Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids.


A compilation of stories and lessons learned

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Doing the Best We Can



In Honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday, I thought I’d share what I've considered to be one of the most important lessons I believe that I've learned about motherhood.

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My best friend and I had our babies within weeks of each other.  The next ones were born within months of each other.  By the time we had our last, we had 5 kids between us- all under the age of 4.  Some days were wonderful.  Most of them were hard.  It didn’t help that our hormones were completely out of whack at the same time.  

A typical conversation of ours over the phone:   “Maybe if we can just get to one of our houses together, we can help each other make it through the day.”  The thought of a simple task such as cooking lunch for the children seemed near impossible.  I was also still feeling weak from my last C-section.  

So we would get together and try to work in 'shifts'.  One would cook with a baby on her hip, serving up plates like an assembly line and the other would be carrying around another baby while supervising the older 3 that were somewhat 'playing' together.  Some days we’d work on thriving.  Some days we were just trying to survive.

We had both struggled with bouts of PPD.  One day it got the best of her.  She fell into an even darker place.  Her husband supported her in every way he could.  Still, it was hard to understand.  And even though I understood- there wasn’t much I could do to help.  I was still struggling to keep my head above water as well.  I listened to her and quietly cried with her.   

On a particularly bad day, I decided that I needed to call her mother- who was like a second mother to me.  She would know what to do.

Without hesitation, her mom flew across the country to be with her daughter as soon as she could get a ticket.  I (trying my best to help out) picked her up at the airport.  At the sight of her I couldn’t hold my tears in any longer.  I wanted to be strong for my friend, but inside I was secretly dying too.

I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing wrong.  Everyone else made it look so easy.  They said they were happier now as a mother than they’d ever been before in their life.  What was wrong with me?  I felt like I had not only failed myself, I had failed my children.  This was not how I had envisioned it...

I crumbled in her mom's embrace.  Minutes passed.  Finally I pulled myself together enough to drive home.  Along the way I answered many questions and concerns she had about her daughter.  I know she understood.  I knew she’d know what to do to help her.

And then, she looked at me and said, “You know Julia, my mother made many mistakes. She had a lot of things going on in her life when I was young.  I harbored resentment towards her for a long time.   And then one day when I became a mother, I had this simple realization that changed everything. I realized that my mother had been just doing the best she could with what she knew.  I was finally able to let go of the grudges I had held towards her.  And I realized that is all I can do too.  That’s all any of us can do.”

It was such a simple statement, but it changed everything.  I clung to those words.  Things began to get easier as they usually will do.  Not over night, but eventually.  And one day I realized, I too really loved being a mom.

I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.  Despite the fact that I'm not Martha Stewart or June Cleaver, I too had something to offer my children.  All mothers do.

Years later, when given the opportunity, I tell all new mothers- including my little sister who had a baby 3 weeks ago-  we are all just doing the best we can.  It’s such a simple statement- but such a release.  We can let go of the judgment of others and ourselves, the fantasies of being perfect, and the guilt for falling short.  Some days all you need to worry about is surviving.  Tomorrow you can work on thriving.

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16 comments:

  1. Wow, that's really powerful and so true...

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  2. That was wonderful. Thanks for sharing. We do all come to each situation from a different place.

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  3. I will keep saying this to myself today, great advice Julia!!

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    1. Thank you! I hope it'll help you as much as it helps me.

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  4. Julia:

    I think you just summed up the major conflict in my fiction manuscript. This post represents my life and the lives of so many women. Everything seemed so much easier for our mothers. And, in some ways, it may have been. They didn't have internet or phones that bing and ping. They didn't have 24/7 television screaming warnings at them. They had one book: Dr. Spock. (And they had their mothers-in-law.) ;-)

    I had a very traumatic delivery and I found myself baffled. Everyone else delivered babies effortlessly. Why was my experience so hard? And then so lonely? So you are not alone. But you are right, it isn't about perfection. It's just about being. Loving. Nice to meet you.

    I bopped over from Write on Edge. You showed up right next to me. I'm glad you did. ;-)

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    1. Well I can't wait to read your book. You'll have to let me know when it goes to press- as it sounds very interesting!

      I agree with you. I do feel part of our feelings of falling short come from this age of information overload.

      Nice to meet you too! Stop by any time!

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  5. My best friend and I were similar in our timings of three (each) of our children. I stopped at 4, she went on to have seven and I have no idea how she copes. Thanks for your honesty and insight, and keep doing the best you can :)

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    1. Oh wow- bless her heart! I couldn't imagine. And thank you so much!

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  6. It sounds like you both had some pretty great support to get you through those tough times; nice that it also came with such wise advice. I could stand to keep that in mind more in my own life.

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    1. Yes, I did. I feel very fortunate for that. Take care and thank you for reading!

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    2. Julia, I love the way you write about actual life events. You have an innate ability to capture the moment/event and shed light on it in a way no others can. PPD can be a devastating "sickness" and mothers need to be aware that it is normal, can be treated, and should not be ignored because of fear or judgement. Too many parents enter into deep depression without recognizing the signs. Family support is so crucial and in more cases, the support of true friends and counselors is even better. Thank you for sharing your personal life events and thank god everyday for everything you have!

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    3. Thank you so much. That means so much to hear. I am very thankful everyday! :)

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  7. My mama is so smart. :)

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