I'd like to think that I will always have a handle on things, especially as a mother. I would like to think that I can control every situation and answer every question and give my son absolutely everything he needs. What can I say? I'm realistic like that. However, I know that's simply not the case and, when the realization that I can and probably will fail becomes too much, insecurity rears its ugly head. Thankfully, I've learned to rely on the reminders every new mom needs when she's feeling insecure; reminders that can push everything back into perspective, strengthen my resolve and boost my self-esteem and confidence.
I knew how important (and numerous) my responsibilities would be as a mother, don't get me wrong. I knew that caring for another human being requires a lot of time and effort and attention. However, I didn't realize how those responsibilities would affect me physically, mentally or emotionally, until my son was in my arms. All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed with an intense purpose, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to live up to it. All my faults and past mistakes and insecurities came boiling to the surface, and it was difficult to convince myself that I really and truly was capable of being the mother this precious, perfect kid needed and deserved.
I still have those feelings (on a regular basis, actually) now that my son is a two-year-old toddler and becoming more adventurous, more spirited and more independent on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I still, from time to time, start to feel insecure and doubt my abilities as a parent. When those moments wash over me and I start to feel like I'm lacking, I remind myself of the following. After all, we're all so much stronger than we think we are.
"Motherhood Isn't Innate"
Contrary to sexist gender stereotypes, women don't just innately know how to be mothers. Sure, natural instinct does kick in from time to time and there are moments when you experience that "I just know" feeling. However, you have to learn how to parent, and how to parent in an way that makes you feel comfortable, works best for your family and is beneficial for your unique child.
So when you're feeling insecure, remember that there's nothing innately wrong with you. You're not missing some "mom gene" and you're not even required to know exactly what to do at all times just because you're a mother. There's a learning curve to this whole mom thing, and you need to be kind to yourself and grant yourself the room (and the permission) to learn as you go.
"You're Learning, Even When You Make A Mistake"
I spent the majority of my first few weeks and months and, hell, even year as a mother, terrified of making a mistake. I didn't want to let my son down in any way, ever and for any reason. I didn't want to "mess up" and I didn't want to be the reason he felt disappointed or hurt or scared or anything other than ridiculously happy every second of every day. Yes, clearly I had pretty healthy and reasonable expectations.
However, I have learned that making mistakes is why I have become a better mother than I was a year ago. I have learned more from my mishaps than I have from the moments when everything went smoothly. While my mistakes are usually a shot to my ego and make me feel insecure, they also remind me that I can get through anything, I can learn even when it hurts, and I can always be better tomorrow.
"Every Parent Is Afraid..."
No, really. We are all living in a perpetual state of mild-to-severe fear. We're all worried we're not being the best parents we could possibly be. We're all afraid for our children. We're all hoping we're not causing irreparable damage. We've been afraid the moment they entered the world (if not before) and we will continue to be afraid, because that's what happens when your heart is walking around outside of your body.
"...And You're Not Alone"
I would argue there isn't a parent in the world that doesn't or hasn't felt as insecure as you are or have. You're not alone in your fears or your doubts. You're not alone in your anxiety or your uncertainty.
So, with the knowledge of solidarity comes the chance to find a community. Find people who support you and who you feel comfortable with, and then share your true feelings with them. Sometimes it helps just to know that we're not alone, and whatever it is we're feeling — while unique to us and ours to own — is being felt by others, too.
"You Have People Who Support You, So Use Them"
Whether you're married or you have a co-parent you're raising your child with or you're a single mother, there are people and resources that can and will support you. Take advantage of your support network, no matter how big or small.
If you're feeling insecure to the point that you're overwhelmed, find some time to focus on yourself and just yourself. Do something that benefits you; practice some self-care; hand off your parenting responsibilities to someone else for a few hours and get the time and space you need to gain some necessary perspective.
"It Always Feels Worse Than It Actually Is"
While this isn't necessary helpful (at least it isn't for me, especially in the moment) it's always a good reminder. Whatever emotion I'm experiencing will, eventually, pass. When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I know that if I take the necessary steps I will soon feel relieved. I know that when I think the world is crashing down around me and something is going to go horribly wrong, the world will remain where it is and things won't be as catastrophic as I had imagined.
It's easy to get lost in the heaviness of motherhood and feel ill-equipped, but you are so very much equipped. It's never as bad or it looks or it feels, so take a few steps backwards, take some deep breaths and wait for the storm to pass. I promise you, it will.
"You're Capable And Powerful. More Than You Know."
You are strong. You are capable. You are powerful. You are a force. You deserve to take up space. You are entitled to your feelings. You are smart. You are resourceful.
In other words, you got this.
"You've Already Accomplished So Much"
Whenever I'm starting to feel insecure and over my head, I look back at what I've already accomplished. I think about my pregnancy, and how I got through something so difficult and scary and, at times, heartbreaking. I think about labor and delivery, and how I was able to bring another human being into the world. I think about the late night feedings and breastfeeding struggles and the days I continued to function on little-to-no sleep.
You've already accomplished so much as a new mother (and a human being). You've already done so many things and met so many goals. You're a capable human and the next challenge is nothing you can't handle.
"If You're Worried, That Means You're Doing A Great Job"
If you're spending your precious time worried about being a good mother, you're a good mother. If you're putting in that much thought as to how you can be the best possible parent to your child, you're a great parent. Don't forget it.
"Your Baby Loves You"
They really do. Even when you fail, they love you. Even when you don't love yourself (and you really should, because you're awesome), they love you. Even when you're unsure and insecure and anxious and afraid, they love you.
In other words, you're doing great, mom.