Being the U in Mutherhood

She poked her head out of the closet, taking a break from putting away clothes. She looked her grown daughter in the eye and said, "That's not just exclusive to motherhood. It's what women do their entire lives. They try to find balance."

Her daughter was silenced by this response. She had always thought that the reason she felt so frazzled was because her current life called for it. Trying to keep her kids on a schedule amidst piles of laundry and never-ending dirty dishes, dealing with tantrums and bed-wetting, weening and sleep deprivation. Wasn't all of that the real reason she couldn't find time for herself, or for that matter, time to be truly present with her children?

She sat on the floor, folding yet another towel and felt her shoulders slump a little. Her mind raced as she tried to consider this idea. What her mother had just said made her think that feeling overwhelmed was more about her than it was about her life. Maybe it was true. As she looked back over her life, she could remember always being one of the more frazzled types.

When she talked it over with a friend later, she sighed and said, "And the craziest thing is that she was so present when she said this. During the whole conversation actually, even though she was doing four things at once."

Her friend retorted with, "Well yeah, easy for her to say, but how many years did it take for her to get to a place where she could be so fully present while putting away laundry and playing with her grandchild all at the same time?"

"Well...um. You know? Come to think of it, she's always been able to do that. She was always present and engaging no matter what she was doing when I was growing up."

"Oh. Huh. That's really amazing."

These two mothers and friends talked for a long time after that, hashing out the idea that we must do it all well, and the guilt that comes from not being able to accomplish what we feel we should in a given day. They talked about how much of their inability to be present and not put their kids off could be due to a state of mind, rather than their actual reality.

Where does all the pressure truly come from? How much of it is our culture, our lifestyle, the result of a society careening out of control? How much of our state of mind and being is a result of our personality?

And where did we get the idea that we know exactly what the perfect mother looks like? When did we get the idea that we could fit in those perfect mother shoes no matter what size our feet are? What would happen if we accepted ourselves as the mother that we are naturally? Instead of striving, at least in our minds, to be someone else? Or if we're certain we're the only one who is actually getting it right, where did that pride come from?

After all, every one of our children are unique, why wouldn't we be unique? As different as night and day from the next mother, and just the right fit for our particular kids.

They decided they were on to something, an underlying truth that would relieve a lot of the tension for many women. They decided to keep digging, praying and talking it over. Until they could share some insights that might just set a few people free from the mind-sets that make them feel like failures.
After asking mothers two questions recently (what are you doing well? and what are you struggling with as a mother?) I received a comment that spoke to this issue,

"My greatest weakness as a mother is never thinking that I (or any other mother) is enough. There are, of course, things I struggle with. But they are far outweighed by the
good things. And I don't need to dwell on them, because that's my weakness. Being overwhelmed, guilty, and self-deprecating are not states of being but states of mind. Choosing not to indulge myself in those paradigms, that's what I'm working on."
Carolyn of Tender Mercies

What Carolyn so eloquently said here is exactly what I'm driving at in asking these two questions. I spoke recently of some threads that are woven through the responses, themes that speak of deeper issues. (NO, I'm not saying you all have major problems :) But I'm excited to have discovered a couple of things that may help other moms in accomplishing this acceptance we all need. I will share more on that soon.

Lastly, I would really appreciate it if you would continue to come along with me on this adventure. So my next request of you is this: Please leave a comment or write your own post listing the things you are doing well as a mother. (I know you sort of did this already with the last question, but I'm asking you to list as many things as you can think of.)

I hope it feels really good!

If you do your own post, will you leave a link here? I'll be linking up and sharing my own list tomorrow. Please feel free to leave long comments if that's easier for you! Thank you!

33 clicked right here to comment:

Kristina P. said...

I just have to say that you are an amazing writer!

Can't help you on the motherhood issue.

Sara@ Butterville said...

Oh heather did I need this challenge today! I woke up crabby, feeling oh so un-motherly. Now I am forced to snap myself out of it and take your challenge. Alright Sister, but I'm warning you I just maybe that perfect mother you were talking about and how will everyone else feel in my perfection? (See I told you I was crabby, and it seems a bit snarky!)

Becky said...

Sadly, when I first read this post, I thought, okay I'll do it. But my list is only going to have two things on it. But I shushed my negative Nancy side quickly. I'm going to take note of how things go today and post tonight.

And this really is a good idea - we should all be a little nicer to ourselves. It makes life easier.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I played and had a warm fuzzy feeling afterward. Here's my link:


Rachel said...

Boy oh boy...did I need to read this today...did you write this post for me? I am desperately trying to find balance since having the baby...and really struggling with being super critical towards myself...I will be putting some thought into your challenge and focusing on the positive this upcoming week.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

This is a great post, Heather. This miight just be one of the first linky things I'd be brave enough to participate in. I'm thinking about it. I'm so glad you are opening a discussion on motherhood and our struggles with this most important role in our life. I'm also a type A kind of personality, one of those who thinks she can do and have it all, and end up in the throes of despair when I feel like I'm failing. I've gotten more realistic about who I am as I've gotten older, but there are still things to sort out. This conversation you've started is personally very helpful in that process. Thank you!

Kazzy said...

Some of the things I am pretty good at:

I laugh a lot with my kids

I don't obsess over imperfect cleaning

I take time for myself

I talk to my kids about spiritual things

I tell them how much I love their dad

I hope this is what you were looking for. Thanks for the great post. You are a thoughtful person and I always look forward to reading what you write.

Jessica said...

This is such a great idea. I'm glad you're having this discussion, and I'll do my best to participate!

BTW, haven't been here in a while and such wonderful posts! You are a great writer.

Not the Norm said...

Once again you give us mothers a great post that really makes us THINK.

After dealing with my sick baby and feeling like I can't fix her it will make me feel good to list what I do well.

Check out my post laster this evening.

Lara said...

I'm actually really excited to read what others have to say on this. And I will think hard for a list of my own. :)

Ali said...

i am so glad to know you!

i am great at feeding my kids well.
I am great at processing emotions.
I am great at hugging and loving on my kids.
I am great at coloring!
I am trying to multi-task less so that I can be more present.

Love this post!

Jessica said...

My post is up: http://jesstock.blogspot.com/2008/10/my-this-mom-rocks-post.html

BaronessBlack said...

Hi there!
I am good at remembering relevant quotes
“You can have it all – but you can’t have it all at once!” (So enjoy what you have right now!)

“Your children will stretch you to your limits. Whatever your limits are – physical, emotional, financial; that’s how far your children will push you!” (This is normal)
I’m also good at teaching my children to value people.

Heidi Ashworth said...

After nearly 19 years of motherhood I am finally in the place where just making progress is the best I can do and that's okay with me. So,
1) I am making (incremental) progress
2) I have given up on perfectionism in the motherhood area (still need to give it up in other areas such as, er, blogging)
3) I have figured out that making decisions based on what someone else might think of me should they see my kid acting "that way" is a pretty lousy way to make choices for my kids
4) I have the desire--I want to be a better mother and I strive to be a better mother and I am okay with the fact that it is the trying that counts because quite frankly I will never be good enough, not in my mind and possibly not in theirs (at least, not in the Middle Child's mind because she's the only girl and I think girls are less forgiving of their moms than boys are--plus I tend to raise her the way my mom raised me which isn't bad, just not right for her--with the boys I am totally free to be me or what they need me to be--weird but not uncommon, I don't think).
5) Having a 7 year old at age 44 is not so common--I feel that I am a bit more relaxed than the younger moms with kids his age but maybe that has more to do with the Big Guy than anything else. The Big Guy has taught us very quickly that kids come a certain way and not only is there little you can do about certain things but also, you just aren't responsible for that--it is just the way it is. Period. We know now that kids don't come as a clean slate and that if they aren't perfect, it MUST be the fault of the parents. Phew! All we can do is our best and leave the rest in God's hands because it's really all he is asking us to do. Christ died on the cross for our sins but also for our lacks.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Such a great issue to bring up. I wrote a post recently about how we as mothers always compare other mom's great success to our areas of greatest weakness and fail to recognize the good we are doing. The link to that is here:

As far as what I'm doing right:

I try to keep a sense of humor. (see my most recent post.) I read my kids lots of books. I teach them to pray and have faith. I give them chores and responsibilities. I am a rule nazi and try to make expectations very clear. And they know I love them.

Abra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abra said...

No no no no no! I just deleted my comment because, I was just caught up in a moment... You are awesome and I don't know you, know you, but I love you!
What you said was just fine... I just was having a moment... in life... I will blog about it...in fact, I started to but got so overwhelemed that I couldn't finish, then I started thinking about HOW to finish, and I just had to take a break. I will blog it, I will try to link it (although Mr. Linky doesn't like me :S)
And I didn't mean to make you feel bad so PLEASE DON'T!

Julie said...

I've been a mother for 21 years. I spent the bulk of the years striving to take care of my children... in the process I lost sight of my children and their hearts.
I didn't know how to nurture the heart. I hadn't nurtured my own...

But thankfully God gives us a 2nd chance. Now with all my kids currently at home, living, after the 21 year old being overseas... NOW I know a little more. NOW i can speak to their hearts, hopefully giving them the truth that will set them free...

Thanks for sharing your heart. I found you through Becoming Me's.

I love the title of your blog, cause I have often said, that I am ruined for the ordinary.


Abra said...

okay first of all, I love JULIE's Post.. thank you!
SECONDLY because I'm destined tonight to be outrageously silly.... here is my email Heather, (I detest outlook and refuse to initiate it so I did try to email you but unfortunately, the world is privy to our misunderstanding... not that it is a misunderstanding... it's just gotten a little crazy... Bahahahaha! At least it's a good crazy ne'cest-pas?
SO here it is:

Mrs. Dunbar said...

I need to think on this. I'll post to Mr. Linky tomorrow. (But we have a first timer here, so be patient.) What a great idea! Thanks and a wonderful way to spend my Sunday blog.
HUGS from Cali

The Three 22nds said...

Good things to think about...no time tonight...

Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...

Thank you for the great idea! My post is here: http://ethanzachemma.blogspot.com/2008/10/things-im-doing-well-as-mother.html

mom of boys said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I just found your blog and I loved that story and I needed to hear that I can be the mom I am naturally instead of trying to be something/one else. I struggle with trying to be something I'm not. Don't know if I'm brave enough to try the list,(I've been quite down about my mothering skills lately), but I'll certainly think about it.
Thank you again.

Melanie J said...

I always feel like an idiot when I make lists of good things I'm doing. But then I always feel better when I do. So here's my list:

1. I laugh often with them.
2. I teach them to love books.
3. I treat their father(s) with respect.
4. I teach them about God.
5. I teach them about their heritage.
6. I cheer their accomplishments.
7. I remind them often of their awesomeness.
8. I make sure they are strongly connected to extended family.
9. We do the holidays up big.
10. I cook a lot of healthy foods.

Thanks for the challenge!

Lauren said...

Here's my 2 cents:

-I'm super silly and make my kids crack up, (lots of poopie and yo mama jokes)

-We sing and dance a lot

-I'm in the process of learning to treat them as individuals and not expect the same thing out of all of them.

-I know them and their quirks well. I can spot Nathan's emotional breakdowns and Caleb's mischievous curiosity a mile away. Which enables me to intervene before trouble (sometimes)

-I just really love them so much and they know that.

-I think they are hilarious and they appreciate that, because they think they're pretty darn funny too.

by the way, thanks for asking this question:)

Dana Wilson said...

Oh, how I needed to do this.

And so I did.

Thank you.

*MARY* said...

I've started to blog late at night while the kids are sleeping.

LisAway said...

I came back from a conference this weekend and one of the most important things I took away from it was that we need to love ourselves, and the idea that "love your neighbor as yourself," can be seen as two commandments. So when I read this post I thought, "HA! Perfect!!"

* I try to be patient.
* I love watching and listening to my kids.
* I always make time to see things they're excited to show me (that's a lot of things!).
* We have lots of fun eating lunch together after school.
* I teach them to be able to laugh at themselves and find humor everywhere.
* I teach them about their Heavenly Father and their Savior, so they understand the purpose of life and can find guidance even in their early years.
* I make food that they enjoy.
* I try not to complain about all the work it takes to take care of them.
* I love their father very much.
* I praise them when they do something well or surprise me with their goodness.

Thanks for this Heather! I know there must be others! I'll be paying attention today!

Blessed said...

Thank you for this assignment - I answered the challenge in my own blog - focusing on what I'm doing right helps me to do more things right!

Carolyn Duede said...

I've been thinking about this challenge a lot lately. I've made my list, but I don't think I want to post it. Still, I'm grateful for the challenge because it has changed something about me. I sat down and wrote all these little things I feel great about. That was very confidence boosting. Then, I went through and tried to pick out the things that were really really important to me. What are the things I do well that I never want to change? Complementing myself on those things made me even more prone to be that way. For example, one of the things I think I do well is that I really enjoy my boy. But after writing that, I started to enjoy him even more. Kissing, holding, smelling, hearing, and watching became my favorite things to do and they were wonderfully luxurious. And I didn't feel bad a single bit about the time I sacrificed on them.

This was a challenge that will help me in my quest to parent guilt-free.

Jessi said...

Hi, Heather. I popping on over for the first time as per the recommendation from my SIL @ Finding Him Bigger.

I have to admit that you posed one of the hardest questions for me to answer (and I'm hardly one to be at a loss for words). I've been struggling with figuring out who I am...as a mom, wife, and woman. I am a brand-new SAHM of two kiddos(2YO and 5MO) and a wife of a brand-new physician. There are many days where I'm left to care for the kids alone, leaving me extremely frazzled at the end of the day and saddened/frustrated by the things that didn't get done. I don't think I require perfection...I enjoy not having to search through the dirty clothes hamper to find something to wear (and wash it real quick), not stepping over/on toys and in sticky messes that somehow find their way to my floor, not feeling like I have to squat over my own toilet because it hasn't been wiped down in a couple of weeks, and having something to eat when my son and husband tell me that they're hungry. That's not too much to ask, right?

Lately, focusing on the my positive mothering attributes seems impossible when there are a million more weaknesses staring me right in the face. Thanks for the exercise...I will take some time in the next couple of days to reflect.

Lara said...

I just put my post up on Mr. Linky. After reading a few other lists, I can see that I have a few other things I could add. This has been a good exercise, and makes me want to be even better in the things I put on my list. Prove myself right, or something. :)

Kimberly said...

Oh how you uplift and inspire with posts like this one! Many, many thanks!

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