Mommy. Yes, that's your name now. It's okay to feel a bit of distaste, if you do. I did. I didn't become a mother until I'd been a lot of other things, and until your baby calls you "Mama," it can feel odd when the rest of the world does. "Mommy," when spoken by anyone other than your child, can feel diminishing. You don't have to let other people call you that — not your OB, not your child's pediatrician, not teachers, not strangers. I learned it's perfectly fine to say, "My name is Rita." Or, if your prefer, "Ms. Arens, if you're nasty." You are "mommy" to your child and no one else. You still get to choose the way you present yourself to the world.
This letter, my friend, is about control. If you're a control freak, like I am, this new-motherhood thing will be a particular brand of torture, but only for a little while. For the first several weeks, you'll have none. All types of medical personnel will be examining your girly parts regularly and asking if you can poop properly. You'll find yourself peeing with a breastfeeding baby latched on. You'll be damp a lot, for all manner of reasons. It will feel a little primal. It can feel a little icky. You'll smell funny, from the vomit and the sweat and the poop. If you were a dry-clean-only woman before this, I feel for you. Seriously.
Not only will you be damp, you'll be tired. You also don't get to control when you sleep. Or when you eat, though you'll probably be ravenously hungry as your hormones swing wildly and your metabolism struggles for high ground.
This will not last forever.
There will come a time, and it will be soon, when you are dry except when you are immersed in water. Your body will stop leaking. It will return to you. You won't have to show your boobs or your girly parts to strangers on a regular basis. You will regain your privacy and your memory. You'll sleep again, sometimes for eight to ten hours at a time.
What you won't regain, not entirely, is your sense of control. Even though that baby feels like an extension of you now, that baby will grow into a child and eventually an adult who won't always do what you tell him or her to do. You won't be able to control every snack, every nap, when your child potty trains, when your child sleeps or with whom your child associates. This was the hard part for me, and it may be the hardest part for you. I recommend you abandon the world domination now. However, internalize this: You know best what's best for you and your family.
As that little stranger grows, you'll grow to recognize better than anyone else what's normal for him or her. You'll know your child's preferences, and you'll be the only mommy that child will ever have. Nobody can take this role away from you. Own it.
This isn't to say you can't accept advice or help, but understand that your child will never confuse a nanny, a babysitter, a teacher, a grandparent or a stepparent with you. The bond we as mothers share with our children is irrevocable. And that means you don't NEED total control.
You just need to be Mommy. That's you now.
Mommy, welcome to the club.
Rita Arens is author of the blogs Surrender, Dorothy and Surrender, Dorothy: Reviews and is the editor of "Sleep Is for the Weak: The Best of the Mommybloggers Including Amalah, Finslippy, Fussy, Woulda Coulda Shoulda, Mom-101, and More!". She is a contributing editor for BlogHer and reviews children's books for Cool Mom Picks in addition to her job as an online editor for a financial services company.
What?! No world domination?! This is such great advice for parenting. I have to pick my battles. Trying to do everything perfectly was impossible and drove me crazy. My kids like me much better when I take it easy and just try to be the best I can be rather than trying to keep control over everything. Thanks Rita!
I have to completely agree. The days during which I'm relaxed and letting the kids really be themselves instead of projecting my expectations on them. I have so much fun letting go now – something I used to struggle with.
Thanks for the reminder.