When did you feel like a “real” mom?

A few weeks ago we had a family emergency that required my husband to go away for an indeterminate amount of time. As much as I fuss over the way he does things and his tendency to be more “free range” with the kids, without him was a bit like tumbling backwards into a free fall.

I never realized how much I watched the clock all day for my 5pm reprieve. How helpful it was to have someone there who loved the kids as much as I do, so that even on the bad days we could commiserate about all the ways they ruined our life. It sounds awful, but I never realized how much he did and focused instead on the laundry he left on the floor next to the hamper and the half full cups I found all over our house.

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I’m going to say something that might shock you, but I’ve never really felt like a real mom before this experience. Despite two kids and bills and doctors and a full stay at home life, there was a part of me that was kind of faking it to make it. I did things that moms were supposed to do, and got through the days feeling like I was an imposter around all the other moms who carefully packed snacks and organized crafts. I was going through the motions of motherhood until my partner got home, then we’d put the kids to bed and I’d go back to being my old self.

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About 4 days after my husband left, somewhere around the time my son was totally melting down at a McDonald’s, I realized I was feeling like a real mom. There was no 5 pm shift change, there was no post bedtime return to the real me; this was the real me, this was my real life.

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There’s always that moment when your head is screaming “shut up! shut up! shut up!” and you have to draw on reserves you didn’t know you had in order to say “wait just one second, baby, mommy’s using the potty.” That’s real motherhood. The moment where you take the high road and acknowledge that you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.

I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t the perfect moms stuff like baking and band aids that would make me stop feeling like an imposter,  but the times I was so close to losing my shit and at my absolute limit. Like some kind of bizarro velveteen rabbit, I became real huddling in the bathroom with my kids, all 3 of us sobbing because we missed daddy and didn’t know what to do with the limitless expanse of time his absence left us with.

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Things have settled down somewhat in the last week. I gained a colossal amount of respect for women whose husbands are deployed, or travel for work, and I think single mothers are basically candidates for sainthood. We’re settling into a routine, getting to know a few new babysitters, experimenting with skype. But with every small inch forward, there’s a hurdle to clear, a part of myself I didn’t expect to see. Who is this new woman embracing motherhood, flaws and all, and not always anxious for the opportunity to return to her pre-kid self?

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I’m curious if this would have happened without this situation. Would I have eventually felt like a real mom if I hadn’t faced this emergency and been forced to sink or swim? Were there glimmers of this real mom in me all along and I just finally got the confidence in myself to embrace her? When did you start feeling like a real mom? The moment you held your newborn and knew you’d do anything for her? Or, like me, did it take a while to shake off the imposter veil and step into your new role? I can’t wait to hear all about it, let me know in the comments!




19 thoughts on “When did you feel like a “real” mom?

  1. When my daughter asked me at dinner in front of company if I had big boobs and I didn’t even blink about answering her.

  2. It took forever for me to not feel like an impostor. Sometimes I tend to feel like a failure every time my daughter has a breakdown. But, when we have a good day, and she tells me I’m the best mom ever, then I can sort of admit that I’m doing an okay job.

  3. Out of respect to the sanctity of sanctimommy I will answer this question honestly. I’m transgender (born female and gave birth to my kids) and I NEVER felt like a real mom. Now that I’ve come out and started transitioning, I can finally connect with my kids in something other than the superficial “going through the motions” kind of way. It’s nice.

    – Sanctidaddy of 5

  4. I was driving a Volvo 240 wagon across the Golden Gate bridge and suddenly, everything just clicked. I had the mom car and it was OK, my toddler was in the back seat and happy. The bridge was the perfect symbol, though I didn’t realize it at the time!

  5. Kal- why is that superficial? just trying to understand what you mean. I feel like I’m on autopilot sometimes and feel sad that I don’t feel like a real mom and am just going through the motions.

  6. not there yet. Even though I work part time, and love the days at home with the little lady (mostly), I still feel like the real me is the work me – the one that sometimes goes to London and has to stay over, and meets friends for dinner like the old days, spends her days pondering big strategic questions and how to keep improving what we do, and has grown up skills. That’s the real me. She has a nice holiday and a long weekend in the good weeks. And she longs to be working full time in the bad weeks!

  7. The first time the daycare called me at work to inform me my kid was throwing up, and then he barfed in his car seat the whole way to the doctor’s office. (I had called and made an appointment before leaving work.) Shit gets real.

  8. The first six weeks were incredibly tough, and I felt completely disconnected from him. I felt like I was caring for a very angry potato that would not so much as acknowledge me. “Instant love?” What the fuck is that? I struggled a LOT.

    Then, when he was about five or six weeks old, it happened. Little Dude woke up from a (too-brief) nap in his crib, and when I went to pick him up, gave me the BIGGEST look of “you are my mommy and I love you.” Not ashamed I broke down and BAWLED.

  9. Mine took quite a bit longer than I care to admit most days. It happened when I was at a parent/teacher conference. The teacher called me Mrs. Smith, and for the first time ever I didn’t look around to see if someone was addressing my mother in law.

  10. Welcome to the every day life of a single mom. I didn’t have time to wonder if I was a real mom….I HAD to be…whatever it looked like…and had to be a real Dad, too…

  11. For me it was realising I was someone’s mum. My daughter had to have surgery on her head at four months old and after I held her all night, I was so grateful to be her “mum” and to be that person that can hold you and make you feel better no matter what. You could see that my touch reduced her stress from the monitors. It was very bittersweet.

  12. @IPAL

    What I mean is, it’s not really deep as far as parenting is concerned. For myself, it was more of just doing what needed to be done, or more detrimental still, what I THOUGHT moms were supposed to do. Everything lacked personality (my personal touch) and substance. So for me, it was a very surface type of “mothering”. I think all parents have bad days where we just want to get through them, but now I feel like “me” connecting or at least present for my kids rather than some fake “mom” persona that I was trying to put on.

    I didn’t make me a BAD parent, exactly, but it prevented me from becoming a better one. Not to “society” but in the eyes of my children. (I hope, lol)

    Hope that clarifies.

  13. I’m so happy so many women experienced having a partner/husband/helpmeet in the parenting gig. Although I was married for 11 years, we NEVER looked forward to daddy coming home with anything but dread for his verbal and emotional abuse. As for helping out with the kids, ha! At the very least, on the best days, he simply demanded attention for himself. *sigh*. I never knew not being a “real mom”, since I never had a real partner.

  14. I don’t know the exact moment, but it was definitely awhile. With my first, she was a c section and didn’t breathe at first, so by the time I saw her she was already swaddled (and very swollen from excess fluid, since I was on an IV for awhile beforehand) and turned into some generic baby. I felt zero connection for the first day. She took awhile to really nurse, too. I “fell in love” by the time we left the hospital, but it still didn’t feel real. It felt like we were babysitting for a long time.
    It came on gradually, but I had a moment somewhere around the first timeout. Something about discipline makes it real. Also, the first time I did an all nighter with her without crying.

    Side note: thank you for sharing, Kal! Glad you are finding yourself.

  15. I’m constantly reminded I’m the mom around dinner time. In my pre-kiddo days I could survive on cereal, peanut butter crackers, and basically anything that could be microwaved. I some times cringe when I do my plate checks to make sure my snowflakes are eating something half way decent.

  16. My daughter was a micro preemie. I was barely allowed to touch her and didn’t get to hold her for three days. For a very long time, (three days), I wondered how long was the appropriate amount of time for me to sit next to this tiny baby before going back to my room to sleep. The instant the nurse placed her on my chest was the very moment I thought, “I finally feel like a mommy!! This is the coolest shit!!”. I thought that was the very moment for the past 2 years until the day that my kisses were the only ones to make the boo-boos all better, (grandma who? Finally.) That was the moment! Well, until the next one…

  17. For me it happened tonight. My little girl is 19 days old. I have been extremely ill had her by emergency c-section. I had to go hospital tonight ( still there now) I had to leave my girl with my mum as it’s night and she will need several feed through the night. This is the first time I have left her and I just sat and cried for an hour because I miss her. I don’t do crying so it made me realise I’m a real mum and would do anything for her.

  18. I have raised three children. Two as a married, stay-at-home-for-five-years mom with a father who got up with screaming babies at night, picked them up from school, helped care for them when sick, etc. etc. Then, at 39 years old, I had baby #3 and found myself raising her alone, unexpectedly. Then I realized the first two times I was kind of an “assistant.” In fact, I was so immature and selfish with the first one that I could not handle getting up at night with her and her father would walk the floor with her for hours, then go work a construction job from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. So with baby #3, I got to learn what real sacrifice feels like. I spent this past year of kindergarten nursing here through many, many nights of mutated cold virus #85, followed by a full day of teaching college writing courses on my feet, followed by homework, dinner, bedtime…completely on my own. I say this not to act like a martyr, because I am aware that many, many married women are also basically doing it alone like this. Just that I didn’t feel like a real mom–by that I mean tough, strong, determined, and grown up–until my third child. I feel like a survivor. but also a champion. I love this post–thank you.

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