Natural Motherhood

Four score and two long months ago, I celebrated my 4th blogaversary, and threw out to you, my awesome readers, the chance to ask me anything you wanted.

Mel asked me this: "Do you believe in the idea of being a "natural mother"? Are some moms "natural mothers" while others have to work at it?"

She had read this thought-provoking post, and wanted to know what I thought.

I have spent a lot of time contemplating this very question, even before Mel asked it.

And truth be told, yes. I do believe in the idea of being a natural mother. I also believe I am not one.

Even before the twins arrived and threw what little sense of "mommy pride" I had out the window, I found motherhood challenging. I am inherently selfish. I enjoy being by myself in absolute quiet, drinking coffee by myself while reading newspapers, and taking long walks or runs by myself, with only my iPod for company.

None of these favored activities goes particularly well with being the mother to three small kids.

I have a very difficult time balancing work with at-home motherhood. When I am stressed, I am even more impatient than I normally am. I do not enjoy being interrupted 47 times in 20 minutes to fulfill the never-ending needs of one child or the other (or the other). Tasks that usually would take me 30 minutes to complete take easily twice that because I have no peace until they're in bed for the night. I have no idea how I'm going to balance my freelance work, teaching online classes, and caring for 3 kids under the age of 3.5.

I have to work at (and lots of times fake completely) being even in the ballpark of being considered a "good mother." Most of the time, I fail miserably. I resent them a lot for draining my time and my energy, I don't particularly enjoy moving from one play activity to the next to the next all day long, because my three-year-old can't entertain herself for more than 2 minutes, and Nicholas won't stop crying unless he's glued to my body. I sometimes have to restrain myself from asking my temper-tantrum-throwing preschooler, "Are you f-ing kidding me?" when she's screaming because her cereal bowl is the wrong color. And I often think I would be a much better mother if I worked FT or even PT outside my home. I know my life won't always be like this, but right now, there is no time left for me. I don't even pee on my own half the time.

So natural? No. I am not a natural mother. But I know plenty who are.

My oldest friend is a natural mother. We met in kindergarten. She lives in Minnesota now, but we see eachother when she comes to town to visit family, and she calls me to talk often. She's a SAHM to three adorable, well-behaved little boys. She is patient and sweet. She never yells or threatens or silently swears at them as I do with my kids. They are always working on one craft project or another, visiting a new playground in her town, or playing "school" in their basement. She devotes zero time to herself and doesn't seem to mind this, and she's not on the Internet. The last time I sent out photos of the kids and asked her if she saw them, she laughed and said she hadn't even switched on her computer in five months because she's so busy with them.

Five months.

If I'm away from my laptop for five minutes, I start to get the shakes.

My mother and grandmother are also what I consider natural mothers. They sacrificed everything for their children. In their minds, the children come first- their children's needs before their own, their children's happiness before their own, their children's time before their own. My grandmother never worked and my mom left work when I was born and didn't return to work until my younger sister went to kindergarten. As my mom likes to tell me, she spent all day playing with us, because she didn't have anything else to do.

The prospect of doing the same does not appeal to me in the least. Yes, my children are important to me, but I am important as well. What I want matters too. And yet at times I wish I was a natural mother. My stress levels would be lower. I might be happier.

In my opinion, natural motherhood is not something you learn (obviously). You either are or you aren't a natural mother.

And this mommy?

Is naturally not.

13 Responses to “Natural Motherhood”

  1. # Blogger Rachel

    I would have put myself into the 'natural' category except ... my first thought when you said your friend hasn't been online in months was "How does she shop????"  

  2. # Blogger Jamie

    I am definitely not a "natural" mother either and already question my sanity daily -- I know the birth of my twins is totally going to throw me for a loop.

    I wish I knew what to do to make it better. I just tell myself that once they are all in preschool and I'm back to working full-time it will be better -- but realistically I'm not sure if it will be.

    Makes you wonder how we ended up with three children, doesn't it?

    I can't imagine not being on the computer for 5 months....  

  3. # Blogger Mom24

    Well, just don't confuse natural mommy with good mommy because you don't have to be a "natural" mommy to be a good mommy.

    Me thinks you're definitely a good mommy.

    Five months? Yikes! I'd have the shakes. :-)  

  4. # Blogger Unknown

    I agree with Mom24 - you don't have to be a natural mommy to be a good mommy. And you're definitely a good one.

    I think I fall somewhere in between. I realize I could have been happy with one child . . . three children later! But ask me which of my two children I'd give up, and I'd rather pluck every hair from my body one at a time than to have to decide that.

    I'm constantly torn between wanting to be the "perfect" mom and the reality that I need to be alone and do my own things from time to time. And I think most of us fall in that camp.  

  5. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I don't think it is selfish to have needs. I really don't. I maintain that to be another way is actually unnatural. So, therefore, I am a little bothered by this notion of a "natural mother."

    I love my children above all. They are my life. This makes me a natural mother. Period. I don't think being selfless makes you anything but that. Good for them. If it floats their boat to have no life outside their kids, then I am thrilled that they found their niche. But they are not better or more "natural" mothers than me.

    What I am not good at, I hire people to do. I think about my children constantly and try to have a good life for them. I am offended by the notion that just b/c I still have needs I am somehow unnatural. I think this applies to you, too. I say lets cut the guilt. You are one of the best mothers I know. I mean that, Kristi. Just b/c you are human does not make you any less so. No one accuses father of not being natural fathers b/c they don't give up every aspect of life that made them themselves. On the contrary, they are lauded for spending 10 percent of their day with their kids.  

  6. # Blogger Sunny

    +1 for My Wombinations! I am not really buying into the "natural motherhood" and "good mother" labels. Especially how some women seem to use them to feel superior to other women, that really irks me. (Obviously excepting those tragic cases of abuse, neglect, etc. when the parents would be considered BAD. I know, I'm being a bit hypocritical. But I can't help it.) :)

    We are mothers, yes. But we are human. We have needs, just like our husbands and men and women who are not parents. I am suspicious of those "selfless" mothers who spend 0 time on themselves -- because there has to be a balance. We cannot give and give and give but take nothing. We have to set boundaries, limits, and support systems. We need a break sometimes.

    I do get your point, though. Some of us have a higher tolerance for the amount of hours we can spend nuturing children during the day. I personally love staying home full time (although with one child -- ask me again in 9 months) :) but I don't blame my friends who work PT and FT because they want to. To each his own. I think it's important that we know ourselves -- know our limits and ask for help when we need time for our own pursuits.

    I think you are more normal than you realize. With the exceptional stress you are under (three young kids, a set of twins, moving) I think your feeling of "unnaturalness" is probably peaking. Give yourself some time, and some grace. You sound like a great mom to me.  

  7. # Blogger

    Some good comments here.

    Natural or not, you obviously love them and want to do what is best for them. That's all that matters. That's what will stick with them through their lives. They will know they were loved and wanted above all else.  

  8. # Anonymous Ness @ Drovers Run

    Oh I SO wish we lived in closer proximity to one another. I would love to kick back over a double espresso with you and laugh about our lives.

    Oh well, thank god for the internet is all I can say.

    I can totally relate to 'the shakes' things ha ha.

    Love my kids to death, but damnit I love me too!  

  9. # Blogger Mel

    Ditto Ness' comment. I agree with every last thing you wrote Kristy.

    My Wombinations is right though; having needs doesnt make us unnatural, frankly I think it makes us MORE NATURAL! I think ignoring your own needs and limitations is short-sighted.

    No internet? No computer? In five months? Noooo. Rather take a kidney from me than cut me off!!

    Thanks for answering my question. I think I may link it cos many of my readers are in the same space.  

  10. # Blogger MsGraysea

    Oh, Kristy, this is a beautifully honest post and I just had to comment. First, I think you are a great mother, while being honest about how you feel in the process. I laughed out loud at the cereal bowl color drama.
    My oldest is now 46 and youngest is 39 years old and I have agonozed all those years about my lack of natural the point that I have discussed it with my children. Their perspective is quite different from mine, and they find no problem at all, and give me fairly high praise. They know I struggled a lot and feel it imbued them with strengths they might not have had. Go figure....
    Anyway, I believe your honesty will someday be a great gift to your children. I felt my mother was a natural mother (7 great children and a wonderful marriage), and one of the things I marvel at the most is her ability to carve out time for her own creativity, friendships, and to rest. She worked at home doing catering for others and childcare, as well as helping my father on our large farm.
    You are doing well, the conflicts will be magnified at times, and at others feel just right. Sometimes the dramas will be funny, at other times infuriating. It is OK.
    This morning you have helped this grandmother to feel a bit better about her own mothering. Thank you!

    PS...Thinking that the added space in the new home will help.
    And, one more thing....the color of the cereal bowl will graduate to some other drama, be sure of that....just sayin'.  

  11. # Anonymous Bradi Nathan

    I love this post. Actually, you remind me a lot of myself. My kids tell me that they love me all the time so, natural or not, I must be doing something right. I have to believe that you are too!  

  12. # Blogger kenju

    I think what you described is what is natural. I was just like that; selfish and resentful of interruptions, even though I loved my kids to pieces and always took care of their needs.  

  13. # Blogger Suzanne

    I think I've posted enough that you know where I'm coming from on this issue, but I had to throw this out there. I know there is such a thing as a natural mother because my sister-in-law is one. She has 3 boys from a previous marriage, ages 7-10 (I think, yes, they're all very close in age) and almost 3 others with my brother (a nearly-3-year-old little boy, a little girl who just turned 1, and another little girl due in July.)

    Janelle has the patience of a saint. Her house is a disaster area, but she's okay with that because she'd rather take care of her massive brood. She is an excellent mother who takes her kids to Boy Scouts and sports activities and generally makes sure that they are well-behaved happy kids. When her 2-year-old gets into a scuffle with mine (we were pregnant at the same time so they're very close in age), she calmly separates them and distracts them and says, shrugging, "they're just being two." She has no problem changing diapers or playing cars for the umpteenth time (although she spends a fair amount of time on Facebook which I imagine gives her a nice time out with pseudo-adults). And she can listen to a whiny kid for hours and never flinch. That, to me, is a natural mother. Things like that don't come naturally to me. I have to work at it. Hard.  

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