I’ll start by saying: I don’t know.
I don’t know if you’re doing it right. As a new mom myself, I don’t know if I’m doing it right.
I don’t even know if “doing it right” is a real thing.
I know you want some sort of guarantee. Some sort of indication that you’re on the right track, that you’re doing everything that needs to be done. You want some kind of guidebook, a chart, a box you can check off at the end of the day that says you mothered well and your kid is happy and healthy and will stay that way forever.
But it doesn’t exist.
Raising children isn’t black and white. Sure, there are some obvious things you have to do, and some things you should never, ever do. But for the most part, the majority of motherhood is done in the land of gray. Nothing is clear or certain. You just do your best.
That’s the trick of it, I suppose. Getting up every day, pouring your heart into another human, and hoping like hell that it’s enough.
Years ago, I took a Body Pump class at my local gym. My muscles ached and my lungs burned and I basically wanted to die the entire time.
I looked around at the other people in the class and watched with awe as they stuck to the form, completed the routine, bore the weight with grace and ease. That seemed so far from my current reality. I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get there. I was doubtful that it was even possible.
One day after class, my instructor asked how I was doing.
I shot him a look of exasperation and said, “It gets easier, right? Tell me it gets easier.”
“It never gets easier,” he replied. “But you get stronger.”
It takes time, but I promise you, you will get stronger. You tone your mothering muscles the same way you tone your abs- with commitment and repetition.
At just six months in, I already feel more secure. The ground is less shaky. I feel steadier, more reliable.
I know to carry the car seat in the crook of my arm now. I always keep an extra pacifier in the diaper bag. I can make my baby laugh by shaking my messy bun around the top of my head. His favorite song is “Pumpernickel Bread.”
More importantly, I know what to do when he starts crying. I know how he likes to be held. I can tell when a meltdown is about to ensue. I’ve been cried on, pooped on, and puked on, and I’ve made it through countless sleepless nights and boycotted naps. I’ve survived, is what I’m saying. And so has my son.
These are things that I could’ve only learned in time. Knowledge and confidence that I’ve obtained solely through the art and the practice of motherhood.
And yet, I’m still brought to my knees on a daily basis. There are still tears and worries and prayers on loop. There’s still the doubt and the uncertainty. There’s still the fear that it’s not enough, that I’m not enough, that there’s no way I could possibly be doing this right.
I’ve gotten stronger. I am more prepared, more confident, less afraid.
But it’s not easier.
I read somewhere that you know you’re a good mother if you worry about whether or not you are one. That the simple act of wondering, of being aware of the importance of the job and doubting your own abilities, is indicative of your competence.
I don’t know if that’s true, but I certainly hope it’s the case.
I doubt that I will ever feel like I’m doing it right. There’s too much at stake, and I’m too human to do this thing perfectly. Motherhood is hard, holy work.
We may never know if we’re doing a good job. No one is keeping score for us. We will not receive a progress report or a quarterly evaluation.
We just have to trust. We have to do our best. We have to try again tomorrow. We have to do this work day in and day out.
We may never be able to say that we did it right. But we can say that we did our best. And maybe that’s all that really counts.