I have just a few very special mothering journeys to share with you this week, and so I hope you enjoy this lovely piece by long-time reader Adrie. Her story is here for your parenting inspiration:
Growing Into Motherhood
Before I became a mother, I thought that I was a patient person. Along with so many other things, I spent the first few years of my daughter’s life learning just how impatient I actually am. Patience doesn’t just mean waiting for our child to pull on their own shoes when we really need to get somewhere. Patience means being willing to allow our children – and perhaps most importantly, ourselves – a lot of time and space to become who we are.
We live in the midst of a strange paradox. Most people with skilled jobs spend years going to school, practicing specific skills, and apprenticing or interning with experienced elders before actually starting their work. Parents are created almost instantly, and we expect ourselves (and our society expects us) to be skilled right from the start.
The truth is that it takes a lot of time to learn to mother or father. First, our children show us exactly what our strengths and weaknesses are. I could walk a crying baby up and down the hallway for hours, but I had a terrible time letting her cry for a few moments while I took a much-needed break to pee or shower. Most of us, I think, feel adrift in our early years as parents, and also feel that everyone else must be doing much better than we are. I’ve come to believe, over the past four years, that it’s not our feelings of inadequacy that harm us, but getting stuck in them. If we see ourselves getting angry too often, do we throw up our hands and say that’s just how we are and we certainly don’t have any time to deal with it? Or do we give ourselves the love, the space, the time to work towards a different way of being with our families?
When my daughter was one, I began to search around me for families that seemed happy. Not families that always had clean, pretty clothes, or the best snacks, but for families and mothers, especially, who enjoyed being with their children (and vice versa). This search led me, again and again, to the Waldorf style of education (and parenting), and so I began to learn. I wanted to be able to transform our cluttered, chaotic life right away, and I wanted to be a peaceful, happy mother right now. Nothing in life comes that way.
The first time I read about chattering less at our children, for instance, it didn’t even make sense to me. Slowly, over months, it began to make sense, and then I began to try and change this deeply ingrained habit. It was the same for staying home more. Until we were consistently home most days, I couldn’t see how wound up and overstimulated my daughter became when we spent the day away from home. (I also didn’t realize how stressed and irritable it made me to be away from home so much, and how much it affected all of us to let the housework pile up while we were out.) All of these ideas, and many more, began as seeds that needed time to grow into plants that could thrive.
Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, calls this “the courage to wait.” She is speaking of trying to practice peace in a violent world, but I believe the same words apply equally to our own struggles with ourselves and our families. As Pema Chodron says, we try and we try, and we don’t get much better, but each tiny bit does begin to make a difference. I believe that one of the biggest gifts I have given myself is to slowly accept that I need time to become a better mother – to even truly become a mother at all. I believe this is a gift to my children as well. To see your parent working to improve themselves – not through guilt and strife, but improving themselves lovingly, is a tremendous gift. We are all on the path, and the walking is much easier when we can accept the journey.
The following quote is one that I often re-read in challenging times with my daughter. Lately, I have begun to see that it applies to myself as well. May you read it with your own growth as a mother in mind. May you allow yourself the space to continue to step (however slowly) towards being the mother you would like to be:
“Youth has transition periods when it needs forbearance and gentle guidance . . . children may not be pressed and pushed through the portal from one life-period into the next. In watching over them we must give them as guiding companions quiet, love, and self-abnegation. Do we believe ourselves exhausted, ready to sink down in complete weariness of heart? Then let us say to ourselves: ‘ With God’s help it may be better tomorrow.’ And frequently it is so. Then comes an hour, a day, and our daughter, our son has cast off the chyrsalis and the soul spreads its wings towards us.”
– Therese Schroer –
Thank you Adrie for sharing your story.
Much love and many blessings,