Happy Mother’s Day to all of you! I hope you had a wonderful day with your children and family!
Mothering, and this process of becoming the designer and architect of your own family’s culture, can be wonderful and joyous but also challenging and daunting. Mothering can be like a yoga pose that one cannot get out of, and must stay in and stretch. Mothering can become a catalyst for one to learn more about oneself, about one’s biography and history. Mothering can be a catalyst for developing oneself further as a human being, and for nurturing the qualities of goodness in ourselves.
One question that I have heard over the years and that recently came up in a comment, is this idea or question of “How can I be happy in my mothering? How can I be happy with my children?”
I think this is a very valid question! In our society, there are very few models for mothering. Many of us have had mothers who were/are either physically or emotionally unavailable, or who modeled mothering for us in ways we do not wish to repeat.
Many mothers I meet are trying to juggle many different roles in their lives, and feeling frustrated. They are working outside the home and thinking about their children and trying to juggle work and sick days and teething days, or they are with their children and thinking about their outside work and feeling as if they are not doing the best job in either world. This is a true challenge, especially in the US, where we do not have a paid maternity leave, and many mothers are back at work before their infants are twelve weeks of age.
To me, this question is actually not a question of happiness or love, but a question of satisfaction. Are you satisfied being home with your children and would you change that? Most stay at home mothers I speak with talk about how they would not change that for anything, even on the “bad” days. These mothers may not be joyously happy every minute of the day, but will find moments within the day to be happy, moments to smile and laugh with their children, and they feel satisfied being home with their children. Even on the sick days, the teething days, the days when there are sibling fights, there is this sense of satisfaction that they are the one dealing with it. Every day at an outside job is typically not fabulous, and neither is every day at home, but is it satisfying to be there.
1. One thing that goes with satisfaction includes having unhurried time. If you have unhurried time with small children instead of rushing about, you have the time to catch those cute moments, the funny moments, the silence of being together that I mentioned above and they often redeem the time when things are not going so well. If you can be present you will be available to catch these moments. So my first piece of advice in terms of how to be happy at home is to try not to wear so many hats so you can have this time.
Here is an example from my personal life: many of you know I am a highly specialized physical therapist in neonatal feeding and development. There are very few of us in the country, and it was hard for me to think of not treating patients and using those skills to help families who were so desperate. Yet, there will always be patients and families. My children are only here once. That is the only shot I get with them. Can you slow your own life down enough to really be present? Here is a post that speaks to this subject: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/22/how-do-i-take-off-one-of-these-hats/
Many mothers I know who seem most satisfied with being with their children are ones who have a profound connection to a sense of Higher Purpose in their mothering, that this is a calling. This also requires unhurried time, to be able to sit and think and listen. You can get this even with small children running about, usually by being present and in those moments outside when your wee one is digging in the sand box. This attitude can take time to develop, and I hope some of the mothers who feel this way will leave a comment below to help other mothers.
2. The second thing that goes with satisfaction is having confidence. If you know developmental stages and have a proper view of the infant, the toddler, the child at different points in the developmental cycle, it helps you weather the stormy periods in a satisfied and calm manner. You feel calm, you handle things, you feel satisfied that you are handling the more challenging things. You don’t feel so defeated and take it so personally when things do not go well. There are still two parties involved in mothering – you and your child. It is not all you and some children really are more sensitive than others, or more challenging than others. Confidence grows with time, but I think one way to gain confidence is to read about developmental stages, about gentle discipline, about where you are and to come up with a “box of tools.” What tools do you have? What do you use? Are you using what is effective? Do you beat yourself up if you use a tool that is not effective, and what does that gain for you? What is the payoff of beating yourself up and being negative? Is it helpful, does it make your family life wonderful? Sobering questions, but ones to ponder.
The other arm of building confidence is to have a MOTHERING MENTOR. Pick someone who has children that you like, whose children are older than yours, and ask her to be your mothering mentor. The Internet is wonderful, but there is nothing like having real flesh and blood people who know you and your children and who can support you. Every mother needs a friend that is encouraging and supportive. It is always amazing to me to see mothers being snide to each other instead of loving and supportive. Those “back-handed” compliments have nothing to do with support! Every mother is doing the best job that they can in the place that they are with the information that they have.
For those of you without a mothering mentor or a special encouraging friend, make a list of the qualities of a friend you would love to have, and pray and meditate over that list. You may be surprised whom you find in your life!
3. The third thing that goes with satisfaction is feeling as if you are actually not just reacting to everything, but that you have some sort of overall vision and plan. That is why I encourage mothers all the time to think about a Family Mission Statement, to think about what the rhythm of the day might look like (because the rhythm is for YOU even if your small children don’t fall right into it!) Think about having a menu plan, and when you will clean your house and when you will shop. Think about how you will handle things that come up as far as guiding your child; if you know developmental stages anticipating these situations and thinking through them is easier; talk to your mothering mentor about these situations.
Also, what would be FUN for you with your children? Do you make time to snuggle, play games, sing together, be outside in nature together, laugh, tell stories, read? These are the things that build those happy moments rather then the end of the day with exhausted children who are crying through dinner because they really just need to get off to bed!
4. The fourth thing to add to your satisfaction is developing yourself and your own inner qualities. Many mothers do this through a spiritual or religious life; some mothers find this through artistic work, through meditation or through certain activities that they do. Taking a bit of time every week to really ask yourself, “Where I am this week and what am I striving for?” can be really helpful… That person that I was before I was a mother, am I still really that person or am I finding a footing in a new world and changing into being a new person with new and different interests? Motherhood can be the catalyst to developing yourself further in ways you were not open to before; with different interests that were not there before motherhood. However, this too, takes time.
Also, please remember to ask for help. On Mother’s Day and every day, you deserve some time to just think. Your spouse really does want to help you, tell him what you need. Time to think will help you process your own growth and lead to increased satisfaction and joy in being home. If your lack of joy in being with your children stems from a developmental stage that they are in or something going on with your spouse, there are so many posts about sibling fighting, challenges in marriage and each developmental stage on this blog. I encourage you to check them out and I hope you will find them helpful.
I hope you have found this encouraging.
Many blessings and much love,