Grow Up Already
I have this really complicated relationship to my daughter’s age. On the one hand, she couldn’t possibly be cuter and more wonderful and on the other hand, I’m like, "get a job already or at least start wearing underwear for gawd’s sake!"
I’m not the kind of mom that ever wished my baby to stay an infant – if anything I was willing her to gain ounces and pounds and to hold her head up and again, at least to hold her own bottle for gawd’s sake. I’m am not the mother who lamented her getting older. She couldn’t (can’t) get older fast enough.
Some might feel pity for me as I rush through these early years when I’m supposed to be “enjoying ever moment” and worrying about all the things I’ll be nostalgic about when she’s 13 and screaming at me about how I don’t get anything about her life because apparently, I’ve never been 13. But honestly, maybe I’m that mother who will face those years with greater confidence than I have faced the first 2.5. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have been committed by then. Only history will decide!
I’m going to do a bit of a deep dive here, so bear with me. I believe there are mothers who want to be needed and love being needed. I, I almost ashamedly admit, I am not one of them. In fact, when my daughter gets all “mommy, mommy, mommy” I get the cold sweats. I have a hard time being so intensely needed by someone who cannot meet their own needs.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that, in the dark, dark beginnings of my motherhood journey, I felt that the intensity of her needs would continue to cripple me physically and psychologically and so I think I created a mental barrier to protect myself so that I could survive postpartum depression and anxiety and actually be there for her at some point when I was healthier. It was easier to push myself through the physical exhaustion and the torture of early breastfeeding than it was to admit that I was needed by this helpless creature more than anyone has ever needed me before. It honestly still makes my stomach flip flop to think about how hard it was to accept my new role.
Secondly, I think I relied a great deal on myself when I was younger when it came to my own needs. I think a lot of us do. Those of us who are more introspective, analytical, and who tend to internalize all that goes on around us are more likely to take responsibility for ourselves, for better or worse, when we are perhaps too young to do so. I therefore don’t have a great template for others needing me greatly. And sometimes, just sometimes, the needs of others make me completely shut down.
Something my partner said to me about not exactly this, but something remotely related, really resonated with me recently and I decided to look at the fear that holds me back from accepting the reality that my daughter needs me. Like, in a big way. It’s like a switch went off and I looked around and I thought, maybe I can allow myself to be needed in a way that’s not so scary.
In the end, I realized that, since her birth, I have been resisting a discourse, both internally and externally imposed, that says that I need to put my daughter’s needs first. For me, especially at the beginning, this was close to impossible as I struggled to actually survive as a new mom. Putting my needs on hold while I struggled through new motherhood was difficult but possible. However, at some point, I must have made a pack with myself that said, if you keep doing this, you’ll be in trouble. So I figured out a way to balance the various needs that tug at me in all different directions.
It is therefore new for me to give myself over totally to my daughter’s needs while maintaining my own. I have to say that this experiment has, however, been wildly successful. I am not as exhausted as I once was trying to retain the porous boundary that exists between her needs and mine, and I think I have, tentatively, embraced her needs and mine being one (with respect to our relationship) where one set need not supersede the other. Rather, I have accepted that she cannot meet her own needs and so I will do my best to fulfill what I can as her mother who I one part of the fabulous whole that fills her up and makes her the magical being she is.
Meeting her needs might not mean that my kid is my life but it does mean that she gives me new life through an examination of what I have to give that has otherwise been trapped in my heart.