New mothers often ask me for advice about how to nurture or raise their children because I’m the mother of ten and I’ve written lots of books full of parenting information and ideas. What I think a mother needs most is renewed confidence in her own instincts. I vividly remember trying to follow my pediatrician’s advice to keep my newborn’s feedings at three hour intervals. I was pacing the living room with a hungry baby one day trying to hold her off for another hour when I suddenly realized how ludicrous my actions were. I knew my baby was hungry and that if I fed her she’d be happy. Why was I allowing some “expert” to tell me what to do with my own child? I immediately sat down and fed my hungry baby. We both stopped crying.
I whole heartedly believe that mothers should read all the latest information they can find and be willing to listen to other’s advice. Then neatly tuck all that material in the file drawer for later reference and look into your child’s eyes. No matter how incompetent you feel as a new mother, you are the one person in the world that spends the most time with this totally unique new person – the one person who knows and loves your child best. On those hard days, if you pray and ask God to help you understand and act on your child’s most vital needs, you will be taught by the only true expert who knows and loves both you and your child.
Feelings of perpetual incompetence are part of being a mother. They start at birth with feeding and sleeping issues but soon grow into discipline and independence issues. Though the issues change, the feelings of mothering incompetence remain constant. You’re never been the mother of this child at this stage in their development before - until the day you die. The truth is, even if you don’t have all the answers and know just what to do, you have made a commitment to be there for your child and care – forever.
There will be times when your baby, toddler, teen or married child will come to your with a tummy ache, a skinned knee, friend problems or a broken heart and you will not be able to take all the pain away. So you will hug each other and cry together. In the end, knowing someone cares is what children need most.
Maybe you’ll never become a nutrition expert, understand the current discipline techniques or get over the empty-next syndrome, but you will always be vital to your child’s sense of well-being. You move from diapers to driver’s licenses to dorm rooms and back to diapers faster than you think.
While I was walking out the door after visiting my daughter who had recently given birth to her third child, she looked into my eyes and asked, “What do you do when you feel overwhelmed Mom?”
“Get on your knees and pray,” I told her. “Have a good cry. Then get up and go back to work.”