At least once a day, I stop to watch our computer screensaver randomly scroll through the pictures I've taken over the past two years. More often than not, the subject is Allison in various stages of development, and the changes from one image to the next is often staggering.
I fostered that.
I remember feeling a disconnect to this holiday last year. Despite the fact that my days were ruled by the very demanding work that is caring for a baby, I didn't feel like Mother's Day was for me. And the year before that, despite being pregnant, it didn't feel right to get well-wishes either. I hadn't actually parented yet.
This year, I've finally come to realize that the role of motherhood is probably what most defines me. Although I have many different hats to wear every day, Mom is one I never take off. It follows me wherever I go, whatever I do -- Allison is an ever-present reality that shapes even my most simple decisions.
I guess it shows that sometimes being a mom isn't an instant fit. The instincts everyone talks about might kick in, but at the core, I think motherhood is something most women grow into. And I like to think that I have a lot more growing to do.
For me, raising a child was a responsibility I immediately embraced, but it wasn't until I faced questions about behavioral issues, teaching good manners, setting a good example, quelling temper tantrums and learning how to say no that I finally felt like I was earning my Mommy merit badges.
Much like in Girl Scouts, I envision each new challenge like the chance to earn a patch for my invisible sash. I've clawed and sometimes even cried my way to a substantial collection, but I know I still have a long way to go.
If anything, the last few years have given me an unwavering appreciation for the women I pass on the street every day. Moms are asked to do more, to be more, to constantly sacrifice. They're teachers, chefs, chauffeurs, doctors, referees, maids, seamstresses and bankers -- and that's just at home.
Every time I hear a child utter "Mom," I know the moniker is not one that's earned easily. But the rewards of a hard-earned invisible motherhood sash are far greater than any actual trophy or plaque or fancy job title.
That said, Happy Mother's Day to all of the badge-earners out there. Take a look at your beautiful children and celebrate all of your accomplishments.