This guest post was written and submitted by Kerry Johnson. We are grateful for her contribution!
wooden hearts hanging up, motherhood this way

You’ve heard it or perhaps said it yourself many times before: children don’t come with an instruction manual. Twenty-four years ago when my oldest child was born, that felt even more true to me than it does today. There were no helpful Instagram accounts to follow, no Facebook groups to join, no TikTok hacks to try, and no parenting podcasts to listen to. The other new moms I knew were few and far between, and the nannies in my friend group were not yet moms themselves. Certainly, there were books and magazines, and I read them all. But nothing prepared me emotionally for becoming a mom, and it knocked the wind right out of me. I did the only thing that had ever helped anything: I called my mom.

When my first child was born, I felt confident that I could handle it. All of it. I was a nanny, a professional child caregiver! I had certifications, a college degree, and the reference letters to prove it. But when I found myself sobbing in the rocking chair of my cozy farmhouse kitchen, unable to soothe an inconsolable newborn, scream-crying, “I AM A SKILLED PROFESSIONAL AND I CAN. NOT. HANDLE. THIS,” I knew I was in over my head. The gut-crushing, breathtaking love for my child was there, and the technical skills were certainly there. My ability to figure out what to do next was not. So I called my mom.

Mothering came naturally to my mom. A champion and head cheerleader for those she loved and believed in, she was a caring nurturer by nature. She listened tirelessly, with patience and empathy for whatever I needed or wanted to talk to her about. Never judgmental, always compassionate, regardless of what my sister and I presented her with. Our relationship was never fraught with any of the challenges so many of my friends faced with their mothers. Often, she was a mother to those friends as well, saying exactly what we all needed to hear: “I’m here. We’ll figure this out.”

By talking with my mom, hearing her stories and experiences, and knowing she was there, it became possible to navigate the torrential emotional and physical hurricane that is motherhood. She never questioned or contradicted my parenting choices, although I’m certain she didn’t always agree with them. (“Soy milk? Okay, honey, what brand should I get to have in the house?” “Co-sleeping? Why not? As long as you’re all getting some sleep!”) She was solidly there, supporting me and cheering me on, as she had been my whole life.

My mom always said she was born to be a mother until she became a grandmother. The moment she laid eyes on Katherine just hours after her birth, she fell truly, madly, deeply in love. She absolutely felt that being a grandma was her sole purpose, and truth be told, it kind of was. Ask anyone who knew her even just a little bit. Her granddaughters were her everything, and the feeling was mutual. The lovefest between “Bip” (as we called her) and my girls was a force of nature. She was with them constantly, always fully dialed in. Even though she was in excruciating pain from multiple chronic debilitating diseases, she never missed a moment of their lives. She always showed up joyfully. She said the girls took her pain away. I witnessed with absolute certainty that it was so.

I can no longer call my mom. Losing Bip two years ago was the single most painful loss of our lives. There is a gaping hole in our hearts and in our family that will never be filled. Not a single day passes when I don’t think of her multiple times—something she said, something she used to do, something I want to share with her. But mostly this: as I’ve navigated motherhood for the last 24 years, it’s true that I have had no instruction manual. But I have had a map. A beautifully detailed, painstakingly crafted map, created by friends and teachers, by other moms I’ve met along the journey, some of whom I’ve admired and others who I’ve tried not to be, but mostly, by MY mom, who charted the way, stood behind me in case I fell, and now lights my path from above.

For my spectacular mother, Sharri “Bippy” Brown
June 20, 1944 – October 27, 2021

Cape Cod Moms
Passionate about parenting and the Cape & Islands community, Cape Cod Moms strives to connect area moms to relevant resources, local businesses, can’t-miss happenings, and most of all — each other!


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