A Letter on Motherhood
Of course I my art and quilt business is important to me and a large focus of my life, but my main job is motherhood. Motherhood is a wild ride full of ups and downs, and a lot more complicated than running your own art business. Recently, a friend who is about to have her first baby mentioned she would like my advice on being a mother. I have 11 more years of practiced experience than her, but I also am still learning everyday and with every change my kids and family go through. Here is the letter I wrote to her.:
A Letter on Motherhood
Since you asked me for advice, but it is so hard to get it all out in one stream of verbal consciousness, I wrote you this letter on motherhood. Maybe you were just being nice in your request, but as you’ll soon find out, motherhood is accompanied by a lot of unsolicited advice in a wide range of usefulness. Consider this the beginning of your indoctrination.
Motherhood Comes with A LOT of Unsolicited Advice. You’ve likely already encountered this whilst being pregnant, but a lot of people have a lot of opinions to share on how to do everything. Some of this information can be helpful, but a lot of it is total trash. There is a fair majority of people who think they are good parents, and they might be, but you may not be aiming for the same result. How to do this or that is totally subjective, and all will probably produce a functioning person able to assimilate to society, the main goal of parenting. However, you likely have different values than the advice-giver, especially if that person is a rando you ran into at the grocery store. If you feel lost as to what to do, ask a trusted friend whose children seem relatively competent. Better yet, ask your pediatrician. Ultimately though, NO ONE knows your child better than you. They grew inside you, not that old lady at the grocery store, or the other mother at play group. The baby who is confounding you right now needs you to tap into that instinct they imbibed you with while in your womb and listen – truly listen- and feel what they need. Then when you feel it, when you hear it, you fight for it. You make it happen for them. You know them. You do know what to do, or you will figure it out. Trust this little team you are building.
You are Now Leader of the Wolf Pack. Yep, motherhood is an ascension to a leadership position. You are now the leader of your family in a way you may not have been ever before. Givers of life get a special, very difficult job opportunity. To your child you are everything. You are the source of food, comfort, entertainment. They want to be in your presence to an overwhelming amount. And they will always be watching you. You are the leader and – as I’ve heard it said- “with great power comes great responsibility.” Do as I say and not as I do just will not fly. You must BE who you want your children to be. They will do as you do. This by no means implies that you should be perfect. Quite to the contrary, there is lots of room for imperfection. Actually, they want to see you be imperfect, so don’t hide it. Be honest. In all things you do, just be honest with yourself and with them. When you have a bad day, admit it. When you fail at something, share it. When you make a mistake, apologize. Show them it is okay and still loveable to just be a flawed human being. Show them how to honor and fix mistakes. Build within them the power and resilience that comes from knowing most things are fixable. This is a great opportunity to make yourself a better human being while making better human beings.
Kids Know Stuff. These tiny humans have a perception large humans have mostly tuned out. The world lets them have those fresh eyes only for a small life window and this is your chance to peek through. Don’t miss this opportunity. Let your child lead in some things. Obviously, don’t let them lead you into the street or some other dangerous or horrible situation, but do let them lead you into some spontaneous and ridiculous ones. Play. Enjoy playing with them. They truly stay little for such a short time. Things they liked yesterday are barely remembered tomorrow. The mind of a child is a total whirlwind and it’s fun to get swept up with them. They still know how to be free in their thoughts and hearts. Listen to their crazy stories and know an unbridled imagination not yet beaten down by can’t and won’t and don’t. Just enjoy those crazy rambling stories as long as you can endure. Get swept up right along with them. Be the trusting storyboard friend. Create that feeling of camaraderie through play that they will remember long after the activity du jour.
Hold Their Hand. Always. As often as you can before they pull it away. Let them know through thought, word, and deed you will hold their hand through anything. You will be there when they triumph, and you will be there when they fail. Take their hand and lead the way. Lead them across the parking lot, to their first birthday party and first day of school and lead them through their struggles with a bully, trips to the emergency room and first heartbreak. Make sure they know you will hold their hand and walk with them to heaven or through hell if that’s what has to be done. Reach out and stay present. You will be amazed at what you can and will get through together.
Motherhood is a Marathon. It’s long and hard. You will have so many times when you are tired, taped out and just want to quit. Obviously, you can’t quit, but you can rest. Let yourself rest sometimes. Go away without guilt. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but your baby will be fine with someone else for a little while. If you don’t want or can’t get away, it’s also totally fine to hide in the closet and eat a piece of chocolate. Give them to dad and walk away. You procreated with this other human for a reason. True, his baby instincts are probably not as good as yours, but this teaches your baby resiliency and survival skills. It’s also okay to just put the baby down and let it cry. Let your toddler whine. If you know they are safe and their basic needs have been met, you CAN just walk away. Sometimes, you should just walk away. Leave the room, scream into a pillow, take some deep breaths, then come back. Keep going. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the old struggles fade behind you, and as a new one approaches you will learn how to more easily keep going.
Embrace the Chaos. You are, and simultaneously aren’t in control now. Obviously you are the large human who has all of the responsibility, but your responsibility now is beholden to someone else’s life. That little person has a mind of their own and they don’t yet know how to wield it in a controlled manor. Learning how to control body and brain seems to be rather tricky, the more time you spend with baby the more you’ll learn this. Just embrace the fact that your day and every experience is somewhat controlled by your tiny, irrational dictator. If you are in control more than sixty percent in any situation, you are doing a great job! Mistakes will be made. You will attempt to do things and go places creating situations in a range from difficult and ill-advised to complete nightmares. People will scream and cry and completely melt down – both you and the baby- but it was just one moment amongst all the moments. Tomorrow is a renewed chance to try again. Roll those dice and be unafraid. Sometimes you will lose horribly, but sometimes you will win gloriously. Just embrace the chaos and go along for the ride.
It’s Messy and Imperfect, but Still Manages to be Wonderful. You will be at times covered in another human’s bodily fluids, but still finish whatever task you were in the middle of. You will be in some of the most embarrassing situations of your life and still function. You will be unbelievably tired and angry, yet still manage to keep yourself relatively together. You will be overcome with thoughts and emotions like you have never encountered before, all cleverly delivered by the hands of your child. If you let yourself, you will learn so much more from being a mother than you will teach. They will change you in ways no one can communicate to you now. They will enslave you and they will save you. If you let them, they will show you how to be a better person. Through all of the difficulties and triumphs, tears of frustration and joy, sleepless nights and sweet cuddles, you will become a mother.
Perhaps now you see why I had to write all this down. Motherhood is these couple of paragraphs, and also so much more. There is no one answer. There is no one perfect piece of advice. You and your child have a relationship all your own. What works for me and my kids, might not work for you and yours. There really are only two things you need to do to be a good mother: love and try. Go all in with your love. This is the chance to truly unleash your love on someone who really wants it. Love hard. Just try, everyday, even the days when you don’t feel like it. You will make mistakes and things will be crazy. Tomorrow is another chance to try again. We've all been there, us mothers, we know this is hard. You aren't alone. You are doing a great job. Keep going. As Lao Tzu said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” You’ve already got what you need mama. xoxo, Janice
If you have additional thoughts on motherhood, please leave a comment below or share a by tagging me on social media @laruedefleurs. All written work and photographs are original content and are copyright protected; kindly give due credit by linking back to my website if you use or share.
(©2019, Janice Bailor // laruedefleurs.com)