Lateefah Torrence

How I Stopped Trying To Win The 'Best Mother Ever' Prize

Lateefah says that while she has trouble finding time to shower, Dalia is squeaky clean. i i

Lateefah says that while she has trouble finding time to shower, Dalia is squeaky clean. Courtesy of Lateefah Torrence hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Lateefah Torrence
Lateefah says that while she has trouble finding time to shower, Dalia is squeaky clean.

Lateefah says that while she has trouble finding time to shower, Dalia is squeaky clean.

Courtesy of Lateefah Torrence

Looking back on my first post for the Baby Project blog, I have to use all the tools from my many expensive years in therapy to resist hanging my head in mortification. I wrote that I planned on "winning at motherhood." Could I have been more misguided?

At the time, I would have said I was only trying to write a fun turn of phrase, but six weeks after giving birth to Dalia, I can tell you I have been competing.

And I am losing.

I can't figure out how to use every urban mom's favorite baby-carrying contraption, nor my allegedly easy pouch sling, nor my idiot-proof stretchy knit baby wrap. I can't tell you the last time I thoroughly combed my hair instead of just brushing it back into my perma-ponytail. I've only left the apartment to go to doctors' appointments. I'm terrified to find myself riding the subway with a wet, hungry, inconsolable baby dripping in poop. And my friends and family have no pictures of my baby because I spend most of my time pumping and nursing — or worrying about pumping and nursing.

But you know what? It's OK. I can choose to stop competing. Yes, I will probably still cry over my inability to get a proper breast-feeding latch. Or cringe because I'm not yet taking Dalia out for daily walks. Or beat myself up over something that I don't even know I'm supposed to be doing (when do I start Tummy Time?).

About Lateefah

Lateefah Torrence, 38, is a writer who lives in New York, N.Y. She and her husband, Frank, welcomed Dalia Joule on July 17.

I feel awful much of the time because I am trying so terribly hard to be a good mother — comparing myself to others for evidence of my success or failure — instead of looking down at the little girl grunting and learning to smile in my arms.

Before the Baby Project blog went live, a friend asked why I would expose myself at such a vulnerable time. I only saw the blog as a writing gig, but it has turned out to be a gift. If blog topics were not continuously percolating in the crannies of my mind, I don't think I would have come across clarity as quickly. Caught up in many frantic moments of mommy panic, thinking about writing here has helped pull me out of the depths innumerable times. Sure, I'm going to fall off self-recrimination wagon now and then, but I'm done with trying to win Best Mother Ever, and will try to keep my eye on being the mom Dalia needs moment to moment.

The response to my writing on the blog has given me a much needed lift in craft confidence. Since a stint tutoring kids in Harlem for the verbal section of the SAT, I've wanted to teach writing workshops for children and adults who tell themselves they can't write well. I suspected my own struggles with finding the right words would make me an empathetic teacher and tutor, but without an advanced degree or published works, I didn't think anyone would take my classes (thanks writing MFA adviser who told me to find another career). The idea of helping others find words for their feelings thrills me, and after reading the many positive comments on the blog, I look forward to turning my intention into an actuality.

I'm a bit melancholy over the project coming to a close just as Dalia and I settle into a routine that will allow me to write more. But I will continue to rant, rave and wonder on my personal blog.

I'd like to thank NPR for giving us moms a chance to share our experiences. I loved working with our blog hosts, and without this turning this into my well-practiced Academy Award speech, I'd like to give special thanks to Erin Killian for being the bestest editor and producer a girl could ask for.

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