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What I’ve learned about motherhood


Sherie Holder-Olutayo

What I’ve learned about motherhood

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I was reading an old article Dr Phil wrote on parenting where he posed three questions to mothers: 1. How do I measure my success as a parent? 2. Am I at peace with myself? 3. Can I let go of the guilt and do better?
That article caused me to pause and really reassess my stance on motherhood and how I was really doing. It wasn’t that I was unhappy as a mother, but I realized that motherhood, if you really want to do it right, comes with certain trade-offs. Initially that wasn’t an easy thing for me to accept.
I don’t know if other mothers have felt this way, but perhaps I’m an anomaly. But while I love my kids and would die for them, there was a time when I was feeling less than fulfilled.
I can remember the day quite well. It was about three years ago when I was trying to potty-train my youngest son, who I was convinced would be in training pants until puberty.
It was a morning, the television was on to CNN, and I was trying to convince a toddler who just wasn’t hearing me. As I glanced up at the television, I saw my friend Sonny sitting next to Anderson Cooper, who happened to be on that morning. He introduced her as CNN’s newest legal analyst and I thought I was going to go through the floor.
“Come on,” I thought, “I was the journalist and I should be the one sitting next to Anderson Cooper. But instead here I was with a soggy training pants in my hand looking and feeling bewildered. From then I started to question my place in the world. I felt I had lost my competitive edge, or had sold myself short. I stopped watching CNN, especially their legal stories, because I was jealous and angry with myself. The peace that I thought I had before seemed to be all but slipping from me.
You see, somehow I had bought into this whole yarn that women can have it all – the career, motherhood, the family, everything. Though I was living in Barbados I found myself measuring myself against my New York peers and the life I once led. It was a difficult thing to reconcile, but I knew that I had to come to that place of peace if I was ever going to be a good mother and happy with myself and my place in the world. So I had a conversation with my mother, who reminded me of something my grandmother had told me before she died.
My grandmother had told me: “Sherie, you can’t go forward looking back.”  I’m sure my grandmother had no idea how those words have haunted me. I realized I was looking back at a place where I no longer was and had to get my life squarely in the present with my new life, my husband and two sons.
As soon as I started to make that mental shift in my mind, things started to change. One morning I passed by the bathroom and saw my son sitting on the toilet bowl all by himself, taking care of his “business”. I ran to get my husband and there we stood in the doorway, clapping and happy that he had finally crossed that threshold. It’s amazing the things that make parents happy. From that day he never used a pull-up again.
Since my son was making his own inroads, I decided to follow suit. The television eventually went back to CNN and when I did see Sonny, my thoughts were now, “You go, girl.”
I realized that, as a mother, it was all about my children now and ensuring that I was the best I could be so that they could be at their best too. I was a working mother like my friend Sonny, and we were two people living different lives and doing the best that we were able to. It’s amazing the freedom letting go of the guilt can bring.

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