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I should have known that going to the grocery store wouldn't work today," Linda scolded herself as she placed two-month-old Jason into the infant seat in the cart. Already, he was fussing, and she felt embarrassed and guilty as he whimpered all the way through the produce section.
She checked her watch. Almost 2: 30. No wonder he was fussy. He should be home in his crib asleep. Yet, in between feedings and quick naps, it had taken her all day until now simply to get the baby ready to go to the store.
What was wrong with her? Since becoming a mother, she'd totally lost control of her time. She used to be able to make a list and accomplish tasks efficiently. When she was pregnant, she'd pictured herself getting everything done and still having time for herself. Now she could barely get out of the house to run a single errand -- like going to the grocery store -- which, if she could pull it off, would probably turn out to be her one accomplishment of the day. Big whoop!
Maybe, if she cut her list in half and only bought milk and diapers and something for dinner, she could finish quickly, she decided as she headed for the frozen food section. What else was on her list? Oh, no, the list! She rummaged frantically through her purse. She must've left it at home on the kitchen counter. She sighed and pushed the cart faster.
The store seemed crowded for this time of day and, by the time she got to the dairy products, Jason had worked his fussing into pitiful wails.
By now he was bawling. Everyone within thirty feet was watching as she tried to comfort him -- with no success. She finally made it through the checkout line, wheeled her groceries and Jason to the car, strapped him in, and drove home with one hand, using the other to stroke his face. He finally calmed down and, a few blocks from home, she faced another problem. Exhausted from the outing, he was about to fall asleep.
Oh, no! She needed to get him home, feed him, and put him down for a real nap so she would have time to unload and put away the groceries and think about dinner before he woke up again. She shook a rattle in his face while loudly singing his name until they pulled up in front of the house.
Quickly, Linda unbuckled herself and then Jason, slung the diaper bag and purse over her shoulder, and then heaved the infant seat up in front of her. She resisted the urge to grab a sack of groceries as well and trudged up the steps.
Once inside, she dumped her load on the table and whisked the baby to the bedroom, where she changed his diaper. Rocking him while he ate, she tried to enjoy the moment. This was the image she had envisioned when she dreamed about becoming a mother -- soft moments like this, holding a serene, sweet child, the whole focus of her life.
But now thoughts of melting groceries and making dinner and doing more laundry blocked any feelings of serenity. Tears suddenly formed under her closed, heavy eyelids. She felt so tired. More tired and discouraged and alone than ever before in her whole life. She thought she could handle -- even enjoy -- being a mom. She thought she'd know how to do it. But this wasn't what she'd expected. This was, well, it was so hard!
What's the matter with me? Linda wondered.
Expectations Versus Reality
Most likely, you've been where Linda was. Maybe, for you, it was last month. Maybe it was last week. Maybe it was an hour ago. Whenever it was, this disappointment, confusion, sense of inadequacy is surprising. Mothering isn't supposed to be this way!
In the days prior to actually becoming mothers, we fantasize about motherhood, imagining it to be magical, swathed in perfect pastel images. Then reality hits.
My dreams and expectations were along the lines of a Pampers commercial -- lots of smiles and coos and a perfectly happy and contented baby. Sure, there would be difficult times, but they would not get me down for long. And my love for my baby would overcome any lack of sleep or missed lunches with my girlfriends. Not so, I've learned.
And a second dreamed,
I thought my child and I would be perfect together. I pictured myself with unending energy, looking great when my husband came home. We'd sit down to a well-balanced meal, followed by family strolls in the park and quiet romantic evenings while baby slept. What a joke!
Ha! Only a few months into mothering, we face the disappointment of the gap between our expectations and the rock-hard reality of being on duty twenty-four hours a day, engaged in some of the most unseemly aspects of life.
Yes, of course there are wonderful, tender moments. Even whole hours of bliss! Caressing petal-soft skin. Fingering perfect miniature hands, dimpled at the knuckles. Smooching under chins, behind ears, and smack-dab in the center of plump cheeks. Staring deeply into eyes enraptured by our mere presence. Leaning down in response to raised-arm requests for "Uppie!" Yes, there are wondrous times in mothering!
And there are also shocking, unexpected days and weeks, when we quickly come to the end of who we are and what we know and we wonder how we're going to make it through the next twenty years . . . or twenty minutes.