I’m starting a new series on this blog called “Mommy Mythbusting.” This post will help explain how I came to be a mom after being happily child-free for so long. It’s my first mythbusting post; you’ll have to let me know what you think.
One of the reasons I put off having a baby for so very long (til I was just a tiny bit shy of 40) is that I thought you had to be utterly selfless to be a mom. The reason I thought that was this: my mom is a saint – totally selfless and self-sacrificial for her family. Mommers is a seriously tough act to follow. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to live up to that, so why even have a kid? I didn’t want to short-change a baby by giving him or her anything less than Mommers-level awesomeness. Yet I also didn’t think for a second I could ever achieve that level of selflessness (nor did I really want to try, because it meant putting myself last!).
Here’s a story from my childhood, to prove this point.
One day when I was still pretty young but old enough to be getting aware of things like this, Mommers was making us toast. She gave my brother and I the best pieces of bread, and saved the unappealing crusty heel of bread for herself. She did this completely intentionally. In my entire childhood, I never once ate a heel of bread because my Mom always kept those for herself and gave us kids the best pieces. I had never noticed or appreciated this before, but for some reason I noticed it on this day. I asked, “Mommy, why do you always give us the best bread and take the ugly end piece for yourself? Wouldn’t it be more fair to all take a turn getting the ucky piece?” And she smiled this unbelievable Mommers smile (full of love and saintliness), and she said “Larabelle, you’ll understand one day when you’re a mom. It’s just what moms do.”
I thought, then and for about the next 25 or 30 years, “Yuck! Why would I ever want to be a mom? I don’t want that old ucky picked-over heel of bread! I want the best piece!” And so I waited and waited to feel that feeling. That selflessness that I thought you had to have in order to be a mom, or at least a good one. I wasn’t going to have kids until I felt it! But you know what, I never felt it. I just wasn’t cut from the same cloth as Mommers. I was too selfish. I liked things and food and fun too much – I didn’t want to miss out on the best things in life. I didn’t want to hand them over to a child, I wanted to have them for myself.
But things change, and even people do sometimes, and one day I realized that I really did want to try being a mom. I still wasn’t sure I could nail the whole selfless Mommers thing, but I wanted to do my best and give it an honest try. And not long after that, we found ourselves pregnant in the summer of 2009. And do you know what happened? I felt something change inside me, as clearly as flipping a light switch on or off. I didn’t flip the switch – I still don’t know who or what flipped the switch. Maybe Zoe herself, or maybe the universe, or God. But instantly I felt that I would happily give the best piece of bread – and the very best of anything and everything else - to this tiny little sesame seed growing inside of me.
Fast forward to March 2010 when I held our precious Zoebelle for the first time, with E beside me and Mommers (soon to be known as Gran) flying across the country to be with us – and you know what? That feeling only grew in intensity. The feeling of wanting, no NEEDING, to give her the absolute best. And a sense of feeling honored, even privileged, to be able to put myself last.
Do you have to be selfless to become a mom? No, I don’t think so… but becoming a mom definitely makes you that way. At least it did for me, and I never thought I’d be able to say that. I still shake my head in amazement over the changes I’ve gone through. I’m a better mom than I ever dreamed possible. Since Zoe changed my life, I’m also a better wife, daughter, friend and person overall. That’s not to say I don’t still have my selfish or self-centered moments – after all, 40 years is a long time of doing things a certain way, and we all revert back to old bad habits at times. But as far as Zoe is concerned, she always gets the best. The absolute best.
And now, when I make toast or a sandwich for my big beautiful two year old girl, I am so happy to give her the best piece of bread. I am ecstatic knowing that I really do have Mommers’ selfless, giving spirit in me and that I really have learned to be like her – maybe not all the way, but enough to be an awesome mom. I love giving Zoe and E the best bread slices and taking the heel for myself. In fact, that last, crumpled, crusty piece suddenly feels like the most delicious and amazing piece in the whole loaf. My favorite piece, because of what it means and who I’ve become.
So, who gets the best piece of bread in your house? And when did you first feel that “selfless” Mommy-love feeling? I’d love to know in the comments below.