As I approach the end of another year, I reflect on my 11 years of motherhood. I am thankful for my beautiful and lively children and the lessons I have learnt by being their mum. I have learnt about myself, life and relationships, and the values that are important to me. Becoming a mother has most certainly changed me!
There are glimmers of the girl I was in the mother I am today. In my adolescence, I was intensely passionate about many issues. Now, although I am less enthused about those same issues, I have carried that same passion into
my mothering life. I am deeply committed to my values on breastfeeding, gentle discipline, sharing sleep with my babies and the like. In a sense, the girl I was has grown into a confident mother, certain of the kind of mother she wants to be.
The birth of my first child and the early months of parenting taught me to think through my choices and take responsibility for the outcomes. In my pre-parenting days, I had chosen to defer decisions to doctors or those who seemed more knowledgeable.
Yet, I soon realised that my birth and breastfeeding choices had far-reaching consequences. I learnt that it was important to explore mine and my childrens’ feelings and needs as well as all my options before reaching conclusions. Learning self-responsibility was a new experience but it ultimately proved to be empowering and life-changing!
Becoming a mother has also made me realise that I have a huge influence on my children, how they make sense of their world, and the adults they grow up to become. I have been forced to take a good look at my reflection in the mirror and
My attitudes, perception of daily events, my style of listening and communicating, and how I deal with emotions have become areas for learning. As family educator and author Mary Kurcinka says in Kids, Parents & Power Struggles: Winning For A Lifetime, we are able to teach our kids how to deal with their strongest emotions only when we ourselves are able to deal with those emotions; this holds true even in those intense moments when we feel like we’re losing it!
As a new mother, I wanted to do everything right; like so many mothers, I wanted to be the perfect mum. After reaching mothering burnout, I realised that it was not about holding myself to an impossible standard of perfection; it was about
keeping it real and having realistic expectations of myself.
Parenting books tell us how to raise our kids right. With the Internet, we have access to lots of information and parenting advice. We are surrounded by images of mothers with great bodies, our culture’s yummy mummies; society tells us about the supermum whose children are involved in various after-school activities and who are perfectly behaved and nurtured. Mothers unconsciously buy into this myth, demanding so much of themselves.
Psychologist, researcher and lactation consultant Kathleen Kendall-Tackett says in The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood: Coping with Stress, Depression, and Burnout that our own expectations of ourselves, cultural messages about what it means to be a ‘good’ mother as well as the unrelenting caregiving create the circumstances for mothering burnout.
Kendall-Tackett suggests coping with burnout by first recognising that we are reaching our limits. Then, mothers can reconnect with others, set healthy boundaries, and reorganise work by prioritising, choosing to let the unimportant
tasks go or getting help to reduce their stress.
As a parent, I have had to step outside of my comfort zone and do things I would never have done if I had not had kids. I was never adventurous in the kitchen. However, my little girl was born sensitive to several common ingredients in food
products and so I took to the kitchen, experimenting with recipes to avoid suspect foods and doctoring recipes to keep family meals wholesome and palatable while accommodating her allergies!
I didn’t quite enjoy gardening but several potted plants now sit in a corner of our kitchen; I want to bring a piece of nature in our home and I want the kids to learn about taking care of new life.
I want a different sort of world for all of us, one that is gentle, peaceful and which upholds values of compassion, respect, trust and empathy. A world that is about a greater meaning and a deeper connection between individuals.
I realise that I define the behaviour my children come to see as real and human; I influence the adults they become. I play a part in creating the better world that I want, through my children. I see my job as mother and nurturer as sacred and precious, and I am humbled.