I grew up the youngest of 3, although since they are my half siblings I probably behave more like an only child. I never was around many babies or kids, although I tolorated them well enough I also found them to be quite annoying and I was always happy to go back to my peers. Why, you may be asking right now, would you care at all about this?
The answer, I don’t know, I just thought you should know that although I have my Master's in Social Work I am not some super mommy or amazing expert in child rearing. I am not someone that can tout that since the day I was born I loved children. I am an imperfect human, just like you.
It took me a lot of time, support, teaching from others, reading parenting & personal development books, graduate school, and working with families in a hospital to feel that I was ready to be a mother. I think my initial goal was to not drop the baby or turn her into a serial killer, but after surviving the first 3 months my goals adjusted themselves dramatically. I am now happy to report that I am mother who actually enjoys motherhood (well 80% of the time) mainly because I make an effort to take care of myself.
My journey into motherhood began two years and eight months ago when my daughter Madyson was born. If you count getting a puppy then I became a mom 5 years and 8 months ago, which I probably would have done except then I had a human baby.
The first 3 months felt like I had been reborn. I am imagining Neo from The Matrix felt quite similar when he woke up in a goo filled pod after swallowing the red pill. I had no idea what to expect in the world and was clueless as to how to be a good mother to an infant. You can imagine my surprise when the infant care class I took at the hospital could not begin to prepare me for what was actually happening in my life.
The month after Mady was born I was turning 30, so it made sense to have a combined baby shower (we’re Jewish- I converted) and birthday. I can vividly remember welcoming my good friend and roommate from grad school. We had gone to NYU together and without divulging too much had done a lot of exploring the city together, she had even seen me come in a 3 am after a night of fun and dancing. She pulled me aside and asked, “So how are you?”
What I wanted to say, “Exhausted, overwhelmed, lost, and unsure of who I am anymore”. What I actually answered was more along the lines of, “Great. I love being a mom. Jersey is the best”. I think at the Jersey comment she raised her eyebrows, but she didn’t negate my answer. As the days past I wondered if every new mom felt like this after a baby was born. I was one of the first of my friends to venture into the territory of motherhood, and even if I was part of a lucky group who had tons of mommy friends I am not totally sure that I would have admitted to anyone how I was feeling about being a new mom.
The bright side about this experience was that in my own suffering it also brought about a deep sense of compassion for other mothers. Especially those moms who do not have the human resources (AKA, a wonderful family who has helped me every day with one thing on another) that I feel so blessed to have. When I returned to my work in the hospital, where I was a clinical social worker for the Department of Pediatric Nephrology, each day I had a new feeling of amazement for the way that mothers were able to care for their chronically ill child. Their strength and commitment in the face of adversity allowed me to bring a greater awareness and sense of gratitude to my own situation.
Around the time my daughter was 6 months old I began to explore how meditation and mindfulness could have an impact on my client’s lives. It turned out that by trying to find a way to improve other people’s lives that I permanently changed the way that I was living my own. This is how I became a self-proclaimed Mindful Mommy; a Mommy who has compassion for myself and humankind, who lives in the present, accepts things as they are in this moment (both good and bad) and brings this way of living to each moment as a parent.
Now 2 years later I am able to look back at the clueless young (30 is still young) mom and I am grateful to have had those feelings. Without the pain and suffering I endured I would have never pushed myself to find a way of living that offered greater joy and peace than I ever could have dreamed.
Think about a time in your life that was so difficult that you thought it would never end. It could be before your children were even a thought in your head or after they came into your life. Take a few moments to relive this time, while remembering realize that the feelings that come up are just memories and that you are safe in the present. Rather than focus on the pain seek out instances in which you endured, when you were able to be stronger than you thought you could be.
When we are able to stay with the feelings of pain and fear, the ones that we really want to run away from, we begin to see that we can tolerate a full range of emotion. Life is a combination of good and bad, and it’s important to have both in our life because it allows us to experience both.
Motherhood is the most difficult job in the world and there is nothing wrong with accepting your imperfections or for asking for support when it just seems too hard. I promise your children will thank you later.
Jennifer Bronsnick is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Holistic Health Coach. She has her Master’s Degree from New York University School of Social Work and Health Coach Certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Jennifer has a private practice in Terra Sky Center for Wellness in Summit, where she specializes in helping teenagers and women struggling with anxiety, depression, and general stress issues.
She is the founder of Mindful Mommy, a website where mothers can get support from professionals and connect with one another. The mission of Mindful Mommy is to support mothers across the globe to lead happy, healthy, and fun-filled lives by offering a space for self-exploration, education, and meaningful connections with other mom's.
Jennifer is the mother of a 2.5 year old little girl and is currently expecting her second child in January 2012.