We spent part of the weekend by the water. We, or I at least, spent the weekend reflecting. When I was pregnant, I kept having a dream I would give birth to a bear cub. Blame it on weird hormones or wild premonition. Lately my little one has been growling. I mean, for real. Like a little bear cub. And I am his Mama bear.
One of my favorite children’s books from when I was a kid was Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. I hadn’t read it in ages, but shared it with my little bear this weekend. In the story, the babies get mixed up while picking berries on the mountain. Both Mamas are busy with their berry picking and turn around to notice that their baby is missing. The babies look up from play to realize that the wrong mother is standing there–the bear cub sees a human mother and the child sees a mama bear. Of course, both babies find their way back into their mamas’ arms at the end. The illustrations are fantastic, and the story is one I want to read again and again. I hope E will continue to like to hear it as he did this past weekend.
The story got me thinking though. About us Mamas and about my little bear. I’d heard the phrase “Mommy Wars” but never paid it much mind. I’d like to say that I still don’t, but I can’t help but notice other mothers since becoming one. Since becoming a mother, since quitting my job and taking on this new title of Stay at Home Mom, I seek them out. Especially in the beginning when I was so full of anxiety, so scared. Over six months, I’ve learned to let go a little–but there is still a lot of fear. Am I doing this right? Am I being the best mother I can? Is my child growing into a healthy, well-adjusted, happy little boy? He seems to be. Are we on the right track?
There is still a lot of fear and often a lot of loneliness. My days are spent together with my son, but I sometimes feel so isolated. So alone in this new role of Mom. There are days when the only adult I talk to is my husband and my own mom via phone. When we are out, I seek other mothers, make eye contact and smile silently. Even without words, there is a silent recognition that we are not alone. Or at least I feel that way.
And then there are the handful of other new mommy friends. We meet up randomly for walks and coffee. We text during late night feedings. We watch one another’s lives via facebook and instagram. We connect with words, and we war silently. Well, sometimes I feel that way….
Certain words and ways they are said make me feel as if by becoming a mother, I have unknowingly entered into some sort of fierce competition. Initially, I was scared and seeking out other mothers so I could know I wasn’t alone in my sleeplessness. So I could see that my child was all right. But in certain circumstances, it seems that there is a battle going on for whose child is winning at sitting or crawling or standing or talking, and whomever’s child does something first is proof that that mother is doing things right.
I felt this recently with another mommy “friend”, and I started thinking about the ways we might be getting things mixed up as we move up this mountain. Picking out the juiciest bits of information and darkest secrets about others via what they share and storing them away to sustain our fears—well, at least my child doesn’t do or does this better. At least I don’t do that, at least I am doing this mom thing right. I hate to say it, but it’s making me a little bitter. Making me want to spend my days alone. With only my son and husband.
Making me worry that if–even by noticing this competition, by allowing myself to see it—he will be judged and critiqued and compared just for being. And I want him to BE. To be able to BE what he wants and who he is unapologetically. I want him to crawl when he’s ready.To read when he’s ready. To pick a sport or art or craft or passion and follow it in the way that is right for him. I want him to sit and breathe and know that he doesn’t have to do or be or have like others. I want him to know that he can just breathe and be alive and be loved and happy because of it.
I can’t help but notice the competitive vibes and hear the excitement when they see that I might not be doing something “right.” And it’s hard to help the protective urge and surge of anger rising in my chest in response to it all. Go ahead and grow at your own pace little boy. Growl little cub. I will be your Mama bear.
What does it mean to be a Mama bear? As symbol, bear is seen to be brave, powerful, peace, motherhood and show duality. Bears can teach us patience –hibernating with our plans and ideas and thoughts. Bears can teach us fierce power–rising up within our being to fight for our beliefs and convictions. Bears can teach us to be protectors–caring wildly for our young. Bears can teach us about duality in nature–sleeping peacefully and waking, almost a map of how to resurrect oneself throughout the course of life. Asleep only to wake again and again–ready for another season of life.
Maybe I’m not getting all of this mother thing right. I certainly hear other mothers criticizing about how I need to sleep train or pacify or bottle feed from the side-lines. They all have brilliant babies. I certainly see and feel the judgement flicker from behind watchful eyes. I see you, and now I must stand up within myself and face my fears and anxiety that to do what is right as a mother, I must do what is natural to me. I must be brave and powerful about my actions and know the peace that comes from living that kind of life. I am awake. I am learning. And we are alive.
With Love from Colorado,