By Megan Twomey
Becoming Mama Twomey
In movies about having babies, there is usually an obligatory scene exploring the worries of the future daddy. The sweating future father might pour out his soul to his best friend or maybe even to his glowing pregnant wife (who is, of course, smiling with preternatural maternal understanding), and says something like: “What did I get myself into? I’m not ready for this.” In real life, he’s not the only one with those feelings. Having children can be a scary thing, and women are not often allowed to admit that they are worried too.
I want to tell you, fellow women, future and current mothers, that it’s okay to be worried. I am a mother of two and, I’m not going to lie to you, I’m often terrified. Human souls weigh in the balance of this job. It’s worth a little worry.
If you are thinking, “Gee, thanks, constant fear is a lot to look forward to,” then I ask you to hear me out. There’s going to be a lot of worries in your future if you become a parent, but there’s probably less than you think. Right now, I want to tell you what NOT to worry about. Things I worried about, but shouldn't have.
To paraphrase, Mamas got 99 problems, but these shouldn't be one:
“I don’t have all the things”
Just about every pregnancy and baby magazine, aka marketing powerhouse, loves to issue lists of baby “must haves.” These can include everything from maternity clothes only a celebrity could pull off to organic cotton rompers that cost more than my entire wardrobe. Between baby registries, websites, and stores, most pregnant women are cowed into believing you can’t give birth without spending your life savings. In addition, there is a huge amount of societal pressure to have a college fund, brand new mini-van, and house in suburban paradise before you start a family. It can make any young woman feel like she can’t afford kids yet or that, if she does buck the trend and have them early, her children will be missing out on things essential for happiness.
When people make mothers feel this way, whatever their motivation, I want to knock their heads together. Children need food, (which, God and your body willing, you can provide free for quite a while) water (also free), and shelter (but don’t take up much room!). Other than that, they mostly need love and diapers.
You can raise a family on a lot less money than you think-- certainly on one income--and with a lot less stuff than you think. Our society has come to the strange conclusion that only rich people can have children, or, at least happy children. This is patently false. As St. John Chrysostom said, “We take care of our possessions for our children, but of the children themselves we take no care at all. Form the soul of thy son aright, and all the rest will be added hereafter.”
If we believe that this world is not our home, we know we can take care of our children’s most important needs, the spiritual ones, without everything on this world’s must list.
“I don’t have all the knowledge”
Being in charge of a human life can be a very scary thing; especially since babies, as is often quipped, don’t come with instruction manuals. There are an overwhelming number of classes and books that try to sell the right method for everything. Whether you’ve spent years babysitting or have never held a newborn before, however, I’d say it’s impossible to really have all the knowledge you need to mother your own child.
Babies are people, and no two people are exactly alike. End of story. That’s not to say reading books and having experience doesn’t do any good, only that you shouldn’t lose sleep at night because you aren’t a baby expert. You will still be a good parent.
Being a good parent isn’t about having all the answers: it’s about caring enough to ask the right questions. No matter what you know about baby illnesses there will still be a fear clutching your heart the first time he has a fever. No matter what you know about sleep schedules, you will still want to pull your hair out when your baby has a restless night or your toddler won’t nap.
When you have a rational moment, however, you will realize you have resources to help you: family, friends, your pediatrician, and even the internet. Because you love your child, you will want to do what’s best and you will use all your powers of investigation to find out what that is. You might not know at birth how you want to potty train or handle dating, but as you get to know your child and what works for them, you will figure out how to combine that knowledge with what has worked for others.
“I don’t have all the makings of a ‘perfect mama’.”
This worry comes in two forms: worry about not being the ideal mother and worry about having too many personal flaws. In regard to the first, I can honestly tell you that although I have an amazing mother and have met dozens of great mothers, I have never met this “perfect mama” that we women seem to build in a brains.
No one vacuums her immaculate house in pearls, dresses her children so chic, cooks five star meals, knits and sells homemade blankets, sings opera-worthy lullabies, cultivates an enormous organic garden, and takes old-timey photographs of it all--at least, not all of those and certainly not all the time.
Plenty of women leave me shaking my head over “how they do it,” but, ultimately, they have different strengths then I do and embrace them. One of the keys to being a happy mama is to be the mama that YOU are. Not the mama Pinterest or anybody else wants you to be. You might not be ready to be Martha Stewart, but you can take your own amazing personal strengths and talents (you have them, girl!) and put them to use in raising your children.
As sinners, it can be easy to think we are too “messed up” as a person to raise children. It’s hard to imagine we will be the moral examples we want to be. God, thankfully, knows you’re not a perfect person, that’s why He’s giving you the opportunity to have kids. Children test your patience, your knowledge, your perseverance, and your courage. They offer plenty of opportunities for redemptive suffering and selflessness.
Children are basically the world’s best character-building exercise. In teaching your children, you re-teach yourselves the things you need to know about this world. Not to mention, the faith and love of children is a transformative element we all need. As a parent, you help form your children into people of faith, and they, unknowingly, return the favor.
So if you are considering your future as a mom with dread as well as delight, remember you don’t have to have it all figured out first. Oh, and don’t take forget to take advantage of the one thing every mama does need: prayer.
Megan Twomey, went to Hillsdale college with every intention to become a classical school teacher or professor. After graduating, however, she promptly joined the Catholic church, got married, and started having babies. You can read about her unexpected adventure as a young Catholic mama at Becoming Mama Twomey.