Remember those girls who, as children, had beautiful blonde pigtails and took their baby dolls on walks around the neighborhood in precious, miniaturized strollers? They were adorable — so young and yet so nurturing. Everyone looked at them and thought, "Wow. They'll make amazing moms someday. They're going to have the luckiest kids in the world."
I was not one of those girls.
The beginnings of a reluctant mom
I only played with one doll — a Barbie I got for my sixth birthday. I gave her the world's most hideous haircut and then tossed her into the pit of despair that was my toy box. If you asked my teachers in grade school to define my personality, they would probably say "bossy" or "know-it-all" before they came up with "nurturing." I had no interest in babies or frills or lace or ruffles, and my main goal in life was to travel and get as many advanced degrees as humanly possible.
This is probably where you're expecting me to relate some inspirational story about how I found my inner mother warrior. Sorry to disappoint. After three years of marriage, my husband and I decided it was time to start our family, and I was reluctantly game. I wasn't opposed to kids, per se. I was just very unsure of my own mothering ability.
The making of a reluctant mom
My oldest son made me a mother in 2009 with a fair amount of kicking and screaming. My kicking and screaming, while still very real, was mostly metaphorical. A huge part of me held out hope that some miracle would occur when I saw his face for the first time, but alas, he was grey and covered in goo. (A note to first-time parents: Don't look too closely at your newborn until they've wiped him down good.) At my son's birth, I felt protective, and I certainly loved him, but I still didn't know what I was doing.
It's been over six years, and we've added two more boys. I still don't know what I'm doing. Instead of freaking out about it, I've come to accept it as my version of normal. It's normal to take some time to warm up to this motherhood gig. Our babies don't come preprogrammed knowing how to fit into a family, and we don't necessarily come knowing how to mother. We all have to find our own personal groove and figure out what works. There's not a time limit on gaining that wisdom.
The wisdom of a reluctant mom
Some of us are born mothers. Some women have beautiful blonde pigtails and play with dolls and ache longingly for the day when they will hold their very own, real life babies in their arms. That's one way to come to motherhood.
However, it doesn't make you a bad mom if you never felt that passionate desire for kids. I love my kids something fierce, in spite of my early ambivalence. It's not planning and forethought that makes you a mom. You become a mom during late nights and over toothless baby grins, with hugs and kisses and countless whispered prayers. When a baby is born, a mother is born, and no amount of preparation can prepare you for that moment when you welcome a life so inexplicably linked to your heart that it hurts a little. There is nothing in the world like being a mom.
Reluctant mothers of the world, take heart. I haven't exactly outgrown my independent ways, and there are still times when it's mighty tempting to run away to Mexico, far away from dirty diapers and fingerprint-smudged windows. However, all those sappy inspirational posters really are true — you always love your own kids. No matter how much persuading it took to get you to have them.