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!