you only have a baby for one year. Through the sleepless nights and unfamiliar amount of stress, it tore me out of my narrow focus of the day to day and forced me to realize that this time was incredibly short. And I knew then exactly how much I would miss it.
The second time, it was a Johnson and Johnson commercial that got me at the very first line.
You’re doing okay, mom.
When you bring your baby into the world, they become your everything. They are so small, and while their needs are so simple, they are so unclear. Their cries tell you what you need, but inevitably you come to a cry that you can’t seem to find the reason to. You hold them, hoping that this will quiet them all the while questioning, why don’t I know what they need?
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Next they begin to toddle and start knocking into everything. Each uncertain step followed by a fall and a cry for mom. Their personality starts to show itself to you. After a year of holding a baby you thought you knew, they start to show you the different sides of themselves. Their sense of humor. Their sense of self. Their fears. They need you insistently one minute then the next find you the root of their problems. You discipline for the first time and discover a new uncertain feeling of motherhood. A balance between the need to discipline and the mother instinct to protect your child from their hurt. As you listen to them cry for you, you question, am I doing this right?
Before your eyes they toddle themselves right into little kids, starting preschool and learning all kinds of new things about the world. They express themselves through imaginative play, the way they dress and start to identify others as friends. Your relationship with them has one of its first real changes. No longer a baby, they start to assert themselves as their own person. The word “no” becomes more frequent, and boundaries are consistently being pushed. But, they also remain so loving and rush to you for band aids, approval, and with real emotion. Kids begin to be kids, and they face a world that starts to fill with grey instead of the black and white they’ve known. They express real emotions of hurt, rejection, and sadness that go beyond just their basic needs. What do you say?
With all of its questions, you navigate the landscape of motherhood never knowing what the right answer is. While they are our babies forever, they grow. Their needs shift. Their wants change, and we are left to figure it out. There are tears, laughs, yells, smirks, and kisses. They make you the maddest you have ever been, feel the most guilt you’ve ever felt, and make you question each move that you make. You feel all the pride of their milestones met. You feel all of their pain. You make the hard decisions. Some days they tell you how much they love you. Others, you are the meanest mom in the world. Amid all of the ups and downs and in betweens of motherhood, there is one very simple and powerful thing that is not often said but is unquestionably true.
You’re doing okay, mom.