Monday, February 15, 2010

Enjoying Motherhood by Bloom Guest Danielle

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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,

Danielle

35 comments:

Rachael said...

Danielle, I love what you said about just saying no. I've been doing more of that since my third child was born and it's been so lovely to just cherish my children rather than running to playdates and playgrounds and ballet lessons.

Amy Jean said...

Thank you. My thoughts exactly. I have a lot of repenting to do after spending saturday resenting my life with 2 twenty month olds. I recommend "A Mother's Book of Secrets" Linda Eyre and Shawni Pothier. It is real and endearing and hopeful. Happy Mothering Monday!

Anonymous said...

I liked everything that was said, but have to admit, I don't put much stalk in it, because the woman advising me on motherhood hasn't had much experience with the kind of motherhood I need to enjoy more... the motherhood of 1. children- as in more than one! and 2. children- as in NOT babies. And I will say, she doesn't anywhere claim to an expert at anything, so there is that.

I don't disagree with anything she said, but frankly, Danielle is in the simple part of motherhood (note I didn't say EASY, I said simple). The problem is you don't realize this until you've moved well on from this stage. And for Danielle, this is all true and relavant, and at one point it was for me, too.

I guess I just expected more from Bloom... It kinda feels like getting advice on running a marathon from someone who hasn't actually completed one.

Sarah said...

I love what you've said Danielle. As a mother of four I really appreciated thinking back to when I had my first baby and everything was special and new. I think one of the things that happens with more children is that we get caught up in the minutia of every day things.

I don't know what an "expert" in parenting looks like. I firmly believe that you are an expert in parenting your child. All the experience I gained with my first isn't necessarily applicable to my fourth, so I have to learn some things all over again.

I guess I've mostly written this in response to Anonymous because I think you miss out on some wonderful ideas if you're looking for mothering benchmarks. All I want to do is find joy in my vocation, and I'll take all the help I can get.

Abbie said...

Great reminder and beautifully written. I agree with what you said about choosing friends. I'm all for talking about what's really going on, but I love my job and I think it's pretty great even though I have to deal with diarrhea, vomiting, and loads of tantrums. It really is the greatest job on earth and I feel like I'm finding my true shelf in my motherhood adventure.

We live in a Zoo! said...

No mother has it all figured out. That is something that I have to remind myself of frequently. Love this post :D

Bloom said...

A few of my thoughts...

Danielle, I've told you before that I'm envious of your first baby experience. I was so ill-prepared for the role change of motherhood, that I spent Blaine's first 9 months trying to get comfortable with being a Mom instead of enjoying that precious time with him.

I agree with what you said about the outside things being the causes of stress. I often bite off more than I can chew, and then lose my patience when my children are bored with my craft project or are tired of being trucked around on errands. Obviously there are some things that just have to be done to keep a home, etc., (and I think our children have to learn that) but I know I could choose more wisely when it comes to the 'extras.'

The discipline vs. love thing is something we talk about a lot. I think, in philosophical terms, I'm completely on board with the 'they really just need love' line of thinking. In practical terms, some of my experience as a teacher of older children is now guiding my parenting. For example, I had many students that knew no boundaries, no rules, no limits, no authority. It made succeeding in school (dare i say, 'the real world?') difficult for them. When Taylor and I discipline around here we try to follow the LDS scripture that talks about following up discipline/reproving with an increase of love (D&C 121:43)and I feel like it works well. I think it's how we help our children understand that sometimes we have to discipline BECAUSE we love them. (Danielle, I hope that doesn't come across poorly. I'm not implying that you don't give Avery boundaries. Nor am I implying that I have this figured out! OH BOY I don't have this figured out! Like I said, it's something we're constantly talking about, trying to figure out. Of course it will differ with each child, and we're learning on quite an independent, willful 3-yr-old...

Mostly though, I just want to say that I really enjoyed reading this. Danielle, I think you have done a beautiful job of reveling in your time with just you and Avery. Certainly things will be a bit different as you add more children to your family, but I have the feeling you will figure out the choices you need to make to continue enjoying motherhood, even with more schedules, demands, sticky hands, etc.!

love
anne

Melissa said...

Danielle, you have wisdom that many women don't find until much later. It doesn't matter whether you have one little one, or five grade school to high school age kids, the things you are sharing are sound words that make total sense to me. I have learned exactly everything you have, and I love being a mother. If there is anything that I can add that I've learned it's that the more inner peace I have with myself, the better I am as a mother and the more strength I have to draw from. If I am unhappy with myself or struggling with something unrelated to my kids, I find myself being short with my kids and my husband. Those are the times that I clam up and take stock. I want to experience the JOY of motherhood in the midst of this crazy world. I don't want to sit around years later in regret. This kind of awareness is one of the greatest gifts and will help you enjoy every moment of the journey. :)

Anonymous said...

I frankly don't understand some of the negativity flowing from Anonymous. Why are you so bitter? Is it because you have several children (read: not babies) and are now realizing you failed to enjoy the baby stage of motherhood while you could? This is supposed to a supportive place for women to get inspiration and share with each other. If you don't personally find that here, then you should keep your negative comments to yourself and let others enjoy reading and thinking about what other people have to say. If you are so dissapointed by what Danielle wrote, then I suggest you volunteer to write a comprehensive "motherhood 101" post addressing the issues Danielle did not raise instead of sitting back and throwing insults from behind the shield of an Anonmyous comment.

Maybe I missed something, but I have never expected Bloom to be a place providing one size fits all advice. As a matter of fact, I don't consider anything posted to be advice at all. Every post is simply one person's opinion on a particular subject as applied through the context of that particular individuals life experiences. If you don't fit into the framework of that persons life experiences, then obviously you are not the target audience for that day's post. It is asinine to criticize Danielle because her post didn't apply to you or because you don't personally feel she has the same experiences as you as a mother. None of us have the same experiences, and that is exactly the point of Bloom. The fact that Danielle is a woman entitles her to an opinion on the subject of motherhood and the simple fact that she has a baby qualifies her as a expert.

Further, nowhere in anything she posted did she claim that being a mother was easy or simple or anything. In fact, if you read the subtleties of her post you will see that she is saying exactly the opposite. Her point, which you obviously missed, was that being a mother is inherently difficult and complex and that in her life it has helped her to unplug and focus on her baby girl and try to enjoy the experience of being a mother instead of worrying about what she may or may not be getting done or accomplishing as a mother. I think that is a message everyone of us, including you, needs to hear and can take to heart.

I personally don't feel having a certain amount of children or having a childred of a certain age should be a requirement for being a Bloom contributor. I personally like very much what Danielle has to say and look forward to her posts. Her posts are always genuine and from the heart and give me things to think about, even though they may not always necessarily apply to me (our youngest is 5). However, that doesn't mean what she says is any less credible or any less true.

Nikki Sherrill
Romeoville, IL
Mother of 4, ages 5 to 14 and avid marathoner (so far I have finished 6 races).

Camille said...

No motherhood adventure is the same. We're all at different stages - amount of children, their ages, our job situations which affects our level of involvement with our children, etc.
However, we can all find joy in motherhood and I appreciate that you're reminding us of those joys and the moment we're in NOW - today!
Thank you for your insight Danielle.
And thank you to Bloom for providing a place for mothers alike to share ideas/feelings/thoughts to help better our mother-self, regardless of everything else we have to balance!

Kendall K said...

Thank you Danielle. I thought this was beautifully written and I really feel inspired to try harder to enjoy each moment with my child.

Barb @ getupandplay said...

Danielle! Thank you for the wonderful gift introducing "Asking Jane" to me. I've been reading it with tears in my eyes for a half an hour! She is just the voice I needed to hear as a new mom!

LJ said...

Well, Danielle, you certainly stirred up the pot, didn't you?

Personally, I didn't find Anon to be all that bitter (maybe a little snarky, but not necessarily bitter!) I can see her point: it was definitely easier for me to revel in motherhood when I had only one child. We could nap together and I often had lots of time to pursue creative outlets while he played beside me. Now that I have two, things have become much more complicated and confusing and loud! But, I appreciate Danielle's reminder to live life without regrets. So, I'm going to enjoy my time with my young children as much as I can (in spite of the frustrations and lack of sleep and total chaos).

Christina said...

I have three kids now, but I certainly remember what it was like to have one. I appreciate Danielle's insight.

Kate said...

Danielle, I love what you wrote. I've always thought you were such a wonderful mother. I'm always striving to enjoy my kids like you enjoy Avery. You do such a good job at doing that. This came at a great time for me, with Charlie asserting his independence more and more, and me feeling pulled and wondering how to be the best mom to both kids in their very different stages of life. Patience is something I pray for daily along with the inspiration to be the mother my kids need. I feel strongly like you that my children were entrusted to me and that they don't belong to me. Maybe it's that much more pronounced since they were literally placed in my arms given from one loving mom to this loving mom. I was entrusted with their care from their birth mother's and the same is true from our Father in Heaven. Did that make any sense? Basically I loved reading this and it has made me an even more loving mom today. So thanks!

Katrina said...

Wow, I never would have thought that lovely post would stir up controversy.

Danielle, I love what you wrote and much of it are things I've thought a lot about too.

I'd also like to add that although the experiences talked about here are those of a mother with one toddler, the principles she outlines can apply to mothers with children of all ages.

Valerie said...

what a wonderful refreshing post! Isn't it amazing the role of a mother. Thank you for touching on very important and positive subjects of motherhood :)

Valerie said...

Oh and I was going to add to some of the anonymous comments...To me it seems BLOOM takes one thing, one interest, one subject at a time. So maybe BLOOM will have another guest post who is totally different than Danielle and has other insights. I don't think we should expect EVERYTHING from just one guest post. Take the positive things you can from each post and run with it :)

Diana said...

I love this post, thank you!

jeanine said...

Thank you thank you. This post spoke to me! And I agree with Amy JEan "A Mother's Book of Secrets" is SO good!

Joan said...

I love that you still nurse your baby. I nursed both of my boys till they were 18 months and most people thought I was crazy.
Thank you for sharing your heart so openly, Danielle :) You are wise beyond your years as a mother and have lovely mothering virtues to share with all of us.

david + vanessa said...

good job sister! i hope i can be just like you when i have a baby.

Heather said...

I LOVE this! Pretty much everything about it, I too feel that my children are entrusted to me, though I feel that they're also mine. Given to me as a gift and a blessing, eternally! This post is beautifully said, and it makes me so happy to read about someone who I feel has the same thoughts and feelings that I am trying to achieve. A kindred spirit you could say :)

I loved every bit of this. Whether you have 1 child or 7, this post is for everyone. There is no ranking because of how many. I think it can only help bring what matters most to light. Enjoying this beautiful, messy thing called Motherhood that bonds us together and helps us stretch and grow, and learn from each other. Bloom, thank you for this guest poster! Can't wait to hear more from her, and others.

Pay the blog trolls no mind, they breed negativity and insecurity, both of which there is no need for here. ;)

Natalie said...

This is a beautifully written post that I was happy to read today. I loved your thoughts on picturing the grown up version of your daughter, and holding yourself accountable for how you treat her now in that way. I agree with everything you said and many of the thoughts you shared I have considered to be unique to my own thought processes=) It is always refreshing to find someone who feels like you do about the important things. Thanks for taking the time to write this!

And really, Anonymous, I think that the feelings expressed were applicable to all phases of motherhood. I'm sorry you are discouraged with your life as it is now. But I think you would do well to read this again with an open heart, allowing that someone with less experience may have some valuable insight to share.

Sugar... said...

Wow, anonymous...ouch. Not nice. I have 4 kids ages 5,4,2, and 10 months, and I still found Danielle's post insightful and uplifting. While I agree that it is easier to enjoy being a mother every second with only 1 child, that doesn't make what Danielle said any less important. It is terribly hard to listen to (and enjoy) your 5 year old tell you about her school projects, while your two toddler boys fight over a toy, and your baby is screaming on the floor because he wants to be held. BUT I wholeheartedly believe that it CAN and SHOULD be enjoyed. I don't think she was trying to make anyone feel bad about parenting, or say that she is a better mother than anyone else. We've all had our share of moments we are probably not proud of. But what she is saying is so real...the world is very busy, and there are SO many distractions that drive us away from those special moments with our children that we can never get back.

Danielle, I think you are an excellent mother, and I will say that it does get a lot harder as you add more children to the family, but you are off to an AMAZING start. You inspire me. Come hang out with us sometime...we love lazy summer days spent in the backyard with sprinklers, popsicles, and laughter.

Jonesy said...

I'm sad that so many of you think that Anon was out of line--even referring to her as a "troll." Come on. Really? All she did was voice her opinion, just as everyone else has done. She even praised Danielle saying that "I don't disagree with anything she said" and "this is all true and relevant." I understand her point that it is a little hard to put stock into advice from one who has not yet "finished the race." Having more than one child, and having older children definitely changes things up, adding a complexity otherwise unknown.
That being said, I think Danielle writes with a refreshing and somewhat idyllic view of mothering her little one. I wish I had been that kind of fully present and attentive mother from the beginning. I appreciate your attempts to help us all in our mothering challenges, Danielle, even though those challenges may be at different stages for all of us.
Just remember that not everyone is so eloquent at expressing our opinions. I'm sure Anon meant no real offense.

Rachael said...

I agree with Jonesy--while Anonymous may not have couched his/her comments in the kindliest of ways, the simple truth is that you just don't have the same kind of time with subsequent children as you do with the first. And the needs of older children are much different and more demanding. My third child isn't getting as much attention as my first; it's not that I love him less--and let's be honest, I'm much better at mothering the third time around--it's simply that there are three children who all need my attention and love and care, and all the accompanying work that comes along with those three children. I want to have lots of quality time with my kids every day, but I also want them to wear clean clothes and eat healthy meals--and that takes time. And to be perfectly frank, I don't want my kids with me every second--it's not healthy for any of us.

But I still love Danielle's mindful mothering. And I think she readily acknowledges the point that her parenting style may change with the addition of more children.

Porters said...

oh this was so wonderful. Thank you for posting these thoughts!

wes said...

Oh, I missed all the fun! =)

Danielle, I'm on board late, but I still wanted to say: you were the perfect person to write this post! "Mindful mothering," is a great phrase to describe you and your ability to soak in the "magical little details" of Avery. I have long loved that about you via your blog.

I loved all the points you made - especially about saying no and about listening to our inner mother voices. I think that can be akin to listening to the Spirit. Sometimes I look so much to outside advice - or I try to solve tricky partenting problems too cerebrally - and I forget to turn inward and trust what I FEEL is right - what the Spirit whispers is right.

So thanks, dear! I'm so glad to count you as a friend (and I feel honored by your kind words in the post!).

lori said...

That was me above!

Dani said...

So inspirational! I'm finding that saying "no" really does help calm me and keep me focused on my kids and not my to-do list. Thanks for sharing your love for your "job" and reminding me of why what I'm doing is so very important.

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