Catherine Sylvester is the Treasuring Mothers guest blogger for this post. Author, writer, speaker and comedy-junkie, Catherine lives near Auckland, New Zealand, with her husband and two girls. And she has a very real take on motherhood.
This blog ties in with Catherine’s podcast: Treasuring Mothers Ep. 38. >>>
Before I had children, I had this incredible vision of how I saw myself being with my darling offspring, my motherhood life.
Because I’m creative:
- I imagined myself spreading huge sheets of paper on the ground, allow them to smother themselves in non-toxic paint, and crawl around on it creating art. (Yes, I’m fully aware that every mother reading this is now unable to continue, as they are doubled over in absolute hysterics at my absurd naivety and cluelessness!)
- I saw myself intently listening to every little barely understandable toddler chat we had and playing Barbies or trucks for entire afternoons. (OK, stop laughing now, it’s just being unkind).
- I had dreams of laughing gloriously as we baked side-by-side, and I sat in playgrounds chatting with other mothers as my little cherubs played sweetly and safely on their own – no tantrums, no falling off every piece of play equipment, no fear of them being abducted.
To say that reality was a huge awakening, is somewhat of an understatement. When I first heard the words, “The days are long but the years are short,” I wept with relief. It may not just be myself finding my unrealistic expectations entirely out of my reach to live up to. And that that was OK.
Motherhood Life: A HUGE Adjustment
For many of us, no matter how longed for, motherhood life is a huge adjustment. Any semblance of the selfish being “harbored within” gets kicked to the ground when you have a newborn relying on you for sustenance, for soothing, and for love.
When your desperate desire to close your eyes for more than two hours comes second to their desire to be awake and screaming, you know without a doubt that only weeks earlier, you had underestimated what sacrifice, and putting others first, might truly mean.
Yes, husbands and relatives and friends are absolutely wonderful. But not all of us have that incredible support. And for those of us who are lucky enough to have it, occasionally high personal expectations of what you’re meant to be as a mother sometimes get in the way of taking that help when it’s offered. (Disclaimer – don’t be the fool I was! TAKE THE HELP!)
Many factors can affect our ability to mother in the ways and methods we had hoped. Age, health (both mental and physical), financial situation, unforeseen changes in general circumstances. The ability to “go with the flow” is one of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to master in my motherhood life. And I am still learning.
For some, a first baby may gloriously adhere to a routine or schedule, and we conclude that we, as parents, have nailed it with our methods. Until baby Number Two comes along that is. And decides to do exactly what they please. Or we’re faced with a fussy eater; a child with health (physical or mental) issues; or sibling rivalry.
My need to control everything and everyone has had to be addressed on almost a daily basis within my mothering journey. Yes, this is my motherhood life.
For those of us who choose to stay home full-time (or most of the time) with our children, there is very little – if any – affirmation, feedback, or solid achievement in the manner that one would find if they work outside of the home.
There’s no Friday morning staff meeting where the boss picks you as Employee of the Week. No financial bonus for a job well done at the end of the year. The thought of promotion or ‘career advancement’ goes out the window, when the highest position in your new job has already been achieved.
Therefore, it’s vital to take note for yourself when you notice those moments when the <day-in, day-out> pays off.
For me, it was the evening my then six-year-old tucked up in bed reading a small chapter book. See, I had made sure that pretty much every single night of their lives that I was home with them, I would individually tuck them into their beds at the end of the day and read to them, one-on-one.
Even when my husband was home and offered, the girls would say they wanted Mummy, and so I did. (It may have had something to do with my reading all the parts in different accents, keeping it fresh and fun for me too!)
No matter how tired I was, or what I was going through, I aimed to fulfill this daily ritual with them. So, to discover they both now have a deep and true love of reading is my bonus, feedback, ‘career’ win.
Your Motherhood Life Rewards
And there are numerous other moments like this to grab the victory of years of the seemingly mundane minutiae of life being routinely carried out. Such as when:
- They use their manners
- Or they can laugh at themselves
- Or play well with others
- When they care for another person’s feelings
- Or they draw beautiful pictures for you
- When they choose healthy foods (sometimes! Come on, let’s still be realistic.)
- The list goes on and on.
For us, when they pray for others, it warms my heart. I once lost an earring my father had bought me, and was feeling really sad about it. Ad my youngest’s first response, after helping me look for it was, “Let’s pray for Mummy.” The prayer included finding the earring, but also that I would feel better and “not too sad” about it. The win of that moment outweighed the loss of the earring.
Trust Your Instincts
So, let’s give ourselves a break.
Mostly, we are doing the very best we can with the knowledge we have. We are doing the very best we can with our current circumstances.
I always like to say, “If you’re the type of parent who is worried that your kids are having too much screen time, then they’re not having too much screen time!”
Try not to read too many expert pieces on this way or that way to parent. Mostly I find I end up feeling less-than, and inadequate. That I’m not:
- Feeding them enough superfoods
- Doing enough brain stimulating activities
- Exposing them to enough incredible experiences.
If following the “mums of Instagram” winds up with you feeling inadequate, unfollow them. For some, the whole Instagram thing is fun. For others, the comparison is unbearable. Decide which side of the fence you are truly on with this, and act accordingly. Trust your instincts – they’re often the best, and often spot on.
Individuality and Respect
And remember, as individual and unique as you are, so too will be your mothering style. My Mum used to say, “Children come to join you,” as in, not everything has to revolve around little Johnny or Sue.
Sure, there is give and take. More so as they get older. But we are still the parents, and sometimes, with due consideration, it’s going to be our call on a matter, no more discussion. When we listen to and respect our children, that is the important part. Even if the outcome of a situation is not exactly as they may have hoped.
Is Mama Happy?
Be kind to yourself. Self-care is a real thing. It is important and valid and should be prioritized. Often as mothers, no-one else will ensure we get that. I ended up exhausted when my girls were little and was of no use to anyone (I felt) for a period of time. Now I take time to do the things I know I need to do to be a functioning, connected, useful parent.
If days go by where I struggle to find the time and space to do these things, then I prioritize it into my schedule at the soonest convenience. Maybe “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is truer than we like to think.
And finally, if I may, no matter what you think or how you feel, and if nobody has told you this today: this is motherhood life, and you’re doing an amazing job.
You are on the clock 24/7, and no-one is perfect at their work 24/7. Cut yourself some slack, put the brakes on the inner critic. Take a moment to think of three wonderful things you’ve done today as a mother – even if it’s:
1) Fed the kids
2) Kept the kids safe
3) Told the kids you love them.
Since when were those not good things?