I find myself in a terribly awkward stage of motherhood. As an older first-time mom, I tend not to fit in any “regular” crowd. Most of the parents with kids Engelberta’s age are younger and are still adding to their families. A smaller group are maybe the same age (but still mostly younger) who also have older kids. Most of my peers have kids that are teenagers even if they have younger children, too. As a parent, I should have most in common with the younger parents, but they are on average at least a decade younger. This tends to put me in the seasoned pro age group in spite of my lack of experience. I am simultaneously old and new. It’s weird.
Weirder still is hanging out as a parent in the preschool hallway surrounded by moms who have one or more little people and seeing that they have another on the way. The odds that I will join them are slim to none. It’s painful. It’s so hard to feel unbounded joy at being the mother of a living child (who happens to be amazing!) and depthless sorrow at knowing it will never happen again. So I watch the endless parade of baby bellies walk by and try not to feel jealous because I really am happy for my friends. But I am really sad for me. And no matter how I work and pray to fight it, I feel petty and resentful. I have a hard time spending time with this group of amazing moms because I have nothing in common with a twenty-something woman with two kids and one more on the way; it is a completely foreign way of life to me. I don’t count myself among their number and tend to fall into teaching or leadership roles to avoid feeling inadequate.
I also feel awkward about how much we give Engelberta in the way of big birthday parties or toys. I don’t get into the “Mommy War” mess, but sometimes I feel like I accidentally contribute to the comparison games. We have had big birthday parties every year for Engelberta, and someone always comments along the lines of, “Oh, now I have to step up my game,” or, “Of course you made a huge cake.” I hate feeling like I should justify having a party. Here’s the bottom line: as long as Engelberta wants to invite half the world to come and eat and have cake, we will keep doing it. We have one shot at having parties because we will likely only have one child. We are more settled financially than most young parents, so we can afford to make a big cake and serve lunch. I am sure we have too many toys, but it’s hard not to buy things knowing that we will have one chance to experience this stage of development and play. We do discipline Engelberta, and we teach her empathy and respect. We are teaching her that things are just things, and you can’t have everything you want just because you want it, and people are infinitely important as creations of God. And none of those are things I should feel like I have to say, except that I am not immune to the guilt common to the “Mommy Wars” or to comparing myself to other moms.
I have a whole lot of awkward and not a whole lot of confidence to overcome it. If you are one of my fellow mothers of a tiny human, please forgive me if I exhibit the emotional maturity of my toddler in the face of my awkwardities (as you forgive that mash-up of awkward and absurdities…). I am trying really hard not to cry when I see your new baby bump and really hard not to explain why we invite a gazillion people to our house for cake and really hard to figure out where I fit in. I feel like I’m back in middle school just trying not to be too weird all the time. So bear with me; it’s just a phase.