Earning my B.S. in Motherhood

I spend my days immersed in the world of college: schedules, poor test grades, career choices, roommate problems, etc. I see it all, and usually before noon on any given weekday. As I’ve said before, I find it incredibly easy to find parallels between my work life and home life.

After two degrees, a combined 20 years in school, and eight years working in higher education, I’m a firm believer that learning is a natural and exciting part of my life. In this current season of my life, I’ve realized I’m earning my B.S. in Motherhood.

About seven years ago, I decided I was ready for this adventure in education. I prepared, I made some life altering decisions, and before I knew it, I was enrolling in Motherhood 101. It started with some broad topics on labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and basic infant care, and I was overwhelmed. My study buddy and I giggled during class, made inappropriate comments, and kind of skated through. Until the big presentation, of course. Boy, we botched that one. We made plans, and they did not work out at all, but we finished anyway. We faked our way through it, and received our reward! I thought I had arrived — the big presentation was behind us, and I had a basic idea of what to do, so I figured the rest would be fine.  

But I wasn’t finished. There were more classes (Formula 101, Intro to Baby Blues, Survey of Please-Just-Go-To-Sleep, etc.). There were always tests, presentations, projects, and sweet rewards. Oh, and there were some setbacks too — lots of tears, lots of worry, and lots of comparison. I always feel the need to know how someone else is doing on the test/project/etc., and I am rarely satisfied with my own positive results if I think someone else is doing better (it’s the overachiever in me).

Did I mention classes? Well, they just keep coming! About the time I finish one class, it’s time for another. Some of my favorites include (I won’t tell you what grades I made):

  • Foundations in Potty Training

  • Phonics for Mommy

  • Is that Chocolate or Poop?

  • Acting like a Grownup at a Parent-Teacher Conference

  • Interpersonal Communication: Understanding your Toddler

  • Topics of the Working Mother

Then there are the future classes I am dreading, such as:

  • Intro to Puberty

  • Survey of Boy Sulking

  • Advanced Puberty

  • Seminar on Paying for All of It

  • How to Parent Your Grown Child (my mom’s favorite)

Thankfully, I’ve got good tutors and mentors. I’ve picked them wisely. Some offer great advice, some offer a shoulder to cry on, and some provide a story that makes me feel like less of a failure. I’ve got study groups — ladies who are walking the same path with me, haven’t studied for the test either, and don’t have a clue what the end product looks like. Unfortunately, what I have also done is become an annoying student; sometimes I over-study, over analyze, and over-intellectualize…

It turns out, I spend so much time making motherhood intellectual, that I don’t trust the raw gut instinct that mothers naturally have or develop over time. I’ve spent many years of my life learning and applying information, and obviously I have tried to approach motherhood in the same way — I am quick to look up symptoms online, or look at a message board to feel like I’m not alone. Almost every time I do, I am left feeling inadequate as a parent or fearful that my child has Spontaneous Dental Hydroplosion (don’t be scared; it’s not a real thing. It’s from an episode of The Office).

And so the flip side to all of this is that even with all of the learning, digging and searching for information, I’m still left with a bunch of BS. I am always faced with circumstances where I have to thrown caution to the wind (or am at my wit’s end) and just do the first thing that pops into my mind. And guess what, you guys?!?! Often, it works!

No amount of studying or researching can teach that; sometimes we have to rely on our intuition. BSing my way through the motherhood thing is serving me quite well, actually! Sometimes we have to look at our natural strengths and try something outside the box. Instead of googling that rash, ask somebody you know! Rely on those who have studied before you! After all, you turned out ok, and your mom didn’t have social media, message boards, or Pinterest! She used experience, intuition, and the help of those around her to help her study!

The good news is that no matter how inadequate you may feel or how full of BS you may be, no one knows your kids better than you; you’re the expert on them, even when it doesn’t feel that way. So study them, learn them and understand them as best you can, but trust your judgment, and don’t always rely on the well-meaning ideas and snarky comments of strangers.

Not all good ideas work in every situation, and not every good idea involves copious research. So go talk to another mom; she’s in the same classes and she can commiserate. Talk to your mom, aunt, sister, cousin, mentor, or church friend; they have already finished that coursework and are always willing to lend a hand.

Experience often makes the best teacher, and my experience tells me that there are a lot of classes left to go. So I press on, with my desire to learn and my freedom to BS my way through the rest (or the majority, as it is in my case).

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