If we knew each other in real life, you would probably think I am the LAST person in the world to talk about confidence. In general, I am pretty awkward and painfully self-conscious. Self-doubt hovers over me, like a rain cloud in those familiar cartoons.
I am the creator of my own cloud and the doubts are always raining down: Am I a good mom? Am I doing this right? Am I good enough? Why can’t I do this?
It is my own perfect little storm. For most of my life, I responded to this downpour in one of two ways. Either I would try to convince myself it wasn’t happening. Just true denial, “Nah, it’s not raining. I am fine. This is fine.” More often, I would just stand there and let myself get soaked. I would let my doubts and questions of self-worth surround me until I felt like I was drowning. This raincloud phenomenon affected every aspect of my life from dating to school, from career to motherhood.
With the naivety of youth and the smugness of someone who had been working with children for years…I thought I was going to sail through parenting. Seriously, I assumed it was going to easy for me. Shall we pause a moment to laugh at younger me?
As fate would have it, my first born was not the “easy” baby that I had pictured. I distinctly remember the nurses in the hospital remarking how “alert” and “spirited” he seemed. At the time, I patted myself on the back convinced I was already a parenting genius. Of course, I now believe this is what experienced nurses say when they really mean “Uh oh!” Baby LJ didn’t sleep, he cried constantly, and seemed too sensitive for this world.
All the rules and suggestions people give to new moms were bitter reminders of how different my experiences as a mother seemed. The idealistic bravado that I was going to sail through parenting was replaced with intense feelings of failure. The first year with him was tough. I was hard on myself. I blamed my own inadequacies for his temperament. If I was a better mom, then maybe he would be happier, maybe he would sleep better, maybe he would be easier.
He went from tiny, screaming infant to a silly, chatty toddler. LJ is now almost 5 and he is still sensitive and challenges every parenting “rule” with an intensity I wouldn’t have believed possible. But, he is also brilliant, imaginative, and compassionate. He is wildly curious about the world, loves animals, and is constantly dancing. Without a doubt, who he is now and who he is becoming was worth every single one of those dark days.
I let go of the expectations I clung to with my first. I anticipated he wouldn’t sleep through the night for the first year. I planned that he also wouldn’t like being put down, so I invested in baby carriers and reminded myself that we would get through it. I felt a sense of calm and happily braced myself for the storm. It was a night and day difference. It wasn’t that Wallace was dramatically easier (he really isn’t) but it was the way I approached the difficult times with the relaxed, measured, confidence of a second-time mom. That confidence led to the acceptance that the first year could be a whirlwind, but it is just one year of many and that we all would make it through.
I am in the process of giving birth for the third time. OK, not exactly.
I grew up dreaming of being a writer. I still romanticize the idea of living in a remote little cottage by the sea spending my days lost in my own imagination. Little did I know that this dream would require a lot more than writing. In order to really succeed, I need to learn about marketing, building a business, design, creating a “brand,” how to get comfortable with rejection, and the list goes on and on each task further out of my comfort zone.
This is all new territory for me and the learning curve is death-defyingly steep. My personal raincloud threatens stormy weather constantly. Luckily, I am armed with second-time mom confidence- and an umbrella.
I write this not from the perspective of someone sitting in the sun, fondly recalling the time she was caught in the rain. I am not about to launch into a “but now I am a best-selling author” speech. No, I am writing this in the middle of the storm. My days are filled with rainclouds of rejection of some form. Low Instagram engagement. A blog post that maybe no one has read. Another “not the right fit” email from a publisher. A bank account that isn’t ready to fund self-publishing. Rejection after rejection. Most days, I feel like giving up. It takes everything I have to keep trying.
No, I am not a success story. Yet. And that “yet” is why I am here. That beautiful unfailing yet. The belief in “yet” is where I draw the bravery to keep going.
“Yet” is being a second-time mom, knowing that things will be rocky at the beginning but that things will change. The newborn will eventually sleep through the night. The screaming, colicky baby will grow into a toddler. The bleary, sweaty, tear-filled, dark nights with a teething toddler will end. There will be new challenges, but each obstacle will be faced with the same steadfast confidence that comes with experience.
I don’t know where following this dream will take me, and I certainly don’t know what my version of success will look like. But I am confident that I will keep going. It is ok to not have all the answers. It is OK to fail.
Confidence doesn’t mean you never fail. Confidence is falling the first, second, and third attempt and having the bravery to get back up. It is believing in “yet”. Being confident in yourself and believing in your self-worth is protection from the unavoidable doubts and rejection that comes with parenting and pursuing a dream. After all, using an umbrella on a rainy day doesn’t stop the storm, but it will keep you dry.
As I write this, my dreams still seem very far away. Some days they feel downright impossible. My personal raincloud starts pouring down on me all the ways that I am not cut out for this. Yet, I still manage to stumble around and open my umbrella.
Kate Bartlein is an author and mom to 2 little boys. She lives in Minnesota, just outside of the Twin Cities. She has been working with children for over 10 years as a behavior therapist and assistive technology specialist. Firmly believing that big imaginations can change the world, she enjoys using play and creativity to ignite a passion for learning. In her spare time, Kate enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and hula hooping. Her childhood was spent dreaming of being an author and riding on the backs of dragons. As a grown-up who knows dreams can come true, she is still waiting to fly with dragons. Learn more at her website, and follow her on Instagram.
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