They say a mother can always recognize her baby’s cry. Well, that didn’t happen for me. When my son was an infant, there were plenty of times when I’d walk into our day care center at pickup time to the sound of a baby crying, and I’d honestly have no idea if it was my son or another child.
And that’s not all. Growing up, we basically didn’t bother with thermometers, because all my mother had to do was put her hand to her children’s foreheads to check for fevers. I, on the other hand, need a fancy digital thermometer to even have a clue in that regard.
I often wish I were one of those mothers to whom these things came naturally, but the older my son gets, the more I realize there’s no denying it: I just don’t seem to have that mommy gene. Sure, I’m more than capable of showering my son with love and affection, but even though I’ve been doing the parenting thing for more than two and a half years now, there are still times when it just plain doesn’t feel natural.
The other day, my son tripped over a toy he’d left on the floor and, although he didn’t get hurt, he was startled enough to start sobbing. I sat still on the couch for a solid 10 seconds, observing, before getting up, walking over to where he was standing, wrapping my arms around him in a hug, and reassuring him that he’d be OK.
Afterward, I thought about it. Why did I hesitate? Why didn’t I jump up out of my seat the second he showed signs of distress? And then I realized–because that’s something a natural mom would do, and I’m not a natural. I’m the type of mom for whom logic often trumps instinct–the type who has to take the time to process the fact that comforting her son is indeed the right thing to do rather than instinctively just do it.
The thing is, as much as I may be missing the mommy gene, I know how much I love my son. I know that it hurts me deeply to see him upset, and that it makes me unbelievably happy when my actions directly result in him smiling. And I do believe that it’s possible to be a good mother in spite of not having that natural mom instinct I often crave. If anything, knowing my limitations often makes me try harder, and lacking the confidence of a more natural mom actually gives me a reason to evaluate my actions and reactions so that I can strive to do better in the future.
When it comes to being a parent, I know I’m my own harshest critic. This is something I’ve struggled with since before my son was born, when duties like diapering and bathing seemed insurmountable and the idea of being responsible for a tiny little person was enough to make me dizzy. But at the end of the day, I take some comfort in the fact that, although I may be missing the mommy gene, I can honestly say that I love my son more than anything. And I figure that’s got to count for something.