Monday, February 15, 2010
Enjoying Motherhood by Bloom Guest Danielle
I should begin with the disclaimer that there about one thousand areas of motherhood where I fall painfully short. A perfect mother I am not, but when Bloom asked for suggestions of topics readers would like to hear more about, several people mentioned, “Enjoying your children,” and I jumped at the chance to write about it. Because there might be times when I forget to trim my daughters nails (I know... gross), but I really do enjoy being a mother. Enjoying motherhood is important to me. It's something I've worked at (am still working at), have spent a lot of time thinking about, and try hard to make a priority.
Motherhood is a challenge…there is no question about that, but since becoming a mom I am having the most fun of my life…ever. I feel like my daughter makes everything more fun. I wonder how I got so lucky.
I certainly don’t claim to have everything about motherhood figured out after being in the club less than 2 years, and if you speak to me in ten years after a few more (hopefully) babies, I may have completely changed my mind about some things. But right now, at this time in my life, these are the thoughts in my head, the stuff that makes sense to me, the mother I aspire to be, and the things I focus on to try to actually become that mother.
I see my child’s divine potential and purpose
For me, enjoying my child isn’t so much about the things we spend our time doing on a daily basis, but more about my broad attitude and philosophies regarding our relationship. And this is how I see it: My child(ren) are each a perfect special soul entrusted to me…not belonging to me. It’s my job to care for them, to love and provide for them, and to do my very best to help them realize their own divine (and I certainly believe it is) potential, and to not mess them up too badly along the way. I know this sounds kind of goofy, but I often try to see my daughter as the grown-up version of herself…the one who has entrusted me with the care of the child version of herself, and I ask if she’d approve of my behavior. Kooky I know…but it’s really what I do. I feel a great responsibility to that soul of hers. And I feel so honored that she would trust me with it. Truly. And by seeing motherhood and the divine relationship I have with my child as an honor and blessing, and not a burden, the natural consequence for me is that I feel immense enjoyment in my role. And I mean all of it. Because changing vomited sheets for the third time at 3 am, or giving a patient hug in response to a screaming fit at the end of a long day, are trying things to do, but they make me happy because I know in doing them I giving her what she needs, and I am glad that I get to be the one to do it.
I listen to my elders
Upon sharing the news of our expected baby on the way, I started receiving advice (as I am sure many of you did) from mothers who’d gone before me. I was grateful for all the practical tips about living with a baby, but the advice I found most meaningful was the stuff that was laced with regret. It came from mothers (and surprisingly frequently) who’d wished their babies away with thoughts of, “I’ll enjoy this when they are just a bit older and sleeping through the night”, or “I’ll enjoy this when they are finally through the cranky toddler stage and aren’t so demanding,” or, “I’ll be glad when they don’t constantly need my attention and I can get something done!” Only to realize that after those babies had grown up and gone, that those late night feedings, those little chubby toddler hands hanging from their legs, and those bright-eyed first graders who are so excited to share everything about their day—those were the good times. And they’d give anything to have them back. And it hadn’t mattered a lick that their houses were spotless, or their to-do lists were checked off. What they wished they’d spent more time doing was just loving and playing with their children. So, I've tried to take that advice to heart. Maybe even a little obsessively. When my daughter was born I was determined to not let life steal away our precious time together. I thought if I just held her and stared at her all day long soaking up every ounce of her baby-ness, I could somehow save myself from having those regrets. I guess time will tell. She is almost 2 and I already miss that heavenly newborn bundle, but I feel content in knowing that I never, for one second, wished it away. And while I had to eventually rejoin the outside world, I am so grateful for the perspective of these mothers who have gone before me. Through their eyes I was able to cherish that quiet time in the dead of night that just me and my baby got to share as I nursed her back to sleep, and am now able to see her little nearly-two-year-old self as funny and endearing when she throws a little screaming fit. I know it's all part of the master plan. I know I’ll miss it someday.
I choose my friends wisely
We all have days when we feel overcome by the duties of motherhood. And sometimes it helps to vent a little about those frustrations. But it can go too far, and for me—negativity breeds more negativity. I find that when I spend a lot of time around women who are constantly complaining about, perpetually frustrated with, or always snapping at their children, I come away feeling drained and down. I love spending time with other mothers who enjoy their children…who are encouraging and positive with them. It reminds me to do more of the same, and enforces my desire to be that kind of mother. The same goes with what I read. My friend Lori (who I see more though her blog than through real life) does a great job of being "real" about motherhood without ever being negative towards her children. I always feel uplifted and united in motherhood when I visit her blog (and for the record there are many many more people I feel that way about!). She also recommended a blog called, "Asking Jane" which I have come to love. It's written by the daughter of a mother of 11 children, and she just asks her mother Jane parenting questions she or other readers have, and posts the answers. I love it. It makes me hopeful that having more children won't spoil my resolve to be positive and calm. I love how she has lived a long life and has raised some children into adulthood and that she preaches an attitude of, "If they are misbehaving...give them more love...not necessarily more discipline." It must work... they all seem to be turning out well.
I say no...a lot
I know there are people who move fast fast fast, who are juggling seven thousand things at once, who are highly productive and who manage to get it all done and with a smile on their face. I am totally not one of them. I tend to get overwhelmed and scatterbrained and tired. I have found the times when I start feeling frustrated with my motherly duties, it's usually the demands of all the things around me that have nothing to do with being a mom that are the real problem. So I have learned to say no and it has made all the difference in the world. Sometimes I say no to doing favors or taking on more responsibilities or work. Sometimes I say no to acquiring more stuff that also requires more of my time to manage it. Sometimes I say no to the notion that I have to have everything or be everything or do everything. And sometimes I even say no to fun. Because too many play-dates or outings or craft projects can just as easily start feeling exhausting if not approached with balance. And saying no sometimes (maybe even often), lets us have enough quiet in our life to really enjoy those magical thoughts and feelings that seem to happen best in the still, unhurried moments. Those are the times when I really see my daughter’s personality and all the magical little details about her shine through—when I notice her funny facial expressions, or the new way she’s learned to crinkle up her nose to be silly. It’s in those moments where I notice how carefully she watches me and repeats my actions, and how very sweet her little chirpy voice is, or how much she’s really grown. And it’s those moments when we have time to just look at each other's faces, giggling and smiling, and feel that it is quite possibly the most entertaining thing in the world. It’s those moments I enjoy being a mom the most.
I listen to my "inner mother" and try to give my child what she needs
I guess this seems like an obvious statement and this subject is feeling slightly difficult for me to explain. I guess I would start out by saying that I think that structure and consistency and behavior modification are important things in raising a child. Really important. But I also think that it's easy to get kind of swept up in the extremes of wanting to teach a child, “That they can’t always get what they want,” or that they, “Need to learn to be independent,” and that it all needs to be done at as young an age as possible or they will be ruined forever! I think we can become so afraid of doing anything wrong as a parent that we feel miserable and nervous and forget to just love our kids sometimes. So I try to not get too caught up in the latest parenting books or fads. I try to just listen to my inner mother voice and do what seems logical and good for my child. When faced with a new or trying situation I try to take a step back and ask, “What does she really need?” And then I give it to her. When I get a request of, “Mamma…hold you?” I never turn it down with a, “No you’re a big girl....you don’t need to be held right now.” And I try to always say “Yes!” to requests of, “Show you?” or “Help you?,” and try never to respond with, “No, I’m too busy.” And I still nurse her to sleep every afternoon, and people think I am crazy and that she “should” be able to fall asleep on her own, but that 30 minutes I get with her is my favorite time of day. And I’m pretty sure she’ll turn out just fine in spite of it;) Sometimes I say, “No” to a treat at the grocery store, but sometimes I say, “Yes” because sitting in a cart for an hour is boring to a toddler and why shouldn’t they have a treat to pass the time? At any rate…I have felt that trusting myself and really trying to give my child what she needs, has been a huge factor in how much I enjoy motherhood.
I could probably go on about all of this for pages and pages…but this is getting kind of long! The last thing I want to mention (if you’ve made it this far!) is something that I probably need the most improvement in, and that is supporting each other as mothers. What I have realized since becoming a mom, is that every one of us is doing the best we can—wants to be the best mother we can—and that we all have a different well of experiences and knowledge to draw from. It’s so easy to become critical of others for doing things differently than we do them, or defensive about our own choices. I guess I think that we’d all enjoy motherhood more if we just accepted and supported each other in whatever choices we’ve made, and weren't so stubborn ourselves that we aren’t open to improvement or change.
Like I said, these things are the ideals I am striving for...not things that I do perfectly every day. I have plenty of frustrated, impatient slip-ups, and I know things will just get more difficult with more children, but I am so grateful that I get to be a mother. Its the thing in life that I'd always looked most forward to doing, and I find it even better than I expected.
Plus it turns out my child is pretty forgiving...in spite of my faults.
Thanks for letting me share my heart,