There are points in the year that feel pivotal and show you just how much has changed. For whatever reason, fall holds that for me. I wrote a few weeks ago about how this last year was a year of transformation in so many aspects of my life. Motherhood has served as a connecting point into humanity in a way I never anticipated and cleared cobwebs I didn’t even know needing clearing. So as I look at this last year of motherhood during the season of harvest I am wondering where I myself can harvest something that will nourish me. Where in this identity I was meant to have can I reap something of the hard work I have sown? Where do I see new growth needing to happen? Where do I see limbs needing to be trimmed so I can become stronger in other areas?
So I thought I would spend this month’s motherhood post gathering up some things I have been learning and what I also am letting go of as we dive all the deeper into toddlerhood.
Caring for You and Pursuing Dreams is Okay:
I think as mothers we need to hear this. I talk to so many of my girlfriends about guilt. That we feel guilty for traveling or taking time for ourselves or getting a sitter so we can go to the gym or even working more than 20 hours a week. Some women do not feel this, but I know that the moment Hayes landed on my chest I knew I would ALWAYS feel his tug on me. This last year I have made a point of getting sitters. Putting my work higher on the list because I have dreams and I know those dreams are rooted in good. Good that I hope will instill a positive perspective on the world for my son. Unfortunately, I cannot make dreams happen in between naps right now. They need dedicated time. I feel guilty some days, but I also have the chance to enjoy my morning with him cuddling and giggling, go to work, and leave at 4 or 5 and spend the evening together making dinner, going for walks, and more. It has taken me time to be okay with this and to realize we both need time to find our place separate from each other. He has wonderful sitters and family to help him learn and take on the world when I am being present in what I hope will inspire him to chase his dreams one day. It is hard some days, but I keep the perspective that I cannot be the mom I want to be for him if I don’t place myself first as well.
Remember it isn’t them against us. They are part of us:
My gosh, this one has taken time and every day I still am working on it. I one day read about shifting our perspective as parents about our child not being our enemy always taking us from social activities, travel, or ruining dinner out. Instead, we have to perceive the parent and child relationship as just that…a relationship. That may sound like common sense, but let me tell you it took time to do so. When they are little they can feel like a little thing we tote around. Though we know they are human we feel it is something that has a tendency to pause our days, slow down travel, and more. This is a period of transition of us going from our old ways to our new ways. Somewhere in that transition though they begin to communicate, become very aware of what we are saying, and more. This is when we also need to shift that we have a relationship that involves talking, communicating, and noticing how our actions affect them and helping them be aware of how their actions effect us as well. Now that we have entered toddler life I have been working hard to do this. I am careful about how I talk in front of him. I try not to use sarcasm because it is something he doesn’t understand. I try to talk with him over meals. Though he only grunts and says “nananana” and “babababa” or shakes his head it is his way of communicating. So though we can only have a conversation at the level of a cave man I want him to know I perceive our connection in a way that I want to hear and understand him. When he throws a tantrum, I let him. We talk about it. I help him acknowledge and understand what he is feeling so he can hopefully one day tell me clearly the emotion he is feeling. I want him to know he is seen. Most importantly though when we are having a rough day, I have told him I need him to find a way to be patient and wait because I need some space or I will be frustrated. It isn’t always perfect, but the daily practice of recognize that we are both human and my job in our relationship is to make him aware of his emotions, that they are real and okay, but that we also can talk about them openly if anything helps me not see tantrums as the end of the world for both of us.
Balance is overrated:
I tried for so long to find “balance” this elusive thing that seems to be coordinated to parenthood. I don’t think it is about balance anymore though. I think it is about every day trying your very best to be present in both your work, then with your family when you are no longer working. Finding time to both is important but the balance isn’t ever going to be perfect, but what can be is if we can be great at being present where we are so we can be best in whichever place we find ourselves in that day on whatever varying level.
Early bird gets the quiet time:
This has been a key to success in finding me time, work time, and mom time. Hayes is a later sleeper…THANK GOODNESS. Every day I am thankful for this, but at least 2-3 days a week, Mike and I wake up early. Sometimes we work, but sometimes we just chat and drink coffee. It is a great way to clear the blurry vision of sleep away before parenting begins. I find it to be a necessary piece in feeling sane by the end of the day.
Don’t be perfect. Be Real:
I learned pretty early on that perfect was out the window with a baby and that perfect wasn’t necessary, but it took me a while to realize that real was better. Our house has a lot of messes in it at the end of the day. There is spilled milk, bites of apple, scattered crackers, and don’t forget the dog hair. Mike and I work busy full time jobs that many times are crammed into less than full time hours this means that the house isn’t going to be clean all the time. Sometimes the laundry isn’t done that week. It may take me a few weeks to really clean a room a little at a time. But what is better is that instead clean and “Instagram Ready” our house is full of laughing and having a fun wrestling, playing peek-a-boo, cooking together, dancing to the radio, and drinking a glass of wine at the end of a long day. It is full of cuddles and book reading. Perfect isn’t easy, but letting go of it can be even harder. Connecting that real is the most important may be the hardest.
Letting Go isn’t Easy:
Motherhood is a process of continually letting go. Sometimes it is a little softer. Sometimes it is a drastic thing. Sometimes it involves food being thrown. Sometimes it involves the last time we breastfeed. Sometimes it is the choice to send them to daycare. Sometimes it is watching them play independently. Sometimes it is about not getting to finish the grocery trip to stick to what we said would be the consequence. Sometimes it is about tantrums. Sometimes it is about seeing things in a new way. All of it is part of the letting go that motherhood involves. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking job that feels overwhelming to me at times. I have let go a lot this year. Next on the deck letting him head to a Montessori program. It scares me to death to think of him walking into school for the first time. I don’t think there will ever be a year it will get easier I am sure, but it has been extra tough. It has been wonderful knowing he is safe in his home every day within reach. Another step in letting go and letting them have wings but more than ever becoming a solid place they can find comfort and support.
These lessons that motherhood have taught this last year are numerous. I could keep going and going. How it continually changes me and expands my heart is unbelievable at times. Parts of who I am falling away and other parts of me growing and becoming. All important parts of cultivating a mother and child relationship that will one day offer the world an adult with strong shoulders, confident to face the world, and feels comfortable with themselves in the face of it. That’s all I hope. That by my growth it only grows him further than I will ever grow myself.
So tell me how has this year of motherhood brought you a harvest of lessons and growth? What has changed for you? What has become more beautiful because of this identity as a woman?