Motherhood is a carnival mirror in that you see, at times, the absolute worst version of yourself, and at other times, the absolute best.
My girlfriend and I have had long-winded conversations about motherhood and friendships, about how we make such good, good friends and also such terrible ones. We show up with a spontaneous coffee on the hard mornings, but we also cancel plans at the last minute – Everett just threw up in the car! Rain check? We are helpful and generous and kind once available, but we are rarely available. We’ve been known to peer over our friends’ shoulders in the midst of a deep discussion, known to cut her off mid-sentence to rush over and stop the baby from chewing the shoe. There are interruptions and miscommunications, the most basic lack of energy surplus.
And yet, we give generously. We exchange wisdom and car seats and bananas. We take care of our kids, and we take care of each other’s kids.
And then we take care of each other.
Last week, Scout swiped Bee’s dippy egg from her breakfast plate and devoured a portion of it before I could catch him. The bright yolk adhered to his hands, face, shirt, and soon enough I’m scrubbing his fingers while wildly texting my most trusted mothering crew:
Can babies get salmonella? And what about egg allergies?
The running consensus poured in: He’s probably fine.
(He was, he is.)
The good news is this: When we are indeed the worst version of ourselves, or even a less-than-great version of ourselves, there’s always another mother who is feeling her best, always someone available to offer a lifeline in the form of an encouraging word, or at the very least, an egg gif.
When I was pregnant with Bee, I made every effort to offer her a significantly healthy start (plus Skittles). I ate piles of leafy greens for lunch. I switched to organic meat, opted for grain-free dinners. I researched milk from grass-fed cows (Vitamin A! Vitamin E!) with ingredients boasting a more balanced ratio of essential fatty acids. I took my prenatals.
I was, nutritionally, the best version of myself.
And then Bee arrived with an allergy to my breast milk.
What do you do when your best doesn’t quite work?
You text your girlfriends. You offer up a prayer, you research your options.
You search for a new best.
A short month and a (looooong) elimination diet revealed the culprit for Bee’s intolerance, and soon enough we hopped back on the nursing train. In just under thirty days, I’d received the perfect crash course in an oft-ignored adage of life:
That our best efforts do not necessarily guarantee our best outcomes.
We model good habits for our kids. We buy grass-fed milk, we gargle mouthwash. We say please and thank you, we offer respect. We wave at the postman. We hold open the door. We practice self-control, we take deep breaths in traffic.
We strive for excellence, all the while knowing that our best efforts do not necessarily guarantee our best outcomes.
We are not offered the promise of perfection, of comfort, of control. We are simply offered a playing field on which to practice.
Scout has been given a variety of bests – both breast milk and grass-fed formula – plus some non-bests (side-eye, Impromptu Dippy Egg).
I have, too.
We, the carnival mirrors – strong mothers spending a lifetime striving for excellence, practicing on our respective playing fields. Texting our girlfriends, researching our options, seeking wisdom.
Over and over, finding a new best.
In each other, in ourselves.
p.s. This is an essay for Munchkin, one of my favorite heart-filled brands for kids and babies alike. Be on the lookout for Munchkin’s new formula made with 100% grass fed milk, hitting U.S. shelves in spring 2017! Munchkin Grass Fed includes DHA (hexane free) & ARA to support brain development and lactoferrin (the immune system booster naturally found in breast milk). Three cheers for a new best.