Mothering. It’s hard work. It’s hard when your child needs to wear a mask and he or she keeps pulling it off. (I’m in an airplane as I type this with my girls). It’s hard when they are hungry and you haven’t been to the store in a day, or seven. Mothering is difficult when you have worked all day, whether on the laundry or at the office, and everyone is hungry and counting on you to start dinner. Mothering is hard especially when we beat ourselves up for not doing it all, getting it all done or having the right conversations every time with each child.
A good friend of mine recently told me she had a good mothering day. It was a feeling to celebrate, but let’s be honest. Most days we do a pretty good job mothering. So many women, even within our own communities, have different circumstances. Socio-economic status, personal or family values, living situation and many more factors which contribute to our feelings around mothering. The grade we give ourselves is usually a comparison with another mothers in similar situations as our own or a reaction, either good or bad, to our own upbringing.
Within my own experience as a mother I have learned to have a few habits to help me in my resilience. The first is to be visibly excited to see my children. Being visibly excited to see my daughters in the morning or again after a separation (after school or after working in my office for a couple hours) lightens my mood and delights them. This practice also reminds me to set my focus on them. I was encouraged to do this by Lisa Turk… in her book “Best yes”. It has been a game changer. I can be so easily distracted with other things if I don’t choose to make this a habit.
The second is explaining to my daughters when I am stressed or overwhelmed. I tend to be more quick to yell or to be short with them when I am not doing well myself. Telling the girls upfront also helps me stay calmer. When I do loose it, I try to quickly apologize. I know I will grade myself on my mothering more harshly if I don’t. It’s also a great practice. My girls are more quick to apologize and to forgive if I model it first.
The third habit for my resilience is to have one key thing I intentionally do with them a day when I am with them all day. Sometimes I’ll plan an ice cream shop trip on scooters for no reason. Sometimes it’s setting an expectation for one of them to achieve something, being with them the entire time, and then going nuts about how proud I am or how much I trust them when it is over. Ding, ding, ding. This one goes a long way to boost my mothering good-feelings. Bonus, it fills my girls cups. I can then work on something else on my to-do list for a second win of the day feeling satisfied.
I have also found it crucial for my resilience to have one or more mothers surrounding me. They cover me when I have messed up the schedule, one of the sources of my anxiety. They love my children tenderly and stand in at events or parties if I can’t be at my girls’ every important moments. My husband is my parenting partner, but other mothers are often the fuel to help me recharge. We are not alone in this mothering journey, yet it is often too easy to attempt to go it alone.
The last key aspect of resilience for me in mothering is having my own identity and my own interests. I love being a mother, but it’s just one piece of me. I am a nurse, a photographer, a wife, a Board member and a volunteer. I bring women together for community. I invest in younger women. I have my friends’ children over. I make time for my faith and try to blog weekly. My girls come with me for some of it, and other times they stay with others or go to school. Life, for me, is a balance. Life is also a constant rebalance which needs tweaking before, during and after each season.
So, when we grade ourselves as mothers, remember this: We are more than we think we are. We are worthy of love and honor just as much as the other mothers in our lives. We are the envy of someone else’s life. We have been entrusted with little humans and so many women wish they were as well. This realization may not make our days any easier, but a little gratitude for what we have been given may make the next few minutes seem a bit sweeter.
As you read this, your children may be screaming in the background (newborn to teenagers). Breath, Mama, and conquer the day. Figure out the habits you have which help you feel like a great mama and accomplish one of them today. Get back on your feet, just one more time, and one step at a time. Breath a little more deeply, count to ten and remember to be grateful for your screaming child, or the other mothers in your life, or the five seconds of peace you might get when you go to the bathroom.
Thankful for you. Mothering makes the world go around and connects us to each other. Rise up, all you mamas. You have got this!