Becoming a mother has brought me through the full range of human emotions. Laughter, tears, physical pleasure and pain, sleep deprivation, an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment, joy, triumph, and delight, as well as failure, insecurity, unworthiness, and a paralyzing sense of overwhelm.
Nothing has ever stretched me so thin, brought me a fuller sense of elation, or a bigger source of anger and frustration. I often feel as if I’m doing everything all wrong, and yet I have no choice but to keep going. My family needs me to brush off those moments of failure, and jump right back into the mix wearing my best game face.
But the thing that has always been my saving grace, is being with other mothers. On walks, at picnics or BBQs, Saturday morning sporting events, basically any social gathering, I always seem to find myself huddled up with the mom’s whispering over a glass of sauvignon blanc or cherished cup of caffeine, about how absolutely insane this whole business of mother is.
I ask for their recommendations about whatever our latest challenge is—be it teething, sleeping through the night, or now homework struggles and sibling bickering, or how to get my husband on board with using google calendar to manage our schedules (why is that so difficult?!)
So in celebration of Mother’s Day,
I’m featuring a few of my favorite mothers.
The hope is that we will all
remember to be as forgiving with ourselves
as we are with our children.
I met Jennifer Mason Wolfe through a nation wide literary performance called Listen to Your Mother. We joined eight other women on stage, and hundreds of women across the country to read our original written narratives. A teacher and mom to a 15-year old son and 19-year old daughter, Jennifer has the perspective of a women who’s been there and made it to the other side.
Jennifer on a volunteer trip to Indonesia
While my piece in the show was a irreverent rant about the trials of toddlers and bedtime, (you can read it in it’s entirely here,) Jennifer shared a poignant reflection of her daughter’s childhood she experienced while dropped her off for college. Her story put my early parenting struggles in perspective and made me appreciate that though an hour with a child under five can sometimes feel like eternity, the years do indeed pass quickly.
Here’s a small excerpt from Jennifer piece:
I sat in the bleachers, fighting the tears and watching my little girl’s childhood flash before my eyes, and began to listen to Dr. Richard Badenhausen, head of the Honors College, read William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents. In that moment, my heart lifted just enough to catch a glimpse of clarity-to cement me in the present:
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
Have I done that? Is that the two-year-old girl down there – the one who delighted in smearing peaches in her mouth, juice oozing down her chin? Is that the five-year-old who grabbed my hand and pulled me to the jungle gym to proudly perform her latest trick? Did all the years of homework and studying and projects and sports and testing and applications prepare her for the ordinariness of life? She reached her goal, she’s attending the college of her choice – hopefully the one of her dreams, too. Is she ready to leave the moments of self-doubt, of wondering if her transcript is strong enough or her athleticism amazing enough to have a college want her? Is she ready to stop worrying about being extraordinary and just enjoy being….ordinary?
I highly recommend you read the entire post in it’s entirely here.
I caught up with Jennifer over lunch a few weeks ago, and she offered her wisdom for mothers such as myself, still deep in the trenches of sleeplessness and self-doubt.
Anyone who tries to follow a prescription, is screwed. Everyone is different and every child and birth is different.
When my daughter was an infant, I literally had a bar graph of when she would nurse and nap, just like I did for my lesson plans. It made us both crazy for the first 6 months. Once I dropped the expectation of how the routine should be, and tuned into her rhythms, life was way more enjoyable for both of us.
For me I think parenting is really about being in the moment. I had to tell myself early on, “This is my life right now. I choose this.” Because if you’re worried about going out for a drink with girlfriends while your nursing, or that you need to be here or there, you miss the right now.
I learned to say, I’m a mom first and everything else comes after that. And actually make the conscious choice to not feel left out in other arenas.
When you kids are little it’s easy to get so sucked into the present that you feel eaten up. You have to find a small way to pull yourself out of it.
For me, I created simple rituals, like the Friday night snuggle when my kids were little. Working part time as a teacher, and full time as a mom, I was so exhausted by Friday, all I wanted to do was sleep. So I would pile all the blankets and pillows on the floor and turn on whatever the kids wanted to watch and we’d cuddle up. I would usually fall asleep there. Or when my kids got older, I would make a rule of no grading on Wednesday nights. Then I would either read a book, paint my nails, or something for me. I knew I could count on that time every Wednesday and I didn’t need to spend money on a babysitter or going out.
You tell yourself, I can get through this tantrum or whatever and then I get X, Y, or Z. It’s important for kids to see mommy taking care of herself.
Jennifer Wolfe, a mom and middle school teacher, loves nothing more than watching kids be brave, courageous and navigate the world. Jennifer stories and reflections appear regularly on her blog, mamawolfe, as well as on The Huffington Post, Bonbon Break, Mamapedia, Mamalode, Midlife Boulevard, Blogher, and Project Underblog. Connect with Jennifer on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Follow her here: http://jenniferwolfe.net