Accepting the realities of motherhood- a story of joy and grief.
I couldn't wait to be a mother when I was little, but I grew up with the empowering women's movement into the workforce and a mother who was determined to see me career minded like her. I did not want to say the wrong thing and I learned that wanting to be a mother (let alone a stay-at-home mother) was a secret I should keep to myself. Growing up, it was completely unacceptable to be a stay-at-home mom let alone homeschool. Yet in church communities I would see the stay-at-home mothers there and know that that was something I wanted for myself later on in life.
Motherhood is such a dynamic experience. I compare it to being an athlete many times. It is easy to train but only when you practice, and when you're running a 5K and you're at the water table saying, "This is hard!" there's no one there saying "Well, you signed up for this better suck it up! You think it's hard now? Wait until you get to that hill!" Is there? Usually, people are cheering the athlete on saying, "You can do this! Only 2 miles to go! You can so do this!" Yet many times mothers will be told the former rather than the latter sadly this is especially true when it comes to their own mothers and grandmothers.
At times it seems that being a stay-at-home mother is stigmatized while simultaneously motherhood is some sort of weird unspoken competition within working, stay at home, work at home or any other mothers which just to make friends as an adult is incredibly hard as it stands. Many of us are told that we need to just rise up to the task- rise to the occasion of life! Or my favorite classic, "You're literally superwoman!" while these statements are helpful to push mindset into a conflict free space its not exactly enough to build a long standing practice to clear your mind of all of its clutter.
When you are a homeschool and stay at home mom many moms at a mom group aren't looking for friends. They have their friends well established within the group and when you introduce yourself to them it won't be met with the same warmth as other moms. Maybe some will be standoffish but also some will be open to new friendships. I found that it was a continuation of both things for me through my journey in homeschooling. Yes- I can make friends at a new co-op. No- I am not there to make friends. I am there for my children or to facilitate the learning of other children.
As someone who looked forward to leaving the house, never looking back, and doing all I could to break the family trauma cycle, you can imagine my disbelief and disappointment as a first-time mom when I didn't know everything and didn't have this massive information download when I gave birth. I also thought this would happen and-yeah, it does not happen. At least it does not happen in that way. I was concerned that somehow I was lesser than as a mother because I was not able to attune to the experience and needs of my child RIGHT AWAY. Not realizing that this is actually part of the adventure of motherhood- to accept and love another as they are and allow them to unfold in front of you. Yet also to aid them in considering the virtues and behaviors that align with achieving the most anyone can out of life. It was so difficult to grieve who I thought I would be and accept who I needed to be if I was going to get any sleep, or any of my basic needs met.
I didn't have a support network, and by that, I mean when my son was 14 days old after laboring alone my mom took my husband and I who were incredibly sleep deprived out to dinner and laughed in my face when I started crying because I didn't know how to handle the deep disorienting feelings of sleep deprivation. There was no one to call for advice, no one to turn to besides an online community. for other moms out there, who are struggling with your newborn I feel you and feel for you. There will always be struggle especially with children and so many of us are raised thinking that a baby that never cries is the only good baby. When babies that cry are communicating, it's not a good or bad sign any human under the age of 5 is communicating with cries. Many of us were raised with "I'm sick of you carrying on! Just calm down!" and are taught self-abandonment rather than self-soothing. To face these shortcomings in yourself and attempt to draw a map out of them with a shaky hand and no support is not a small thing. It's like finding your way out of a damp cave with nothing but a small candle and a box of wet matches. It takes so much time just to recognize that your journey has begun. In the haze of sleepless nights with a newborn when you feel like a whole new person after 5-7 solid hours of sleep it isn't the best time for deep diving into your own shadow.
At times I still need to grieve for my own loss of who I thought I would be as a mom when I was younger. I thought time wouldn't stress me and I would effortlessly melt into every moment, seamlessly being an example for transitions from one activity to the next. Not reminding the child the mess needs to be cleaned up for the 6th time while looking like a fool deep breathing through my nose! I thought I wouldn't be as stimulated by noise, or other seemingly small things. I didn't know how much these memories of noises would bring me joy but also take me back to a dark place that hurts to remember. I thought I would be fun and carefree, knowing how fleeting this time is and how much it shapes you as an adult. Not the one always stating there is a load of laundry to do, a place to be, and appointment set, and another chore to be done. I thought I would be able to handle it-I didn't know how much it would bring up the past that is still incredibly alive within me. I've moved beyond it! But the body will hold it no matter what I do, so what I CAN do is cope and find positive ways to carry these things my body is holding.
The things that aided me in changing the grief into joy forever were as follows. I needed to reframe my own story about myself. I told myself for so long that I was boring, not fun, and most painfully that I didn't know how to play. That there's no way I would be adding anything to this world if I was even the best mom. My own efforts were unseen to myself. The appointments were being made but not as soon as they should be, the dishes were done but "no sane or even decent person would ever let them pile up like that" I told myself. Yeah- you moms who are survivors of perfectionist parents feel me out there. Once I saw that these were only aspects of a story, I had made for myself, not chains of who I must be it gave me the freedom to re-evaluate my core story. Which is something we all ultimately make for ourselves. I spent a ton of time reorienting my focus to my smallness because of the reinforcing family members who repeated that story for me, but I learned that the same amount of time in the future could be spent reinforcing the story of who I know I've always been. This is a super uncomfortable process that is still unfolding and I have to acknowledge when I am able to pause and reflect rather than the times that I have not been able to express that side of myself.
I made peace with where my mother needed to be for who she was when I was in her life. Dr. Gabor Mate was once asked why so many children have so many different experiences in one household. Why is it that one sibling can be so traumatized while another sibling is a little hot and cold, then another is attuned and loving to their parents? He states, "No child has the same parents, if they are lucky enough to have both parents." He goes on to explain that each child has certain needs, and each parent is sometimes struggling to meet those needs, or they are meeting those needs with ease depending on where the parent is at in their environment when they meet their child. This healed so much in me, and I was able to take away my own personal feelings about motherhood that I formed as a girl- which were of course childish fantasies anyway and not grounded in any concrete guidance.
The thing that I can't ever forget in my own daily routine are exercise and journaling. Exercise needs to break a sweat or at least present a challenge- this takes 10 minutes 3 times through the day and works wonders for my anxiety. It's like an uno reverse card I played on my brain. Having any exercise but especially in the morning helps so much to reduce anxiety through the day because of overcoming so much just to get on the mat and lift or do a few pushups. I also love dancing, yoga, and more! I just need fun in my workouts or I will stop. Not because of the fact that I don't like the mobility I gain from working out but because it gets so monotonous for me.
This one is huge for me. At the time that I became a stay at home and homeschooling mother childcare was around $800 a month as a median average. I know because I looked it up- before I became a mom I found a ton of my identity in my work and did all I could to return to the workforce after having a baby but the numbers did not make cents. (See what I did there?) Now, a quality daycare can run upwards of $1,600 a month and if you have an older child attending a private school you can go ahead and tack on an additional sum much to the same tune. I knew the MONETARY value I brought to the table, but I did not realize the amount of time I saved our family by being home.
I gave no credence to the idea that I was giving a few precious moments to my husband in the morning to say goodbye to our son when otherwise our son would have been waiting for the bus. The nurturing of his heart and the many talks I had with him over behavior and care of knowing yourself. That is something I am still cultivating but I have more confidence in my abilities now then I did then. I feel like these skills can be shared with a daughter far sooner so she does not need to stumble through the early years of motherhood which can be so isolating. We MUST be our own witness in stay at home mothering work. We MUST strive to see the value we bring in monetary ways and also in time, heart, head, hands, spirit, and much much more.
Finally, through the acceptance that I can be FUN- but only if the work that needs to be prioritized IS prioritized then everything changed. It took time to accept this about motherhood, that I wasn't going to be fun unless I accepted it as a possiblity. Because of this I stopped worrying about my mother in laws views of the house and more about my childs views about me. I stopped looking to my husband to validate the work I had done in a day and looking to my own wounding and why I wasn't looking in myself for validation about my abilities in all things. From professional growth to being a mother.