Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Motherhood Angst

I have been trying for days now to figure out how to write about what has been going on in my head but it’s so hard – that most of the time I give up. Motherhood and its attendant mysteries are my topic du jour.

How does anyone know when they are doing a good job? I like to think I am doing a good job…my baby is happy though not always healthy – thanks to the germ incubator I also fondly call our childcare center. She is more than on target developmentally – she is actually a little ahead – in spite of my efforts to keep her a baby a while longer. She will insist on feeding herself and eating off my plate if she can possibly manage it. She is walking – more like running – everywhere and she mastered the ride-on Zebra shortly after walking. She has gained 4 lbs and grown 2in since we returned home from China. Her teeth are growing like crazy (she has 8 fully in) and her first-year molars are about to break the surface – so there has been some pain there. Her sunny disposition has not changed much – though she grows increasingly more independent and yet, she will look to me before doing anything. I take this as healthy sign of her growing attachment to me. She is also much happier to see her daddy these days, after concerted efforts to encourage them to spend some quality time together as well as insisting that he put her to bed sometimes AND occasionally get up in the middle of the night if she cries, this has paid off and she is genuinely happy to see him when he gets home from work.

All in all – I would say things are about as good as they get. SO what’s up with the angst? Well – I would rather not get into particulars at this point, but on a few occasions lately people have (both solicited and unsolicited) described my mothering style as “not laid back” “a little overprotective” “rather perfectionistic” done with “your usual attention to detail” and in one notable instance… “probably good considering the kid” Now, some of that hurt my feelings and others – well I take the source into consideration before leaping to any feelings.

I suppose some of it is that I am by no means a laid back person – so nothing I do is laid back. Rather, I research, study, practice (if applicable) and then weigh my options before deciding on an approach. I suppose that I am only able to do this in relation to motherhood because I think quickly, retain a lot of information (from the thousands of books I read) and can rapidly follow some actions to a logical conclusion - though these days a few of my brain cells are definitely still sleeping while I am out and about. This worked pretty well in determining our adoption options and seems to be working pretty well now, as far as I can tell. Am I invested in being the best Mom I can be for MY CHILD – absolutely! Oh, to say I take being my daughter’s mother seriously is an understatement. I mean, two whole governments decided I should be THIS child’s Mom – of course I want to be a good Mom to her.

People who have only bio kids (or no kids at all) may not understand the differences required in parenting a child that was raised in a different home (try country, language, culture, foster home/orphanage etc) for the almost first year of life….. who may have been traumatized by the abrupt (from China at least) changes in their lives… My daughter had been living with a foster family (or at least a foster Mom near as we can tell) for 10 months, possibly brought back to the Children’s Welfare Institute (CWI) a week or so before being bussed about 4 hours to the Civil Affairs office in NanChang where she was (from her perspective anyway) unceremoniously handed over to weird looking/smelling/sounding people then manhandled from place to place for two weeks – then carried on to a huge plane where upon disembarking she was in a place that not only looked and smelled different – but was far colder and snowier than she ever had experienced. No familiar sights, smells and sounds and crazy food… not to mention a person who she had never seen until 2 weeks prior – performing all the intimate tasks her Foster-Mama had been doing. Anyone who thinks that you can parent this kid the same as a kid who grew in his/her mom’s belly for 9 months then has spent nearly all his/her time with that same person… really doesn’t get parenting. Indeed – even two bio kids in the same family may require different parenting skills – since temperament, birth order as well as a host of other variables (including age of parents etc.) can effect the style a parent chooses or MUST use. I know this but most people do not get this. They see a child and think – this is how you treat children…. My insistence that my child needs are different (for now) falls on deaf ears.

I know that I do not feel comfortable yet leaving her with anyone for lengthy periods of time. I am not feeling good about the amount of time she will have to spend in daycare. Neither do I want to hear from anyone that if I just give up my car – I can stay home with her. If it were that simple don’t you think I would have done that? Nor do I feel guilty about daycare per se, just that I wish she wasn’t going to have to go from 6 hours a day to 8 in September when the semester starts and I must return to full time work. I resent others trying to put that guilt on me… particularly since people rarely bother to ask the essential questions before leaping to conclusions about my decision to become a mother – knowing I must work. Sure in a perfect world any mother who wanted to stay home to raise her child(ren) would be able to – but this isn’t it.

At the moment though – I have a multitude of issues that are causing me to lose sleep. Only some of which are the words of friends or relatives about my parenting skills. See I already come to the table with a DVD player of my own god-awful childhood playing on perpetual repeat. I came to motherhood convinced it would take Herculean efforts on my part to be a good (forget great or perfect) mother – but confident that I had moved beyond some of the issues that I thought might interfere. I don’t mind. If you think it was easy to get where I am – well it wasn’t, if I make it look so, well then kudos to me. Every single day I decide to be the best Mom I can for this child. Just like every other day I make the decision every day that I would be the best wife, friend, sister, employee, volunteer, social worker, teacher, mentor, daughter (till 2003) and daughter-in-law. Now – I recognize that I can not do all that all at the same time – so sometimes I am much better in one area than another but it balances out – since I am rarely called on to play all roles at any one time.

Since I entered the motherhood phase though, it seems like doing justice to ANY of the other roles I inhabit is more like wishful thinking.... assuming I have the energy to wish or think! I feel like just getting through the day at work is enough and I know I am not doing what I was before and even having a conversation with my DH is harder than it used to be. I have been reading that I am NOT the only wife/mother going through this so I know it to be the normal period of adjustment - but it is harder than I thought it would be to maintain a marriage and worklife and friendships etc. I find myself getting more defensive about it all the time. Especially since some of the people in my life just assumed that once the adoption itself was over that I would just go back to status quo plus child. In some ways though I think I created a bit of that because I used to think that would happen. It is not that way at all. I worry about keeping her safe - I worry about how she is doing attachment-wise, is the daycare really as good as I seem to think it is, can I leave her for an evening out with DH and have her not feel like she is being abandoned all over again? Though I have no idea where we would go or what we would do - since I really would rather be with her and DH at home playing or swimming or just watching her grow!!

I have tried to surround myself with people who would be supportive of this journey and to some extent I think I have. I have a few mothers whose style I trust and I do turn to them for advice and support... my sister has been very honest and supportive so I can count on her and there are a few more...... I count myself lucky in this. But it doesn't chase the doubt away at all. I wonder if there is anything that will?

On top of all this is the pressure I am feeling regarding a second child. Realizing that there are days when one is about all I (barely) feel capable of taking care of. But feeling as if I owe her a sister and wanting to divide myself... as if having one baby is like putting all one's eggs in the proverbial one basket! So there are several (hundred) pressures... not the least of which is being a good mother and not making any horrible (and avoidable) mistakes. I have one other thing to say - but this post has gotten so long I think no one will bother reading it and I am still not sure I managed to say what I wanted to say properly so I am ending here.

1 comment:

me myself and i said...

AWWWW hon! YOu are a fine mom! And you are right...for of all my girls I parent each one differently. I would never parent V the same way as Ror E or M!
You need to be secure in yourself and your abilities. You are doing a great job.

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