Mothers are supernatural creatures.
We grow brand new lives inside our bellies and fearlessly birth our babies into this world. Almost effortlessly we create milk; nourishing their chubby little legs and fuelling their rapidly growing minds.
Hands down, motherhood is the greatest miracle I’ve ever known.
My pregnancy lasted 42 weeks and, even during labor, I was in complete disbelief that an actual baby, complete with ten little fingers and ten little toes, would soon be born.
Maybe it was because miracles are impossible to rationalize. Or maybe I’d been so focused on navigating through our birth safely, that anything beyond that point in time felt like a daydream.
When I finally laid eyes on my baby and held him in my arms it felt more like a homecoming; a reunion of souls rather than an introduction.
We were long lost friends who already knew and understood each other.
Mesmerized from day one, I felt compelled and responsible to be the best mother I could be. To selflessly give my son everything he needed, just like my mother did for me. To care for him day and night. To protect him. To nourish him. To fight for him. To provide for him. And, of course, to love him unconditionally.
In many ways I approached new motherhood like an assignment, believing I needed to gain all the knowledge I could so that I could make the best choices possible for our little family as we slowly embarked on our own unique path.
With my own mother living eight thousand miles away, I found many of my mentors in books; names like Gaskin and McKenna, Leo, Markham and Siegl have become legendary in our home. They laid out the science and gave me the conviction to trust my instincts. To trust my baby. And forge confidently into the great unknown.
I learned everything I could about babies and their needs, but what I didn’t learn about was mothers. How would this experience impact me? In the early days, I simply didn’t have time to think about it. Mastering breastfeeding, coping with sleep deprivation and finding my “new normal” were more than enough to keep me occupied.
But lately it’s been on my mind as I strive to find a balance, that to be honest, has so far largely eluded me. Becoming a mother has been the single greatest joy of my life, but I’m conscious of falling into the trap of becoming my son’s shadow; of revolving my life around his for the next twenty years.
The love I feel for my child is intoxicating and his needs are endlessly overwhelming; it would be so easy to do. But, I’m realizing if I do, I risk becoming a reflection. A soul who’s lost her spark. Her drive. Her passions. Her essence.
What scares me most about being a mother isn’t the tantrums, the sleep deprivation or the challenges of the teenage years but the fear of slowly, piece by piece losing myself. And nobody can prevent that but me.
Motherhood has allowed me to grow in ways I never thought possible and without doubt I’m evolving into a better version of myself. But, with it’s relentless, never-ending, 24/7 demands I sometimes find myself feeling tempted to throw up the white flag and surrender myself completely just to make my life a little easier in the moment.
As parents we become specialists in self-sacrifice; it’s part of the job description. But, in avoiding temporary discomfort and making a habit of choosing the path of least resistance we risk settling for less and forfeiting the essence of what makes us unique in the process.
A critical part of being the best mother I can be means mothering myself as well. Being my own best friend and prioritizing my needs, rather than letting them sink to the bottom of a never-ending to-do list. After all, the love we feel for our kids is a limitless resource but our energy is not.
As cliché as it sounds, we can’t pour from an empty cup. Sometimes we need others to point out the obvious; to give ourselves permission to prioritize our basic needs.
A wise post by Carrie-Anne Moss reminded me of this recently, “I love this privilege of caring for and feeding my family. I also know there are times where I feel like I cannot do it anymore. It’s not so much that my body is weary, but that my spirit is hungry as I keep trying to give and give from a well that is bone-dry.”
Self-care has become such a buzz word of modern motherhood; I’ll admit I’ve found myself glazing over when I see yet another list post outlining 42 ways to care for a healthy mind, body and soul. But, the concept is far from trivial. As Lynette Sheppard articulated so beautifully in a recent post, “I am a mother, not a martyr. Some sacrifices come with the territory, but setting aside my passions because I have children is no longer one of them.”
I believe that selflessness and surrender are central to motherhood, but with anything in life, there is a spectrum and when taken to an extreme it puts us on rocky mental and emotional territory. Being a kind and responsive mother doesn’t have to come at the expense of our own well-being.
Mentally drawing a line in the sand so that we can maintain our own identities helps us preserve our passions, while pushing us to become the role models our children deserve. Our kids don’t ask us to give up on our dreams; all they want is happy and healthy parents.
So, no matter how difficult it may seem, find a way to care for yourself. To feed your soul and nourish your body. Whatever your dream, your passion, your life’s desire is I implore you, through the challenges to find a way to keep your unique magic alive because what our children need most is parents who have come alive.
“Don’t give so much of yourself to others, that you end up losing yourself.” Anonymous