So here I find myself, on the other side of my 30s, with my 40s fast approaching, and the big 3-0 all but out of sight behind me…
I have learnt a lot of things these past few years.
I have learnt the hard way that embracing motherhood is what I want to do more than anything under the sun. I say this after 2-1/2 years of working part time, which I needed and enjoyed after so many years of diapers, potty-training, nursing, and unfortunately too much time wasted trying to be someone I was not.
If that last part threw you for a loop, please bear with me as I explain it.
There is nothing wrong with trying to strengthen one’s weaknesses. It is a positive thing, and makes us well-rounded people when we can step back, say “Oh geez, I suck at that, but it would be to all of our benefit including my own if I work on it and try to get better”, as opposed to “Well that’s just who I am/not who I am, so deal with it”.
That can cross over into beating ourselves up for our weaknesses, constantly fighting an uphill battle and perpetually failing, and ignoring the blessing of our natural strengths and gifts. Which in many ways I did.
My natural mothering tendencies include reading, exploring, and laughing with my children. Being OK with messes that we will clean up later because they are part of learning and living and being a child. Not sweating the small stuff.
My natural “self” tendencies include socializing, connecting, empowering and encouraging, having a jolly good time, laughing with others, crying with others, having a jolly good time (oops, did I mention that already?), writing, creating, and savouring it all because truth be told we could get sick or die tomorrow, or those close to us could, so why (pardon the expression) get our panties in a bunch about every little thing that isn’t perfect?
I spent a lot of time beating myself up because my house was never “clean enough”, a standard I allowed to be set by people who had no children, or mothers online with entirely different personalities than I have. It would be like asking an introvert who unwinds by folding laundry to waitress in a busy restaurant or paint with groups of 15-20 children without having an aneurysm (things I have generally found to be fun—the waitressing and painting with kids, not the aneurysm, obviously). The ironic thing is that during those years I had so many mothers of one and two children walk into my home and comment on how clean it was with so many people living in it, you would think I would have clued in that while not Martha Stewart, I wasn’t as bad as I perpetually labelled myself. But no. ENFP—sensitive to criticism…
Yesterday I brought my (almost)12-year-old daughter to UPEI for an eyeball dissection with the homeschool group. It was my first time meeting several of the moms who were there. Upon introducing ourselves to one another, one mom immediately asked me what curriculum I use. I mean immediately. As in we knew each other’s names and that we were there for the dissection and that was it kind of immediately. Once upon a time I would have been washed over with a wave of panic and inadequacy as I have never used a particular curriculum for my children and am fully aware that there are a few homeschoolers out there (and non-homeschoolers) who frown upon this. It was kind of nice to just say “Nothing in particular—we just roll with whatever works for each child…” and be absent of the insecurity that used to plague me as a young mother.
I have had the pleasure of recently connecting on a deeper level with other women of different personalities, backgrounds, and walks of life—not to mention ages. At times, I find myself feeling that I am with peers, at other times I am in awe and soaking it all in and learning, and again at other times I realize I have crossed over into “older experienced mum” stage—which is weird since I still have a four-year-old climbing on my legs and pulling the front of my shirt down in very public places. That happened yesterday, actually. Go me. At least I had a really nice bra on. Go La Senza…
I think the one thing I would say to the women who view me in the light of that last description (“older experienced mum”, not woman having shirt pulled down in public) is this:
It’s OK to be you.
It’s OK to be a chatter box, to have children with mismatched socks, to get tears in your eyes when watching Battle of the Blades (shut up), and to love wearing a good pair of heels even when your car is dirty and you have seventeen million kids and a dog riding in it.
It’s OK to feel more comfortable communicating online and less in person because you aren’t as much of a people person as some of the rest of us seem to be. It is OK to love to have a place for everything and everything in it’s place.
It’s OK to prefer work boots and hands-on, outdoor work. It is OK to prefer a good book.
It’s OK to use the most detailed and structured homeschooling curriculum out there if this is what works for you and your family—and it is OK not to as well.
You are you. You have unique gifts and strengths that you will bring to your motherhood journey—and to your relationship with your husband/partner and to your relationships with your friends and those who surround you—that you should never let anyone tell you are not of value. Not even yourself. They are part of you, and they will bring joy to other people’s lives. Yes, work on your weaknesses, but realize that you may never be as “up there” in those particular areas as people around you to whom these things seem to come naturally. And let’s be realistic; deep down, they probably envy you a little as well, because your strengths are likely their weaknesses or challenges.
I am not teaching my children to garden and farm and manage a business. I am teaching them to love learning, to be open to new experiences; that culture, language, and customs are all fascinating and beautiful things, that the human body is amazing, that our immediate surroundings are a homeschooling curriculum in themselves, and that regardless of beliefs, backgrounds, languages and faiths, we can all be friends if we so choose to be. We can all be there for one another.
On that note I am going to begin tidying up the house that I abandoned yesterday to indulge in an adventure-filled day and evening with my daughters. I need to do that with them, and we bond when we do. But I have “acquired” a taste for what a relatively clean and organized home can do for one’s sense of well-being, so I am going to deal with that aspect of life now, being perfectly fine with the fact that my clean and an OCD person’s clean (or a 50-something-year-old-woman-with-no-kids-or-grown-kids-who-have-since-left-home’s clean) are not necessarily one in the same. Perhaps today, if you find yourself faced with a weakness or the absence of a particular characteristic that you would like to develop, view it as something to be acquired, like a taste for good wine, or coffee sans contaminants (cream and sugar, heh heh heh). Don’t beat yourself up for being you and not being someone else. I’m convinced that most people in your life love you for who you are.
It’s OK to be a chatter box (among other things).
Remember that today.