Since I’ve been struggling to get into work today, I think I need to lighten it up. Motherhood is that immense blessing that comes with intense emotion and challenge. It’s one of my toughest assignments. Ever. One that will always leave me in doubt; have I done my best? Here’s what I’ve learned to date, in random order:
1. I can’t do everything
No, we can’t have it all. Telling women that they can have successful marriages, families, careers, personal growth and development, all at the same time, on their own, is a lie. A lie I believe is purported by men who secretly know that it’s not possible (since they can’t do it), but want us to continually try to attain this elusive perfection which always leaves us feeling deflated. It’s true, there are women who are successful in many aspects of their lives, but they have amazing support structures – stay-at-home husbands, the nanny, au pair, the driver, helpful in-laws and so on. Since I don’t have much of that support, I will do what I can.
2. To bend my knees
I’ve always had a sensitive lower back. I remember one doctor saying it’s long, so the base is inclined to take some strain. It was one of the reasons I started pilates back in 2006; to keep my back and other joints supple. And pregnancy was quite brutal to my back. So, I have learned to ‘be a lady’ and always use my knees to bend.
3. To step over stuff on the floor
Children are God’s creation to unshackle one from the chains of order; replacing it with absolute and utter chaos. To fight it is a losing battle. I’ve learned to move through this like an obstacle course. Avoid, jump over and importantly, keep your gaze up. What you can’t see, won’t annoy you.
4. It’s ok to get dirty
Small children spend a lot of time on the floor, it’s how they discover and play. I’ve discovered that it’s a fantastic way to ‘come down to their level’ and also takes strain off my back. Getting messy and dirty is par for the course. It’s not uncommon to have milk, food, spit, tears, vomit stains somewhere on one’s clothing. And I’ve strangely come to enjoy walking around barefoot. Who would have thought?
5. Go with your gut
There’s the time my eldest, who had been fairly healthy from birth, developed a fever, for the first time at the age of 23 months. Yes. We had been extremely lucky without children in and out of doctor’s rooms and hospitals until then. So, when my usually active, vivacious boy was uncharacteristically timid and just lay around, I initially put it down to the extreme heat. It was only a little while later that I realised he had a fever which was promptly treated with over-the-counter meds. Over the next few days, the fever would subside and he would seem normal, only to return. However, we had it under control, at no point did we feel like he had to see a doctor. But by the Friday, about five days after this, he developed red spots over his body. I had to involve the doctor and caught the receptionist who, after asking some questions, gave her diagnosis of roseola, also known as baby measles. “See it all the time”. When the spots appear, the worst is over. We made it through one of his first ‘big’ incidents without too much panic and drama.
6. Patience is really a virtue
I could never describe myself as patient. It’s actually one of my life lessons. Call me a perpetual student, as I keep failing. I was blessed with children who cannot sleep on command. Another thing I failed at. I could never get them into that sleeping routine where, once the lights are out, tucked in, with a song perhaps, they would gently ease into lala-land. No. It’s been a process of holding them over the shoulder, patting, walking around [on the plus-side, I don’t have “Oprah’s bye-bye arms”]. And as they get older, laying in bed until they can no longer fight it off. The patience of Job comes to mind.
7. A tantrum-throwing 2-year-old can get a reaction from the Pope
If, unlike me, you have a calm and patient disposition, you’re in good stead here. Again, my eldest, has been known to make his father, one of the coolest, calmest people I know, lose his temper. Secretly, it makes me feel so much better about myself (disclaimer: not condoning losing it with anyone). Just means that we need to count to 20, instead of 10, before reacting. And it also limits the inclination to point fingers at each other.
8. Make time for me
I initially said that my list of lessons is in no particular order, but this is a big one. If I cannot find quiet moments, I’m useless to anyone around me. This usually includes the simple things I previously took for granted like meditating, going to church, reading, writing and even decent sleep. It also extends to exercising, doing my hair now and again, and if I’m really being indulgent, facials and massages are in order.
I’m neither a robot, nor SuperWoman. Love the body, outfit and cap, but I just don’t cut it. So, ladies, it must be high on our agenda: get ‘Me’ back on the priority list.