My first pancake is about to turn ten, which means that I have been someone’s mother for a decade. When I was pregnant with Ben, I went to Greenwich Hospital to fill out all the pre-delivery forms. On his form there was the section that said “Relationship to Patient.” I pointed to my stomach and said to the nurse, “We haven’t met yet.” She looked at me with a mix of laughter and pity and said, “You are the patient’s mother”.
A few days after he was born, we headed back to the hospital for a post-delivery check-in. When I explained to the nurse that he would only sleep at night if he could sleep on me, and that I was worried that I was starting him off in life with bad habits, she smiled with that same mix of laughter and pity, and said, “He is a baby animal and you are his mother.” Clearly, I was not a quick study, because I kept having to be reminded that this very small human around whom the entire world now seemed to revolve was depending on me.
I am by nature a confident person, or at least very good at faking it. To the outside world I think it looked like I took to motherhood quickly and easily, but in fact I was obsessed with not screwing it up. I hated not knowing whether or not I was good at it. I wanted evaluations, feedback of some kind, but of course the one person entitled to evaluate my performance slept eighteen hours a day and couldn’t keep his socks on. I realized that what was hard for me about motherhood was not the exhaustion, or the changes in my body, or even the loss of my beloved routines. It was the insecurity. I wanted to get an A….
The joke was on me of course. The one time in my life when I wanted to be the perfect student it simply wasn’t possible. My sweet first pancake, who broke me into motherhood also taught me that I had to let myself off the hook. I was not going to be able to be the perfect mother because there is no such thing. When I feel like torturing myself, I look at other women I know who seem to enjoy standing on sidelines, or whose houses are always clean, and I think that they are better at this than I am. Comparing myself to other women is poisonous but especially when it comes to parenting.
He is a baby animal, even as he is about to turn ten, and I am his mother. He doesn’t know that I have never felt fully qualified for the job, and that the whole thing is held together with duct tape and love. I am the only mother he has ever known and the best thing I can do for him is to stop chasing perfection and just be kind and patient with us both. He is my first pancake. I have learned more from him than he has from me, and I will be forever grateful to him for his patience and faith that I am up to the task of motherhood.