Like most new expecting mothers, I imagine, I had pretty romantic hopes for a charmed existence as a stay-at-home-mum.
Partly due to the oftentimes opinionated and judgy parenting articles I gorged myself on during pregnancy, I had a long list of expectations for myself. If you knew me and my overly-developed competitive nature, you probably wouldn’t be surprised. I remember when I was part of a sheep-shearing gang in Germany. My role was to collect the wool and stuff it into bags, taking care to pick out the bits of poop and other undesirable snippets that the sheep had picked up. Pretty simple (although, very physically demanding) work really. Didn’t take too much thought…unless you wanted to be the best, most efficient wool-collecting-poop-picker-bag-stuffing-person the world had seen. You’d be amazed at the system I had going! So it’s no wonder that, when I knew I was going to become a mum (a position in which I place slightly more value), I was adamant I would do all I could to be the best of the best. Below are just some of the things I was adamant I would do or not do as a Mum:
- Never, ever watch tv while looking after bubs
- Take LA for walks every day
- Never raise my voice or direct snarky, irritation- and sleep-deprived- fuelled comment towards my husband, especially in bubba’s presence (sorry)
- Read several books and sing several songs to bubs every day
- Keep up with laundry, clean the bathrooms and wash the sheets and towels at least once a week
- Never go to bed with dishes in the sink
- Read parenting books weekly (at the last count: 0 books read)
- Never use “lame” mum excuses, such as nap time, for not attending things (my pre-baby, smug self is sorry for unintentionally judging the awesome mums around me)
- Exercise, exercise, exercise (and not just my thumbs)
- Keep up with Japanese study, guitar practice, and songwriting…no baby excuses here!
Oh yea, and all while skating through on little sleep with no worries – I’d wake up bright and cheerful every morning before LA so I could get a head start on the day. Ha! hahaha!
And of cooooourse my parenting ambitions were all for the sake of my baby girl…nothing to do with my own pride or competitive nature. Not a chance! Again I say, Ha!
Basically, I thought that I would be the mum whose life is barely altered by the pursuit of raising a little human. I knew it would take a lot of effort to achieve such a perfect record as a mum but had a quiet confidence that it really wouldn’t be that hard. I could see and thought I understood the travails of mums around me, but you really don’t understand until you are there yourself. I used to joke to my friend that “oh no, but my baby will sleep through the night from the get-go,” and “my baby won’t cry during church” and, “nah, my baby won’t do smelly poops” in response to her warnings that mum-life may not be quite as peachy as I was dreaming. My dry sarcasm in making such statements was of course blatantly evident, but underneath the faux-extreme optimism, part of me still felt like it really wouldn’t be so difficult. And surely I was not alone in my prenatal arrogant ignorance?
Anyway, now that I have all of 8 months’ motherhood experience under my belt, the above list has been replaced by the following two simple goals that I seek to achieve each day.
Now, of course I still try to do many of the above, but they are no longer the benchmark that I find myself aiming for. Instead, I aim to:
- Pursue Thankfulness
Sometimes it is easy to be blind to the blessings in my life and instead focus in on the dishes that magically pile up in the sink over the course of the day, the careers being built by the peers with whom I went to college, and the free time that I used to have (free time that was NOT spent with one ear on the baby monitor and one eye on the minute hand ticking down to the end of nap-time). But in reality what I have is so much to be thankful for. There is nothing better than the life God has given me. I get to be mum to an amazing little girl, and wife to a sincere, hard-working and loving husband. I get to wake up every morning with a warm apartment around me, and food in our cupboards. Unlike many, our family currently has the means for me to look after LA full-time. And, if it happens that I need to go back to work, I’ll work on being thankful for that too.
And, if I pursue thankfulness, this fuels everything else.If I am full of thankfulness for my role as a stay-at-home-mum, it is so much easier to get the housework done, full of joy. If I am full of wonder at the fact that I get to be LA’s mum, it’s so very easy to sacrifice sleep, hobbies and career to play with her and give her all the attention and nurturing she deserves. And when I say “sacrifice” it is in the sense that I might “sacrifice” 100 yen for a delicious ice-cream at the 100 yen shop down the street. Rather than it being something that I am reluctant to give up, I hand it over gleefully as the price that I am oh so willing to pay to get the goodness that I desire.
2. Pursue Humility
The point isn’t whether or not I can achieve my pre-baby list of goals. The point is that there will always be some standard that I cannot reach. My capabilities have an endpoint to them. One day, I’m likely to snap at LA instead of being generous with patient understanding. Maybe I’ll even forget to pick her up from school or that she was meant to take sunscreen and a hat because its field trip day. I have already had several days where I’ve given in to my weariness and laziness and slept/tv-watched the day away rather than playing, cooking or cleaning. But if I hold myself to the standard of perfection, and failure stares at me in the eye, I find that I typically respond in one of two ways: admit failure and give up, or point the finger at some circumstance, or worse, someone else.
Instead, if I pursue humility, it is so easy to say “I’m so sorry sweetie, Mama shouldn’t have done that – forgive me?” or “Sorry hubby, you didn’t do anything wrong, I’m just a little frustrated and took it out on you”. And this, I believe, is a much better example to give to our children. More than that, it frees us to be able to look at our shortcomings, and realise that our success as a parent comes from something that is beyond our own abilities, whether that be receiving help from parents, friends or professionals. I am a Christian, so in my pursuit of humility, the number one thing I seek to recognise is that it is God who created me and my baby, and it is God who enables me to provide the best life for my kids.
I’ve just starting reading an ebook called “Are you Mom Enough” (which is available for free download over at this link), and I just love the premise on which the book is based.As it states in the introduction:
The aim of Mom Enough is not to boost a a mother’s self-sufficiency, but to build her fearlessness as she finds her sufficiency outside of herself….Becoming Mom enough comes as a result of answering the question, ‘are you mom enough?’, with a firm no.
I no longer want to be a supermum, I just want to be super aware that through Him, I can be the best mum for my little girl and any other little humans I happen to be blessed with in the future, and be fulfilled while doing it.