I love being a mother to Jefferson. In Chapter One, I talked about the incredible love that I have for him. A love that only existed once he was born. A love that is all his.
I really really love being a parent. In fact, the latter greatly influences the former.
For most of my adult life, I have needed the freedom of independence to recharge. For me, that independence means having the ability to wander as I need to. I always come back home, but I crave the freedom to leave from time to time. It is no insult to my environment. Actually, my home is pretty awesome. It is simply how I am hardwired. Being away is refreshing. Sometimes, I go away by myself and other times I go away with others. But I have always needed the ability to walk out the door as I see fit, without having to ask permission or approval. That craving did not disappear when Jefferson arrived. This is why parenthood is such a large part of why I get to enjoy motherhood.
Bradley is an exceptional partner and father. His involvement during the labor and delivery of Jefferson has served as an example of the type of active participant he is in this relationship. He has always embraced my particular style of womanhood without question or shame. He has taken that same approach with my brand of motherhood. During maternity leave, it wasn’t abnormal for me to be waiting on the front porch with the baby as he pulled into the driveway. Some days, I only needed the solitude of a shower. Other days, I would go to the gym or just drive around for 20 minutes listening to loud music. Most days, I would ask Bradley to join us on the porch. We would talk about his day, pass the baby back and forth, and enjoy the cooler evenings that are typical for early summer. The perk of my need for independence is that it also includes choosing to stay home, choosing to be with my family, and choosing to honor my role as a mother for a few more hours. I just need to know that I have the choice. Without Bradley, I wouldn’t.
The other benefit of parenting is that I get a fresh perspective when I fall down the rabbit hole of Montessori and developmental milestones. (Full disclosure, I subscribe to a Montessori play kit. I actually love the theory behind it. I also recognize that it can be intimidating and make you feel as though it is the only way to do things.) Bradley brings play back into our interactions. He doesn’t worry about whether Jefferson perfectly puts the ball in the box. Instead, they make up their own game entirely. And that is just as good for Jefferson developmentally. Bradley doesn’t share the same worry lines on his forehead as I do. I don’t wish that he did. Jefferson deserves the best of our collective strengths. I am grateful that my shortcomings will not fall squarely on Jefferson. (Although, to be fair, I do believe that failure has an important role in our children’s lives.) I have a partner that shows me the strength in parenting as a team, rather than mothering alone.
Part of our success is that I don’t fall prey to “mom ego.” This is a term that I came up with (as far as I know) to describe that voice in your head that tells mothers they are the only ones capable of caring for their child. You convince yourself that others will not do as good a job as you, that fathers lack the genetic makeup to care for their offspring alone, or that your child will be miserable without you. Those voices are so strong. And – for most women – so wrong. When we chose to give Jefferson formula, it was the perfect decision for us. No task was solely on my plate. We could both feed, change, burp, and cuddle our son. When I needed a break, I took one. I could hear that mom ego start to chatter. But I quickly quieted her down. Jefferson is lucky enough to be surrounded by loving family and friends. While none of them will care for him like me, they all will care for him to the best of their ability. We all end up doing a wonderful job of it. The harsh reality – which is ironically my saving grace – is that I am not the only person that can care for him. I choose his caregivers carefully, leave him in loving arms, and unapologetically give myself the space I need to return as a recharged mother. Upon my return, I am able to give my son the best of me.
Motherhood in isolation does not excite me. The ability to wander between my various roles as social worker, photographer, friend, daughter, mother, spouse, creative, and whatever else I chose to be…that is what excites me. Jefferson has allowed me to add the role of mother to my list. Bradley ensures that I don’t neglect the other parts of me that allow me to completely be Britney.