Friday, July 1, 2011

Mothers bake cookies....right?

Not surprisingly, I've been thinking a lot about motherhood lately.

When you're pregnant, you spend a lot of time focusing on this being inside of you--the fact that it IS inside of you, the fact that you are responsible for keeping it healthy and safe, and reading each week about how and what is developing. Your life changes completely as people begin to see your belly and it becomes the sole topic of conversation between you and family, co-workers, strangers, and friends. You also read about and talk about and think about and take actual classes about the big, when, how much will it hurt and why.

But. Where is all the talk about afterwards? Where and when do you learn how to be a mother? As much as I wish being a mother was all about wearing an apron and baking cookies, it so, so is not.

I've never known myself as a mother. I've known myself as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend, Even being a live-in nanny was something totally and completely different than being a mother. Being a mother feels so much bigger than all of those things, like I need a diploma, a badge, a monthly pass, AND a government background check. But they're just going to let me go home with a little tiny baby and try my best to do what I think is best. They might check the car seat installation. And then we'll drive away.

And here is where the appreciation for my mother comes in. In fact, she is the one who has been preparing me for this job my entire life. She probably didn't plan on doing that; she was just being herself. She was just being the best mother she knew how to be, and teaching me how to do it in the process.

Being a mother is innate to my mother. She has three biological daughters. But the number of children she has mothered over the years is innumerable. She is the type of person who envelops you in her warmth, who knows the right questions to ask so you can answer the questions that you're struggling with, who truly enjoys the role of motherhood and takes it very seriously. She can schedule like nobody's business. And she is now a grandmother to 4 (and a half) babies, which is the only role that she might enjoy more than mothering.

My mother is only human. Like everyone on earth, she has strengths and weaknesses and both of those things have only made her an amazing role model. And as proof of this, I have two sisters who have slipped into motherhood like a pair of 6 inch Louboutins--soft, powerful, sexy, capable, strong.

I've always been too tall to wear heels. I find this worrisome.

I never knew my mother's mother. To me, she's always been this beautiful young woman, poised and serene in her wedding dress, framed, on a bookshelf. The resemblance between my mother, her mother, and one of my sisters is almost spooky. Her name was Marion, and over the years I've learned bits and pieces about the woman she was. I think the qualities I see in my mother and my sisters originated in my grandmother Marion, evidenced mainly in the look in my mother's eyes when I ask about her mom. They smile and cry at the same time. My grandmother wasn't around to see my mom raise us, to give my mom advice, to reassure her she was doing the right thing. I know how proud Marion would be of my mom, and I know how lucky I am to have a mother to look to, to learn from.

I have moments when I know I can do this. And I have moments when I couldn't be more scared. I have incredible role models. I have always imagined myself as a mother. But I've never done it before. And I hope this little one, someday, will understand that I want nothing more than to do my best. I will even wear an apron and bake cookies. A lot. I'll probably burn some, but I promise that I will get a few batches just right.