If you’re a mother…when did you first realize it?
Was it when the pregnancy test said positive? Was it when you were in the delivery room and you first snuggled your baby on your chest?
Would you say there was one particular moment when you became a mother?
For me, it hasn’t been just one moment. It’s been a series of moments, a rolling start into motherhood.
Before I became a foster mom, I wanted to think of the word mother as a verb instead of as a noun—like my role is to mother children, but never to replace any child’s biological mother. I’m still very upfront with my foster daughters that I never want to try to replace their mom.
But the plan is now for the girls to be with me long-term. And I’m seeing that if I hold back from embracing my role as my girls’ mom, then I’m not giving them everything they deserve.
My girls have been with me for 3 and a half months. We’re going with the flow, eating dinner together, giving hugs good night, making it to church, school, and appointments barely on time, browsing through Walmart side by side, jamming to songs in my car, disagreeing about rules, going through the McDonalds drive-thru way more often than I used to. Along the way, I’ve been realizing just how critical it is for us to be mom and daughters—and also to feel like mom and daughters.
I admit that at first, it felt odd for me to refer to myself as their mom. I felt sheepish saying it, like I hadn’t earned it yet, like we needed time to create a bond instead of forcing something.
But then it happened: my rolling start into motherhood. Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint just one moment when I first began to feel like their mom...
One day last week, after hearing a new story from their past, I started sobbing as I was blow-drying my hair in the morning. I was crying so hard that I thought I was going to throw up. I don’t know if I can go to work today. I almost called in to tell them I couldn’t make it, but then thought, No, others are counting on me today. I prayed for God to give me strength and then went to work and followed through with my responsibilities. That felt like the bravest thing I had done in a long time.
This is not only my first time being a foster mom; it’s the first time of me being any kind of mom. And I am starting this whole parenting thing off on my own with 2 teenagers who have so much to overcome. I’m learning that when you put aside the tasks of cooking, dishes, laundry, keeping up with their stuff for school… you have the monumental job of raising these two precious human beings. I know they will legally be adults in a few short years, and I am accountable to God for how I encourage and equip them during this time we have together.
And the weight of that just hit me about a week ago, and I thought, Oh my goodness, I have no idea how to do this. That evening I felt overwhelmed. The girls were in their bedrooms, but I sat on my couch and turned on the TV. I wanted to watch a show that I had often watched before I became a mom. Just for an hour, I wanted to forget that I was so in over my head.
The next day I remembered that some of my friends described having a little identity crisis after their first baby was born. I figured that’s kind of what I was feeling too. Then I felt a little better, and thought, Man, this is so hard, but there is nothing else I’d rather be doing right now. #WeWontShrinkBack
P.S. Only 21 days until my book She Won't Shrink Back is released on May 17! You can download chapter 1 for free.
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.