I wanted to share what I’ve been thinking about lately when it comes to motherhood and parenting. I enjoy thinking through these things and sharing. At the time of posting, Jo is 3 1/2 years old and Ella is 21 months.
What makes motherhood a worthy calling for me?
I’ve really enjoyed working 28-35 hours a week and having one full down day a week for appointments, home order, and space to get the girls out of school early for activities or just spend more time with them. We have more childcare than we absolutely need…and that is such a sanity saver. It’s allowed for flexibility and Andrew and I feel fortunate that we have support in getting to be the parents we want to be. Our setup right now also feels very sustainable and like we’d be able to add another kiddo in, if we decide to.
One week in therapy my therapist said, “how can you make the motherhood hat more worthy?” I need direction. I worry about getting things wrong, but she had the helpful reminder that God will be with you and refine you if you get it wrong. Andrew can’t even know how to support me if I’m not clear on what I want. It was a helpful statement and I ended up making a list of the titles that are most important to me – wife, mother, entrepreneur – and what makes each of those callings worthy/important.
For the motherhood hat, things that make the calling more worthy and things I want to be intentional about are:
- Exposing kids to humanities, hobbies and activities. Giving them the chance to be exposed to something that will hopefully become something they can enjoy for years to come. Working in eating disorders, I’m a solid NO on ballet and gymnastics, even if the girls want to do it I would say no. Other forms of dance I could easily get behind. There are so many fun ways to move your body outside of disciples that requires and encourage a particular aesthetic. We are putting in a pool at some point, so the girls have just recently started swim lessons. Jo does it with an instructor and I get in the water with Ella. This is where having more childcare than absolutely needed comes in handy, because I can pick up one of the girls and take them to swim and leave the other kiddo at school for another hour. Ella’s swim lessons are comical to me. It’s like baby synchronized swimming and I laugh the entire time. Ella also has zero fear of going under water. She seems to have this mentality of, “I’m getting that pool ring. I don’t care if I inhale water.” It’s a bit terrifying, so I really have to watch her.
- Being fun, silly, and playful with the kids – bring on all the potty humor, body slams, tent building, nail painting, art projects, hot chocolate drinking in the bathtub just because!!
- Organized and consistent in the things that matter to Andrew and I.
- Use all available time to be with them…within reason and not at the expense of maintaining health of self, family and marriage.
- Have food taste good and be used for fuel and/or connection/joy/pleasure.
- Supporting new moms. Reminding new moms who are struggling that those early months are all about survival. This isn’t your new normal. It gets so much better. Do what you need to do to survive. I love sharing a snippet of wisdom that I hope will come into their mind at 1:30am when they’re so past their limit and feeling terrified and defeated by an incessantly crying newborn.
Kids are a virtue
This is more optimistic than I usually am about children (I blame getting out of the newborn years and sorting out for me what makes motherhood a worthy calling in my head and heart). In the bible where it says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Children are all those things: right, pure, lovely, excellent. Andrew says often, “Jo is sweeter than anything I could’ve ever imagined.” Both girls makes our heart ache on regular basis, because they are so good. Not like behavior-wise, but pure and genuine and kind. I’ve been using the Calm app to track what I’m grateful for (aka intentionally turning my mind to beautiful things when the discontent comes calling for me), my kids or something they do is always on there. I just looked back and my latest “what am I grateful for” lists included: 1) when I yell, “hug!” and start to count down from 5 and both girls sprint to me and give me a hug (unless Jo is feeling moody and then goes, “no, don’t say that!”), 2) Ella cuddled with me twice this weekend (a rare occurrence), 3) evening bike with family, 4) a backyard for the girls to play in. 5) Ella running to me when I get home screaming, “MOMMY!!!”, and 6) childcare (childcare makes the gratitude list quite often).
Getting to do life with them is better than anything I could’ve ever imagined.
Mom in the grocery store
I was in the grocery store recently with just Ella and she was losing it, so I went over to the granola bar aisle to give her a bar to munch on while we shopped, but after I opened it she screamed NOOOO at me. So I said, “Ella. This is the option. It’s this or nothing!” When another mom walked by and said, “Yes!! Stay strong! Hold the limit!” I found it very encouraging and helpful. One of the hardest part of parenting for me is holding and enforcing the limits I’ve set. After that mom said that I realized that is what I need from me. I need to give myself a pep talk in those moments of overwhelm that encourages me to follow through on the limits I’ve set. I will talk about this more later, but I’ve also been working with an OT on some sensory processing issues in me and it’s been really helpful for tolerating children being children.
Andrew and I both like Jordan Peterson. He’s very straight forward and slightly less empathetic then other self help professionals out there. I was reading one of his books and he said, “if you’re feeling resentment it’s for one of two reasons: You’re either not standing up for your self sufficiently or you need to grow up.” Most jobs and class projects I’ve been part of I’ve been told by managers and professors, “you’re going to get taken advantage of.” This has come up in our marriage and it’s been helpful in giving me confidence to uphold the distribution of child related tasks we have decided on. The expectation of who does what in our house is clear. Specifically, we have bath time divided up between me and Andrew during the week and bath time starts at 6pm. The person who doesn’t do bath time is responsible for the dishes and starting the dishwasher. I’ve talked about resentment towards Andrew a lot since having kids, but lately resentment has been basically zero. We’ve figured out what our family set up looks like and it’s been great lately. We’ve been having a lot of fun and are getting better and better at arguing and productive conflict around our marriage/choices for our family. If we have a third I imagine resentment will return because I want to nurse and that means a lot is required of me in those months. But my view of the newborn times now is very rooted in reality and I know what I’d be signing up for. When I think about the newborn time I think it is miraculous and wonder-filled, but I find those months very unpleasant.
Also, below is something I’m working on. I do a good job at being able to admit when I’m at fault…but being able to hold my ground when I’m not at fault requires more thought and intentionality.
Also, realizing Andrew expects me to do what I need to do to take care of myself. He isn’t going to handhold and approve my care of me. He expects me to be fully in charge of that. So it’s been helpful to not ask for permission when I need to do something for myself and instead just schedule it and be like, “hey, this is happening.” Sufficiently standing up for yourself and your needs, because without that resentment comes calling.
Have their toddler selves walk back through the door.
Any motherhood post on Cup of Jo I often enjoy reading the comments even more than I like reading the post. On older mom who’s kids were out of the house said, “I’d give anything to have their 4 year old selves walk through the door again.” It makes me tear up. I already feel nostalgic for their toddlers selves.
Mom who can handle big whatevers (i.e. emotions) from kids
“Mom leaves when things get overwhelming. Mom can’t handle my emotions.” I don’t want my kids to say that. I want to be capable of handling the intensity of what they go through.
I remember my MIL saying her mentality when the kids were young and crying was basically, “I can outlast you little baby. Bring it.” I tried to cultivate that but I was like, “ahhh I’m crumbling. I can’t take this.”
Our house will have love. We won’t be able to meet our children’s ever need and that may feel like abandonment on a small level to them and that is just going to be what it is. They will be deeply loved. I want them to remember a mom who loved being with them, but also had boundaries and limits to keep her healthy. Like I said above, I’ve started working with an OT for some sensory processing things in me that have given me some skills when the noise fatigue is high and I find myself shaking my arms in an attempt to get the frenzied feeling out of me (IYKYK). My mom reminds me that I’m a great mom who engages her girls all the time. I’m a words of affirmation kind of person, so I find encouragement helpful. We were with friends and their baby and the baby was giggling at the mom and her husband looked over and said to his wife, “she adores you.” And I was just like oh my gosh what a blessing to get to be a mom.
Baby Number Three?
I’m impatient to be pregnant again, but also not in a rush to have the child bearing years behind me. I love the transformation of the female body in pregnancy and actually do believe pregnant women and pregnant me are the most miraculous expression of life and beauty. I’m young, so we don’t have to rush to have a third (even though on a daily basis I go through the wave of, “I’m ready to go ahead and get pregnant again. Ahh wait. No. Two is already a lot, we could just have two?” I feel so nostalgic for for pregnancy. I have so many pregnant women in my life and I love being as close to them as possible as they go from pregnant to not pregnant. The anticipation of meeting your child is better than anything in the entire world…and I don’t even bond right away to my babies and it’s still the best thing in the entire world. Like 10 christmas mornings and 5 trips to Disneyland all rolled into one. I don’t want another baby, but I do want another human. I’m trying to be patient, but I am very impatient. It could be argued that our house is too small for another kid. We want to stay in this house to raise our family. Financially, we’d not be able to move to a larger house in our area. Having 3 kids in preschool at once is a bunch of money. I don’t have an interest in getting the baby making and growing season behind me. I know I’m going to be so sad when it is over. I feel this overwhelming feeling that we are missing one human. There will be times the girls are playing and I’m in the kitchen cooking and I look over at them and feel like there should be one more little head over there popping up from behind the couch. Right now I’m trying to inundate myself with all the good things about having two kids and really be present with that, because at the end of the day I don’t know what we will end up deciding for our family. I hate the unknown of it. Andrew and I need to be aligned on if we have another kid and there are still many a conversations to be had around that.