I don’t know about you, but having kids in my thirties was harder than expected. I always knew I wanted kids, a daughter for sure. God in his wisdom gave me two boys. I love my boys deeply, they just weren’t what I expected or what I planned for.
As a child, I envisioned my marriage, my children. These visions played out in every baby and Barbie doll interaction. When these visions turned into reality, I dove into motherhood and began wading through deep, troubled waters of confusion as to why I wasn’t the mom I expected I’d be. Part of the struggle was recognizing I didn’t have control of these children as anticipated. Which leads me to “iceberg moments,” but more about that later.
I began that ugly Pinterest game of comparison. You’ve seen the epic Pinterest fails I’m sure, except my failed attempts were at motherhood (yikes) and these children, God blessed me with, weren’t what I expected (there’s that word again).
If there is one message I’ve echoed to myself that absolutely needs to be removed from my “mom brain,” it’s this absurd perception that I’m not enough and that other moms are more than enough.
We are more than enough for our kids.
You are EXACTLY who your child needs.
Sometimes we echo doubt in one another through the, “I could never…” or “I don’t know how you could…” conversation.
“I could never stay home with my kids. How do you do that?” Or “You go to work and leave them every day? I could never..”
We appear to make vague generalizations but we add one more dirty shirt to the laundry pile of preexisting mom guilt. With each article of soiled clothing, we speak the “I would nevers.” And let me assure you, the moment you speak them, the opportunity to “never” will follow. And talk about your preexisting conditions, no ones steps into motherhood guilt free. We self-doubt from the start, we need not echo doubt in each other’s hearts.
We self-analyze our worst parenting moments, but we forget to play the highlight reel. To our misfortune, we spend hours playing the highlight reel of the mom we’ve put on a pedestal. Can I let you in on a little secret? That mom doesn’t have it all figured out either.
Parenting is hard. It’s hard for everyone.
But I want you to know something. There is this beautiful shift that begins to take place when you’re blossoming into a seasoned mama.
The Nights Aren’t As Long
When our children are babies, even the idea of sleep appears to be lost forever. It’s a faint memory of what once was and something I personally feared would never return. They cry. We cry. And we think this season may never end. But it does, and honestly, as those who’ve gone before us say, we really do miss it. Their infant utterings of discomfort that hadn’t formulated into words turn to nightmares and “Mom I need you for a minute” or “Can I get a cup of water.” While you’re still awoken from your slumber, the moments are shorter, sweeter and more infrequent. I know this isn’t every mom’s reality, but the moments are seasonal. No momentary trouble lasts forever.
Know That We All Make Mistakes
People will often approach us proclaiming, “You’ll miss this one day,” while your kid is spitting up on you or throwing another tantrum in the checkout line. And you think, “This…I will miss this one day?” I think not.
Know this, mothering can be beautiful in any season, even the season we think we’re failing in. Failing forward is just failing toward success instead of away from it. It’s failing backward you need to watch out for. Any role in life, motherhood included, requires that we admit moments of failure, seek forgiveness and move forward (Quick personal plea- don’t be afraid to apologize to your kids, they need to know we make mistakes, too).
Self-Care is Vital
One of the things I’ve realized in my “This is 40, mid-life crisis,” self-care may be one of our closest allies as mothers.
About a month ago I started ballet classes. I’ve never attempted ballet or any type of dance, but somewhere along the way, I stopped wanting to try new things. My life became about taking care of my husband, my children, the dishes, the laundry, etc. etc. etc. Every one of you knows exactly what I am talking about.
There’s this shift that happens from individuality to marriage to motherhood. In each step of that shift, we step further away from our identity. If we aren’t careful, we start to wonder who we are, or if we even like who we are becoming. As we figure out who this new person is (who sometimes loses her temper or isn’t as maternal as she thought she’d be) an identity crisis ensues.
If we eliminate self-care, these ‘tasks’ become who we are, not what we do.
What we do matters but does not define us. We’ve made these tasks our identity, and when we lose a piece of this convoluted puzzle, the crisis emerges. Like an iceberg reaching warm waters, the new climate that is motherhood attacks us from all sides.
Recognizing the Iceberg Moments
What happened on the Titanic is a great example of the tragedy that can take place in our homes without some form of self-care. The iceberg, hidden in the haze, wasn’t seen until those aboard the Titanic were ready to collide with it. We spend our lives Titanic style, heading toward a collision in our homes, hoping we can keep to ourselves what’s hidden below the surface.
On the surface, warm air melts the snow and ice into pools called melt ponds that trickle through the iceberg and widen cracks. As spousehood and motherhood reveal and widen cracks of who we are not who we were, our identity is shaken. These false perceptions of self are revealed through iceberg moments.
The shape of the underwater portion of the iceberg can be difficult to judge by looking at the portion above the water- just as our spouse struggles to see what’s really going on beneath our surface. The expression “tip of the iceberg” comes from the perception of a problem or difficulty that is only a small manifestation of a larger problem. This exaggerated, distorted view of self causes a tip of the iceberg moment. The manifestation of our failures drastically shifts how we see ourselves, but the struggle stays safely tucked beneath.
Ballet has become part of the alteration to my unfair perception of who I thought I was, and it’s given me confidence, bravery, and hope. One hour a week is all about me and that’s OK.
Our Needs Matter, Too
Somewhere along our path to motherhood, we begin to believe our needs don’t matter. Believe it or not, your children benefit from your self-care. They see a mom who takes time to refresh and renew. They see a mom who tries and fails and tries again.
I am here to tell you, post hysterectomy and all, to be brave.
As one of my favorite people, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently puts it,
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”