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Aptitude or Attitude? What Motherhood is Really About

on | in Motherhood | by | with 18 Comments

While every other freshman . . .

On campus was hanging out in the coed drinking soda and watching movies, my college roommate was installing our cappuccino maker while the voice of her favorite Italian tenor serenaded our entire wing.  I’m tempted to rummage through storage and find a pic to post here, because you would not believe this unassuming 90 pound blonde was really a spitfire with brains.

It was funny, really, to watch people encounter her. Her open expression and elegant gestures were disarming, but this girl dominated class debates and left bewildered students wondering what hit them. By our junior year she was working downtown in an $800 designer suit.

I . . . was a waitress.

What AM I good at?

While we took most of the same classes and made the same grades, our lives could not have been more different. She had vision. She knew how to make life happen. I didn’t.

Toward the end of our college careers (I believe it was the semester she was interning as a lobbyist in Washington), I began slowly trying to figure out what to do with my life. A patron of our school had just donated $1M so that students could take the Johnson-O’Conner Aptitude Test for free, so I signed up.

The tests were crazy. I left the 3-D puzzle about 90% unfinished (which is why I’m not an architect) and failed to identify most of the “what’s different about this picture” elements (not a detective, either). However, the nonsensical words that flashed up on the screen like indecipherable alien advertising was a cake walk. I was fluent in gibberish within the hour.

The results are in…

At my post-assessment conference I got some of the most important and damaging information I have ever received. On the one hand, I was good with words and ideas. “Go into teaching or marketing,” the guy tells me. “You’ll be really good at it.” Awesome!!! Then he adds, “But teach at the college level. You’re not cut out for working with young kids.

It was at that exact moment . . .

That my career as a mother flashed before my eyes and then died a slow, bloody death. After seeing all the sacrifices my mom made to care for my sis and I as a single parent I already had my doubts about whether I wanted children. But to think that I would be so lousy that they wouldn’t want me . . . why bother?

That was how I felt for years. I obsessed over every late period, terrified that I was pregnant. Then out of the blue a desire more powerful than my selfishness and insecurity awoke within. Children means being on-call all the time, I said to myself. It means giving your life to people that will become teenagers and tell you how uncool you are and then foregoing the beach house to help them pay for college. No fun, I said.

But you want to and you know it, replied the voice deep within. And I did. So we did. And here she is:

And she has been such an incredible gift, we got a little greedy (that’s baby #2 below).

Born to mother?

I’ll bet you can rattle off a list of women you know that are “natural born mothers.” Nurturers filled with patience and insight into how little hearts and minds work. I’m not on anyone’s list when it comes to that, not even my own.

There are things I’m not cut out for and I’m okay with that most of the time. But motherhood? It’s too worth it. Remember the movie Rudy? It’s the one about that little guy that wanted to play football at Notre Dame. Most of the time I feel like the Rudy of motherhood. We probably ALL do at some point.

Even when the playing field is level, like it was when my roommate and I made the same grades, personal vision and purpose make all the difference in how things turn out. That’s why one of my all-time favorite parenting books is not a book about techniques or telling you what kind of children to raise. It’s a book about gaining a vision for your family. It’s about becoming the traits you want to see in your children.

Whether you are a natural mom or playing catch-up like me, this book has something for you, so come back tomorrow.

Please tell me: How do you inspire yourself when you’re not feeling the “motherhood groove?”

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18 Responses to Aptitude or Attitude? What Motherhood is Really About

  1. Kristine says:

    I think you are a wonderful mother! And you’re so great at helping other mothers that it’s obvious that it’s part of what God created you to do. I think the enemy always tries to bring lies to all of us in an attempt to destroy the destiny God has for us. So glad you overcame that. Now I have an amazing niece to enjoy & babypotamus on the way! :)

  2. Tana says:

    Love reading your blog – and this post hit home because just last week I was struggling with a baby that was unhappy all the time, teething and fighting something off at the same time so he was almost rejecting nursing, he seemed to prefer his papa over me, big time, and everything else in our lives was going wrong, extremely wrong, all week. It made me sit and really think about what it is I am doing here, with my time, with my life…and the truth that I am a mother – Oh, what does that really mean TO ME – is what gave me ground again. Because for me, being a mother means being God’s hands and feet and HEART to my kids. Being present – being real – loving them, delighting in them, believing in them as separate little persons whom God made – respecting them as individuals while teaching them how to be good people and how to honor God with their lives, and using everything I have in me to help them become who HE wants them to be- not necessarily who I wanted them to be. So, remembering my internal compass was key – I am going to love God and obey Him and rejoice no matter what, but the two steps I took were (1) gratitude: I started thanking God for everything – all the bad and ugly messy life encompassing us, AND (2) I started not taking the baby’s misery personally, instead I enjoyed him as the gift from God he is, even in his fussy-to-the-max state. I was intentional in mothering him, finding new ways to help/comfort him and renewing my delight in him in the process. It is truly amazing that God never has to renew His devotion to loving us.

  3. Julie says:

    Okay, I can really identify with how you felt before having kids, because that is how I sometimes feel now! On the other hand, I think there’s a big difference between working with kids and having kids. I most assuredly would be lousy working with them as well, but I don’t think that means I should never have one.

    I do think attitude is so important in child rearing, much more so than aptitude, or child rearing techniques, or whatever. Kids are resilient and they can handle of lot of mistakes on the part of their parents. What they can’t handle is feeling unloved, unaccepted for who they are, shamed for their inevitable mistakes, trouble-making, ignorance/naiveté, and molded into some abstract ideal. Great post. :)

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Julie. I’m sure the guy that said that to me would be horrified if he knew how I took it, but even then I knew he didn’t mean it that way. I already had doubts about my future mothering abilities and it just hit that nerve.

      By the way, I didn’t know you had a blog! I looked on your fb profile and didn’t see one. Can’t wait to read it!

  4. great post. it’s good to be reminded that i’m not the only one who doesn’t feel like she’s perfect for the job. BUT, what makes me feel like a good mom, is when i don’t want to do something that seems hard, but do it anyway just for my kids’ sake, and ends up not being hard. like, for example, taking them to do something fun that seems unmanageable with both of them but they totally enjoy it. that’s when i feel inspired and encouraged that i’m doing something right.

  5. Kirsten says:

    Hi! I am new to your blog, Heather, and I am really enjoying it!

    When I’m not feeling the “motherhood vibe”, it’s amazing how often a post like this one will come up at just the right moment and encourage me. Or a book or magazine article will cross my path, or an older, more experienced mom will help bring things into perspective. I find that usually when I’m frustrated with mommying, it’s because I’m trying to get too many things “accomplished”, and I’ve lost sight of the main thing I’m supposed to do…love and nurture my baby. When I refocus on that and ask the Lord to give me His strength, I find the joy and delight of motherhood return. :-) I’d love to read the book you mentioned!

    • Heather says:

      It’s great to “meet” you, Kirsten! You are totally reading my mail on the “getting things accomplished” front. I’d say that is the #1 thing I struggle to be at peace with.

  6. Esther says:

    “Faithful is He Who is calling you and utterly trustworthy, and He will also do it.” (1 Thess. 5:24) Being awkward and un-natural to mommy-hood (yes, even a second time around!) draws my dependance on the Lord to a deeper level. He gave me 2 precious boys. no mistakes about their ordained lives. He made me their mother. He does the calling. He does the keeping. He does the do-ing…instilling in me just what I need at that moment of inadequacy as I love and nurture them day in and day out.
    Besides, I’m determined to get lots of grand babies out of this deal…so maybe that’s a big selfish motivator ;-)
    I’m so thankful for what God does in spite of me and my short comings.
    another awesome post. you rock, Mommypotamus!

  7. I am a new mom to a nearly four month old baby girl. We adopted her when she was 2 months old. I was totally caught off guard at how many preferences and patterns a 2month old has already developed! There have been days where I have not felt like a mom, or anything close to the type of mother I imagined myself to be. I get easily discouraged when those moments happen. I have to remind myself to stop and take a deep breath. I look at my daughter and study her face to remember all the things I love about her – her one dimple, her dark eyes, her curls. Once I am tuned into her, I can connect better to how she must be viewing the world that day. Is she having fun? Is she happy? Does she feel safe? Usually, I find I am able to see how content she truly is. That she truly is a happy baby who is busy loving her life.

    Whenever I gain that insight into her world, I am suddenly inspired to do better. To create a home she wants to live in full of the richest experiences I can offer. Once I stop and reconnect with my daughter, I find my ‘mommy grove’ kicks right back in. :)

    • Heather says:

      Hi Miss M’s Momma! Well of course the very first thing I had to do after reading your comment is to pop over to your blog. Can’t wait to read about Miss M’s arrival! My husband and I think we MAY foster or adopt in the future so I’m always interested to hear firsthand experiences.

      I loved, this line, by the way: “Whenever I gain that insight into her world, I am suddenly inspired to do better.” My feelings exactly.

  8. Emily Ligon via FB says:

    thanks for re-posting this… i needed to see it like 3 days ago, lol!

  9. Monica says:

    I inspire myself by remembering what I am good at. What my strengths are. A “good mother” comes in many different styles. The biggest lie ever told to moms is: there is only one right way to be a mom. Lie! I say, if you love your children, work hard for them, and try your best for them – a woman is the very definition if a “good mother”. So the test days you struggle to break down concepts for small children … Think of all the knowledge and profundity you’ll bless their lives with! Small children don’t stay small forever. For me, when I get down on myself for not being social enough … I think of the gifts a quieter mom gives instead… A slower-pace, a listening ear. Or when I feel mg house is a mess an I can’t get anywhere on time … I remember the gift I give my children instead … Flexibility, unstructured play-time. I make sure my daughters know I am not perfect, no one is, and that is okay. They do not need to start motherhood with some built-up, impossible, unattainable, glorified vision if what it means to be a good mom. Let’s keep it real … And full if the most important thing – LOVE.

  10. […] is a longtime reader who has been stopping by for years to dish about everything from birth and motherhood to sunscreen and why healthy kids should get sick once in […]

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