I can be restless, spinning in the middle of motherhood. How is it that motherhood is both too much and not enough, that I am both forgetting myself and growing into a stronger, more rooted version of myself? Life grows simpler and yet more complicated by the minute- having children pulls everything into focus whilst also causing life to swim before my eyes.
How do we know who we are in the middle of motherhood? How do we remember who we are when other people fill our vision most of the time?
A lot of who we are is wrapped up in motherhood, particularly in those early years of being at home with them a lot or before they start school. Children view themselves as the same person as you (their mother or primary caregiver) until they are about 6, which is so interesting when you think about trying to love and raise them. They literally can’t separate their identity from you when they are young, and so it is true that we need to understand ourselves and model good things, pursue good things for ourselves in order for them also to understand themselves and go ahead in straight aths.
The truth is that whilst motherhood can feel all consuming, and does often consume the majority of our time, we are multi faceted women. Mothering is a huge and important art of our lives, but it doesn’t define us, it’s not our whole identity. When I think back through my years of mothering so far, the times I and my children have been the most content and secure have not been the times where motherhood was all I was. If we put so much pressure on motherhood, on our children, on ourselves, to make us happy and fulfilled then we will always be let down.
No, motherhood is not all we are, and motherhood is not all we do. If you have really small babies and children who need you all the time, don’t be discouraged, I know that day in day out it can feel like all we have time for is caring for the needs of our little ones. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by these day to day tasks, the burden of love and care that falls to us. But just for a moment, look up, breathe the fresh air of this life and remember that you are a whole, wonderful person with or without them. You can take snippets of time to dream your dreams, chat to your little ones about your past, tell stories of who you are and who they are and weave your family’s narrative around you. You can take minutes here and there to show them you, the whole you.
If we want our children to be confident, kind or polite, we need to show them how, we need to do it ourselves.
If we want them to recognise their strengths and the ways they were made, and embrace those we need to be seen to be doing that too. Not just in motherhood, but in other things.
If we want our little ones to be compassionate to others, loving those in need and doing uncomfortable things for the sake of putting others first we need to be modelling that for them.
If we want our children to know that they can keep trying, keep going, to not let failure define them but to learn and grow through setbacks, we also need to be doing that in our own lives. In motherhood, in our personal lives, in relationships with others and in pursuing dreams and goals that are bigger than us.
Motherhood can be one of the most refining and sanctifying arts of life. Daily I learn my limitations, the areas I struggle and the things I can learn from and that we do well together. As we watch our children learn new things and we watch ourselves encourage them and feel proud of them, we learn about ourselves. As we encounter challenges and react to them, grow from them or struggle against them, we have more chances to learn about who we are and who they are.
The more we are pushed out of my comfort zones the more we come to learn that we are not invincible, not perfect and not altogether, even though we are the adult. We have much to learn, and we can learn it alongside our little ones, modelling teachability, humility and forgiveness along the way. We can resist the pressure to feel like we have to have it all together to be perfect parents. We can live against the lie that there is a perfect way to parent. We are all doing our best as we go along and live and learn in our families, showing love and grace and kindness as we explore childhood and walk through it together.