Sunday, September 29, 2013

Confession: I'm not a stay at home mom

I’m just going to say it. I’m not a stay at home mother. There are already all different levels of me judging myself, so no extra judgment is needed. 

I started graduate school in January, and I am right where I need to be. Juggling has been challenging, but I am confident that mental health counseling is my calling.
We are still breastfeeding. I don’t commonly display that information, so I’m semi-surprised that I’m sharing it in this post, but it flows because I want to tell you about this struggle I’m having.

In a guided imagery exercise in class, I was told to relax, breathe deep, and imagine myself as a seed. The imagery continues, and I end up as a tree. There is much space to paint my interpretation onto the tree. I could see myself as a tree and Iris my sapling. I was torn between contorting myself by hovering over her to watch and protect her every move and calmly standing firm in my roots beside Iris knowing that my natural shade was enough to love, guide, provide for, and protect her. 

This is my struggle as a mother. I play tennis in my mind, going back and forth between giving myself stomachaches from anxiety over whether I’m scarring her for life and just being chill and being the best mom I can be, relaxed and confident in my role. I was explaining this internal struggle to a friend. He asked if behind it all, there was a calm version of me just witnessing all of the chatter. I visualized myself in my vintage cowboy boots that were my mother’s. They fit like a glove, and I found them in my grandmother’s garage. When I wear them, I feel grounded.

See, being a stay at home mom is what I thought I should be. It’s what my mother was, and I thought it was the way to go. It turns out that I’m not cut out to be a stay at home mom.

Also, our schedule is a bit crazy. Iris goes to mothers’ morning out four mornings a week: Mondays and Wednesdays at Baptist and Tuesdays and Thursdays at Methodist. She has babysitters 4 nights a week, so I can go to class and Brantley can study (did I mention that he’s in school and working full-time, too?). I would love for Iris to be at the Child Development Center at Delta State, but we are the only university child development center in the state that does not give children of students priority (insert huge rant here).

 So, I am in grad school full-time, Brantley is working on his Bachelor’s full-time, Brantley works full-time, I have a graduate assistantship (so thankful for it), I coordinate a campus ministry (life-giving, love doing it), and, most importantly, we are parents to Miss Iris. Iris is walking, and her personality is bubbling. This is one of my favorite stages, so far. She is so smart, and her comprehension catches me off guard. She understands what I am saying and is able to communicate her needs to me. Iris loves mothers’ morning out, and she loves her babysitters. She is so well-adjusted, and they brag about how easy going she is. She is not traumatized or maladjusted. She’s having a great time. I, however, am still battling the contortions and mom confusion on whether or not I’m scarring her for life. 

I want to be the relaxed tree, trusting in my maternal instincts and knowing my shade and version of motherhood will be enough, but I’m not quite there. See that’s where the breastfeeding piece comes in. Breastfeeding is something that only I can do for Iris. She may have babysitters at night, and her beloved Mrs. May May ( Iris calls her naynay) during the mornings, but I am the only one that can nurse her. Breastfeeding was one of the first things that I learned how to do as a mother, and neither one of us are ready to stop yet. 

I’m still defining my role as a mother. I’m still navigating being a motherless mother.
There is that. It always goes back to that, but how could it not?
Mom’s space isn’t physically filled. I’m learning ways to transmit her energy and feel her presence. I bake her bread. The smell of it in the oven, the feel of the dough, the soft yet crunchy slices of homemade, buttery goodness.There are few things that bring back her memory more for me.

There are times when I know she is watching me and Iris. I sometimes nod with her in amazement. Her energy surrounds us. In Motherless Mothers, Hope Edelman writes about how when motherless mothers nurture our children, it brings a nurturing mother into the room with us. We are nurtured in the process. 

I am learning how to nurture. I am learning how to be a mom. I am trying to accept the chaos knowing that I am in the right place. I am learning to be a mom without my mom. 

And here are pictures from Iris' first birthday!
We celebrated Iris' birthday on June 2nd, which was actually her due date. Her party was at our church. Brantley pulled her in her new red wagon from Mimi and Jack to the party. I smocked Iris' Birthday Bubble, and I made her cake topper from fabrics used to make her dresses so far. We had so much fun with family and friends. She daintily ate her cake that was made by Elizabeth Melton. She pinched small tastes, and she enjoyed it very much. It was delicious. We also had rosemary cashew cheese straws, Sold My Soul to the Deviled Eggs, and fresh fruit. Iris loved all of her gifts including her wagon from Mimi and Jack and her sandbox from Daddy Jon. We love getting Iris and cousin Liza together. They are 6 months apart. Thanks to Jack Catlette for the pictures.

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