When You Don't Know What You're Doing as a Mother

I've been in the hood -- motherhood, that is -- for seven years, four months, and twenty-one days.  Even so, on a regular basis I still feel as if I don't entirely know what I'm doing.

By now, I understand how to manage the routine.  I know how to get the kids up and moving, feed them cereal, brush their hair and teeth, and help them to pick out clothes that (mostly) match.  I know how to read story books and coax them to eat some of their vegetables.  I know to use a baby wipe to clean their hands and feet, proclaiming it good enough so I can wait until tomorrow to give them a bath.

But there's so much that I don't know.  When I sit in the school cafeteria at Back to School Night, I have the creeping sensation that I'm not qualified to be raising a second grader.  Have I instilled enough in her?  Not just academically, but morally, socially, and emotionally?

When the girls are arguing over the same toy, ignoring the plenty around them and focusing only on the one thing that they don't have, I wonder if they're learning any of the lessons that I'm trying to teach.  When I lose my temper, raise my voice, and act as childish as they're acting, I wonder if I'm doing irrevocable damage.

My middle daughter, Brooke, attended her first day of preschool this morning.  I listened when Reese, my oldest, got off the bus and asked her about her day.  "So, what did you do at preschool?"

Brooke tilted her head to the side and paused for a long while.  "I have no idea."

Reese wasn't deterred.  "Well, did you have fun?"

Brooke nodded and said yes.  "I'll go back," she added.

I love her truthful simplicity.  She spent an entire morning doing who-knows-what -- happily bumbling her way between stations, nervously facing a new environment, blindly meeting a roomful of new people.  Hours later when she tried to give a report to her sister, the experience was a blur to her.

How often do we, as mothers, bumble our way through our days?  We hope, we experiment, we scratch that idea off the list.  We pray, we blow it, we improvise, and sometimes -- on those amazing moments -- we nail it.  We bask, we pour ourselves out, we cry, we bite our tongues, we wish we had bitten our tongues, and we remind ourselves to breathe -- just breathe -- and put one foot in front of the other and get through the next five minutes.  Or the next five hours until bedtime.

And we wake up the next day and try it all again.

I'll go back, she had said, even though she hadn't any idea what she was doing.  What a brave proclamation.

I'll replay those words in my head when I don't know what I'm doing.  Just keep going back, Robin.  Just keep going back.  Because that's what's brave.  Not having it all figured out, but proceeding in faith even when you don't.

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  1. A timely post for me - our oldest had her first day of preschool this morning. Thanks for sharing!

  2. i have felt like that a lot for the last two weeks - that I don't know what I'm doing.  We just haven't quite gotten back in the groove yet now that school has started.  But I know we all have to "keep going back" and eventually we'll get it!

  3. Amen to this.  I feel like I totally had the toddler years down and now I no longer have a toddler.  My older kids are starting their pre-teen antics and I find myself floundering, wondering what the crap I am doing.  I really and truly have no idea.  
    I need Brooke to come and give me a pep-talk.

  4. Now that my kids are all grown and old enough to have kids of their own I can honestly say - there are STILL days when I wonder what I'm doing, what I'm supposed to be doing, and whether I got any of it right along the way.  I know I did.  They know I did.  The only clue I had that I was doing anything right all along the way - well, clues... Their teachers appreciated them, even when they were at odds, and there was nothing they felt they could not talk to me about.

    I think that sense of floundering is a common thread through life, and it's a good thing because that means you're moving forward.  If you were comfortable where you were that would mean you were stationary, which is a problem.
    Bless the wisdom of kids.  =)  May we all keep going back.

  5. Your comment gives me such hope, Ayshela.  Such wisdom and perspective.  Thank you!

  6. Being that I can't send her your way (Indianapolis is a long way), let me offer the pep-talk myself: I think you're doing beautifully, my friend.

  7. I'm in the same place -- not quite acclimated with the back-to-school schedule.  It'll start to make more sense soon!

  8. Happy first day of preschool to you both!  I hope that it was a great day!

  9. I live by the power of admitting, and it looks like Brooke's got it down. So many times in the past when I was struggling to at least look like I had it all together, some blessed soul who had already embraced the power of admitting would own up to the same fear or inadequacy that I was working so hard to avoid. I am drawn to people like that, and decided to become one. Now I love admitted that I rarely know what I'm doing as a parent. Especially to other moms. Eventually they'd figure me out anyway- admitting gets me to the friends-making part a lot faster.


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