Growing Together: Welcome to Motherhood.
As featured on the shine bright mama blog by Maria k
When you become a mum, no matter your circumstance, you will never again not be a mum. You can never undo it. Unlike other jobs or vocations, a career change from motherhood, is never on the cards. I am a mother. I have a 17-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter, and although it has been many years since my breastfeeding days, sleepless nights spent comforting them through teething, and days spent safe guarding them from stairs and sharp edges, the load remains the same if not heavier and the responsibly immense, and despite their steps towards freedom and independence, the love and bonds only ever grow deeper.
Over the years, I have come to realize that my children are not mine, they do not belong to me, and when I use the words “my son or daughter” it is only when speaking with others. My children came through me and to me in my early twenties whilst I was married to their father. We three have effectively grown up together. I raised them mostly alone since they were four and five years old. We have been each other’s teachers, confidants, enemies and emotional and spiritual personal trainers. Today I share with you several ideas that have been born to me as I have observed and experienced our individual and intertwined journeys together as a three which has taken us across the world and back again.
I didn’t always get it right and I expect I won’t at times in the future either and I’m ok with that because I am honest with my two. They know I always do my best and apologize when I mess up. These concepts that I offer today are for you to ponder, try on, keep or discard as you feel to. If I had to leave you with one take away from being a mum so far, that would be that the answers are usually already inside of you and the main job of a mum is to continue to deepen the connection she has with herself first and then by default, so too will the relationship with your child continue to grow and develop too. Parenting is nothing more than a relationship, a complex one for sure, but not much more than two people trying to figure out this thing we call life together.
1- Pace Yourself
When we first give birth, life literally revolves around our baby. Nothing is more important than their comfort and wellbeing and we are the ones responsible for literally everything. And, of course, why would we want it any other way? We vow to give and do our all to our precious offspring which, no matter how challenged we may be feeling, is a precious gift. In the early days it is hard to see into the future. It is almost impossible to imagine your baby, toddler or preschooler as a teenager or young person, let alone an adult. In my opinion though, it is a must. It is useful to understand early that being a mother is a long-haul journey, more like running a marathon than a sprint, and that pacing yourself in the early days by creating personal balance can be helpful to avoid burn out and a buildup of resentment. When mine were little, I’d cram our days with activities, wear myself out by giving them so many opportunities, home cooked organic meals and one on one time, and when I ask them about those days now, they do not remember very much. Furthermore, the type of demands that come with parenting tweens, teens and young adults, I have found demand a very different type of energy, one that far supersedes the simplicity of waking up to a baby’s cry and changing a diaper on demand. Of course, relish every precious moment but also conserve your energy, mentally and emotionally keep building yourself up and remember, parenting is for life, not just for the early years!
2- Mother Not Martyr
This might be deemed as quite a controversial idea, and I must also preface this by stating that in most cases, our children do come first. Period. I refrain from using the word must here though as it is not my intention to dictate to anyone how to do anything, let alone raise their child or organise their life. It is worth considering though, that there is a difference between giving from a place of choice, centeredness, awareness and healthy boundaries and allowing one’s sense of self, authentic desires and pleasures to wither and die the moment a child comes along. Having been raised in a culture that is very enmeshed in the idea that parents must give up everything for their kids, I have spent much time pondering this concept, what it really means and how it can be morphed into something that is healthier and mutually beneficial to both parent and growing child. In many cultures and modern times, it is normal for children to be placed above and beyond the well-being and happiness of either parent. Much to the detriment of their mental and physical health. My question is though, what are we teaching them and what are we setting them up for in later life? The chain of decline, pain and resentment that has plagued the many generations before us is now in the hands of us modern parents, we are raising and impacting on many generations to come. This is of course, such an individual piece for each parent and cannot be taken from a book, custom or culture. Whether it’s a trend, expectation or fear mongering medical or health concept, be wary of why YOU are inclined to do it and check whether you are being the type of mother you want to be or more the martyr that is keenly intertwined with motherhood.
3- You Are Enough – Trust Yourself
There are, from the moment of conception, a myriad of opportunities to begin feeling crappy about your capability and credibility as a mother. From pregnancy onwards, we have the chance to quickly buy into the myth that there is a perfect way to do this. A perfect way to carry, a perfect way to give birth, a perfect way to navigate sleeping and feeding, a perfect way to discipline, educate, negotiate pocket money, independence and so on. Many openings for feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and guilt. As a single mother with a less than mainstream life, I battled with feelings of not enough-ness on many levels and made the mistake of believing that I was failing because my kids were not turning out a certain way. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and it took about six months of testing out alternatives that were not of my own natural ways and witnessing the contrasting outcomes to understand that I was doing ok in the first place because we were doing it our way. No one will ever know your child the way you do, and no two children are the same. One system does not work for all and there is no generic philosophy to suit the uniqueness of your child and your relationship to him and his to you.
4- Allow them the gift of their own experience
Our immediate tendency is to protect our little one from all pain, discomfort and or loss. Of course, we are hardly likely to allow them to run onto a busy street or munch away on a dishwasher tablet when they feel like it. We are talking more about experiencing life in its entirety, as it comes, with its many opportunities for growth, learning and emotional intelligence and maturity. This is surely a tough one. For me, this has been one of the hardest lessons to learn and accept. As pre-mentioned, we have lived an interesting life and my two have experienced things that have forced them to face deeply painful and confusing situations, on more than one occasion. I have had to train myself to trust not only in their strength and resilience but also in the bigger picture of life that is formed by the smaller snapshots we live inside of, daily. One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to hold the space for your child while they seemingly make mistakes and or navigate the dark depths of their own emotions, fears and traumas without trying to absorb the pain, blame or take control of the situation every single time. It takes great emotional and mental strength to allow anyone you love to have their experience and not make it about your own pain, especially when it’s your child and separating your pain from their pain takes practice, awareness and gentle self-encouragement. There’s a big difference between being there to support, guide and listen without trying to manipulate, control or over protect. Your child’s strength lies in the level of belief you have in his ability to cope with what life brings his way and learn through experience. Your belief in him and your willingness to demonstrate this through noninterference will make him stronger, more confident and courageous.
5- Facilitate rather than Control
To facilitate is to make possible. This is often a counter intuitive idea in connection to parenting, based on the conditioning that most of us have grown up with. We are taught that children are lesser, unwise and incapable of knowing their own needs and preferences. We can lose sight of how complete children are, and we believe that we must fill this empty vessel, decorate this blank canvas and mold the block of clay with our own ideas, ways and morals. I find that this approach is rooted in fear. The fear that our children are representative of our own capability in life and that we must under no circumstances leave them to their own devices because that will reveal our own shortcomings. I also believe that it takes far more patience, skill and courage to facilitate the natural and organic forming of the human being that has been entrusted to us rather than manipulate and control. It takes more work too, the kind of work that many of us adults shy away from. The inner work. Facing our own fears, beliefs of limitation and need to control most things around us, including our offspring. To facilitate means taking into consideration the nuances of the individual and the situation. To facilitate means to guide without expectations. To facilitate means to trust in the process and to allow for it to not look like anything you had ever imagined or wished for.
Within my UpGrade teachings, is the theory that life is built and carved from within us, from our desires and inspirations; our ideas and inclinations and that our life is unfolding through us. It is much easier to allow our toddler to enjoy free play or our infant to feed on demand than it is to practice these principles into the later years and in all honesty, it is both an art and a science with no finite formula available for me to share with you. What I can share though is this. As your child grows, make sure you grow with him. Seize the opportunity to become a better version of yourself as he does too. Just as your child will never be perfect, neither will you. And that dear fellow mama, is exactly how it is supposed to be. Here’s to raising our children and to our children raising us!