Being a photographer, I meet people all the time, and I meet lots of “old” mums, “new” mums, and all the mums in-between… and with all of them in mind, I thought this (old) blog post of mine was too good to not share again… I have made some updates (like upped my number of children LOL), but here we are:
I am a mother of 5 children. I have a busy household. In between school runs, running a business, being a wife (yes, that deserves a title of it’s own), fitting in exercise, and trying to spend time on the stuff I love, well, I have had some time and experience for reflection.
You see, when my first son came along, I was young, and, well, a little green behind the ears. Honestly, it was the toughest thing for me becoming a mother. It was HARD. Really HARD! Motherhood did NOT come naturally, as I had expected it to do. Perhaps one day I’ll go into more detail, but for all mothers out there, especially first time mothers; five children later, these are some of my reflections of motherhood:
1. Be gentle with yourself.
Really. Stop being so hard on yourself. You’re not perfect. And you know what? Neither is that friend of yours having her third. You’re seeing her highlight reel. Every. Time. Sometimes you’re just not going to get it right. And please. Stop criticizing yourself for it. You are your child’s perfect mother. And sometimes perhaps you’re not the text book mother. Who cares? Your children love you because you’re their mother. Not because you’ve perfected their routine, or because your baby is sleeping through at 6 weeks. Please, I’m begging you, be kind and gentle with yourself.
2. Be gentle with your husband.
Oh my goodness, I cannot emphasize this enough. We’re so darn hard on our husbands, sometimes. I promise, he’s trying his best. Yes, you’ve been up all night with a screaming baby. But chances are, he heard it. He probably feels inadequate enough without your criticism. And I promise, whether you believe it or not, he hates to see when you’re battling, and when your baby is crying. I’d hazard a guess that he’s desperate to help, but just doesn’t know how. And he’s also new to this. He is also plundering through this life of learning to be a great husband and father. I’m going to be really blunt here: be grateful you have a husband, who is present and able. That is a blessing. He is a blessing. Give him grace. As you love him, and are graceful and forgiving, you give him the space to see his place as provider and head of the household. And as your build him up, so he will take his place with courage. Standing firm to carry you when you fall. But it starts with your gentleness and your grace. But if you occasionally fall short of being graceful and kind (as I often do), please refer to point one.
3. Be gentle with your baby.
This one took me 3 months to figure out with my first. Your baby (or child) is not a robot. Just like you they have good days, and bad days. Good nights, and bad nights. I’m all for routines (I’m mildly OCD actually). But understand that your child needs to have some flexibility. Giving them the space to be human, ultimately provides a calmer, gentler environment. And when you’re not stressing, neither will your child. Children, no matter how small, or how big, are extremely sensitive to their mothers moods. They sense your anxiety, and when you’re constantly clock-watching, of course you carry this constant burden. Sometimes it’s okay to just BE. Give your baby an extra long cuddle. Why not? Miss your child’s 6th extra mural activity for the week, and simply catch up over an ice-cream. Why not? Take a couple days off work during the school holidays and go for a 2 night pamper session with your teenager. Why not? Routines and all of that are great for a sense of stability to a child’s life. My son’s don’t cope well outside of some kind of routine and order. BUT. Sometimes spontaneity not only brings excitement to a child’s life, but they give you an opportunity to breath, to remove yourself of all the order, and structure, and be carefree, and simply roll with the punches. Why not? And if you don’t do it often, please refer to point one.
4. Stop apologizing.
I constantly hear mothers apologizing for their children. “Sorry, he’s so loud”, “Sorry, she’s not sleeping”, “Sorry, he’s so busy”.. and my favorite “Sorry, she’s being so naughty”. STOP APOLOGIZING. I’m a mother. Five times over. A crying baby doesn’t bother me. A busy toddler doesn’t shock me. A cheeky nine year old doesn’t surprise me, and a sulky teenager is a given. Now hear me: punish where punishment is due. Be the parent where your children are concerned. But don’t apologize to me. They’re children. And I don’t care what anyone says: I have yet to see a child who is absolutely perfect. And by perfect I mean, the child-that-never-does-any-wrong. Children are humans. It doesn’t excuse bad behavior. But we are STRIVING to be Christ-like. None of use were BORN that way. Your children do not need to hear you constantly apologizing for them. They’re not “perfect”, but they’re yours. Celebrate their little stages. Save your embarrassment for Candid Camera. And if you’re going to verbalize your opinion of them in public, particularly around them, let it be positive and uplifting. It is our responsibility to build our children up, not to show them our “shame”. And if you happen to still let an apology slip from your lips, please refer to point one.
5. Roll with it.
The day things became easy, was the day I stopped fighting it. When Mikayla was alive, well, I fought how things were for so long. Every time she woke up (one night she cried THE WHOLE NIGHT. 12 hour straight. NON STOP), I would drag myself out of bed, and fight it. But there was a day that came along where I realised that, well, this was my lot in life. It wasn’t going to change. I wasn’t going to get my sleep. She wasn’t going to sleep through (incidentally, she did eventually start sleeping through), and mostly I realised that at some stage, yes, ONE DAY, this would end. Tragically, for us, it ended when she died, but with Jude, and then Hudson, I knew all those same principles would apply. I accepted instantly that this was normal. I stopped longing for “what was”. There is such freedom in letting it go. Suddenly waking up was just something I knew I was going to do. Without complaint. And subsequently Jude was so easy. Because I had nothing to fight anymore. There were no disappointments. Can you see how freeing that can be? Accept and embrace your new life. Yes, it’s hard. In fact, I read somewhere that you will never in your lifetime gain the sleep you lose in your babies first year (or something like that). If that’s the case, why do you resist it so much? So today you can’t get out of your pajamas? So what? So last night you woke up 5 times? I know! It’s HARD. But it WILL get better. Resisting it requires more energy that simple going with it. It really is a choice. Choose today to roll with the punches.
Being a parent is the single biggest privilege, but it is also one of the hardest jobs in the world. I know this. ITS. SO. HARD. It’s is often without reward (read: discipline sucks), and oftentimes our greatest words of wisdom seems to fall on deaf ears. Or so you think. I watch my children, and how they watch me. They see how I speak to my husband. They see how I respond to the world. They watch as I carry myself in public, but they also see how I behave at home. I have watched my 10-year old (then 7-year old) cry when I called my husband a horrible name (shock-horror, yes, I did that!). I have seen tears well up in my 11-year old’s eyes when he sees me cry, and I’ve watched my 4 year old suck in every detail of what I say and recite words back to me like a parrot. I have a responsibility to them to be the best role model I can be. And to do it with as much grace and gentleness as I can muster. And you know what? I get it wrong. Often (at those times, I refer to point one). But for the most part, I am trying.
My hope and my prayer, is that you would do the same. Give the best you can give, and forgive yourself when it’s not enough (according to YOUR standards). Understand that we are all humans. All trying the best we can. Show your children and your spouse the grace and love of Christ. Love them, as Christ loves them. Daily, go down on your knees and pray for your family, and yourself. Remember though: your children don’t need perfection: they need love and adoration, and to walk a Christ-centered life. As we have centered our lives around Christ, and brought His grace into our home, I have watched in awe as God has graciously brought a calmness and a gentleness into our family. It’s often hidden beneath our humanness and inadequacies. But I can see it. I know it’s there. And five children later, I am finally starting to understand what family is all about.
Be blessed xx