Whilst motherhood unites us in common experiences and a common love for our children, another beauty of motherhood is that we each have different backgrounds, talents and experiences that we bring to our mothering. There is no one way to be a mother, there are unlimited ways to love our children, and to help them learn and grow as they go through life with you. One of the most freeing things for me in mothering the past few years has been understanding this, and reminding myself of it over and over. We don’t have to do the same things as anyone else. We don’t have to have a day that looks like anyone else’s. We don’t have to have a family makeup like theirs. From big things like the number of children or location of our houses, to the smaller things like what to do each day or how to get through teatime and bedtime with the most grace- we have freedom to fill motherhood with things that are unique to each of us. The ways we mother are going to be different between families, children, and even generations.
Avoiding the comparison trap
Friends, I struggle with this mama role on a lot of days. There are the days when there’s no where I would rather be, and then there are days when I am painfully aware of how imperfect I am in this assignment. Holding up unrealistic ideals and expectations for ourselves means we are much more ready to trip up as we fail to meet up to the high standards we can judge ourselves by.
We all struggle with different parts of mothering at different times, but comparing ourselves is the easiest way to make things hard for ourselves. We can do this without really noticing that we are, so it’s really important to be aware of the messages we are giving ourselves.
She may have a really clean house or somehow make time to do her hair every morning, but she also struggles with cooking anything beyond pasta and feels guilt about …
She may look like she’s got her routine perfectly carved out and her life runs smoothly but she’s also got insecurity about not having deep friendships and worries about her marriage.
She might manage to do all the crafts and return all the forms and take the cutest pictures for social media but inside she’s just as worried that she’s not doing enough as you are.
Let’s celebrate the ways we differ, cheer each other on and not worry about whether their home looks cleaner, if they are on time more or if their lives look happier. We all have our struggle and all need to be honest and friendly and supportive to each other. Whilst it is scary to open up and admit an area we struggle with, or a weakness we feel we have, it actually opens up friendships and builds trust and a chance for the other person to feel safe enough to admit their vulnerabilities too.
And when we come across those with differing opinions from ours- the way in which we interact with those mamas is going to make all the difference. Choosing to give each other grace and offering support and understanding even if we would respond differently or find something difficult in another person. When the temptations to judge someone or disapprove can sneak in- we need to remember that we are different and that’s the joy of getting to share the common experience of motherhood even though we are so often different from one another. Treating each other with kindness, grace and compassion will allow us to build each other up irrespective of our differences in parenting approaches or sensitive issues.
Being confident in our uniqueness
Understanding and embracing our histories, stories and skills means that we are free to live those out in confidence in our homes, families and any other areas we are a part of. There is so much beauty and diversity in being different from one another, yet able to understand and share through conversation, learning and experiences together. Each of us has an opportunity to share with our children things that only we know, things that only we have understood in that way and skills and passions that only we have in our own way.
Once I remembered that I was a creative person and embraced that personally (to begin with I just started getting the watercolours out after bedtime) I was suddenly able to approach motherhood in a new way. It wasn’t just that I was able to deal with getting out paints and things for them and allowing them to make a mess and explore themselves- but I was also able to remember and apply my creative thinking to the way I approached other situations. Instead of boxing myself into a place thinking that I had to act in certain ways and do certain things to be a ‘good’ mother, I realised that I have been created in this way, and that I can use the gift of creativity to enrich our lives and to change our everyday experiences as our children grow. It is one of my favourite times of the day, if we are able to get the watercolours out and spend even five minutes, all clustered around the table painting, and encouraging them to use their imaginations and explore colours and shapes. There are other passions and talents that they have which I can also encourage and help with, even though they might look different to mine. Phoebe (5) likes to make ‘models’ and even in the bath will make some kind of invention for icy water out of bath toys. For you that might be completely alien or overwhelming and that’s the beauty of us each being made differently.
I love that if we look for them, we can see ways to employ and apply our skills in the way we mother and within our home. Instead of focusing on our weaknesses and comparing those areas we find harder with others who naturally excel in those things- we can embrace our strengths and allow them to infuse themselves into our daily lives. There are no rules that say we have to be crafty, cook a certain ways or have a certain schedule. Such freedom can be overwhelming but it is also frees us from those unrealistic expectations that we can put on ourselves.
Download and print the new ‘values’ and ‘expectations’ journal pages from the mama book free here
Modelling our skills to our children
Allowing your children to see you using your skills, even if just for a couple of minutes shows them that their passions and enthusiasms are not limited to childhood. It reminds our children that we are 3D people, beyond being in existence solely in the role as their mama. I think if we all paused and remembered things we enjoyed doing as a child, we would have many happy memories, but it can be tempting to leave these things behind and see them as childish, carefree pursuits. However, I think we can learn a lot from those times of free play and exploration, both as we look at our children and as we contemplate our time as adults. We might not have the same enthusiasm for tree climbing as we used to, but we could share those memories with them, or make more time to go outside for walks if we remember that actually the outdoors is more important than we had remembered. Reading for fun, playing an instrument, putting on your music selection, whatever it is that helps you to remember your own interests as well as showing your children that you have these passions of your own. Sharing these experiences and memories with our children helps to build on our family values and identity instead of conforming to cookie-cutter family ideals.
Motherhood is diverse and yet universal as we all seek to love our children and help them grow. Doing motherhood in the way that makes sense and works for us, our families and our lives is life giving in a world which can seem filled with comparison and judgment. There is no one way. The ways to mother are broad and diverse. We can find purpose in living these days with love in the way that makes most sense for our unique children and our unique lives.
Don’t forget you can get free printable pages here on the resources page.