About 18 months ago, I was tagged in a Facebook post to participate in the “motherhood dare.”
You know the one: someone dares you to post one photo that makes you proud to be a mother.
I struggled with this. I flipped through the photos on my phone, but felt that none of them reflected pride. You see, it didn’t matter how cute the photo seemed, I remembered what happened behind the scenes just before or after it was taken. The tantrum or the complaint or some form of defiance from (mostly) one of them and the way I reacted to it.
I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t particularly enjoying motherhood at that stage and definitely did not feel proud.
Rather I felt as if I were in a relationship where I was constantly verbally abused. I felt bruised and battered and tired of little tyrants ruling my world. Tired of being told the supper I so lovingly prepared looked disgusting. Tired of getting into trivial arguments like why I couldn’t make time move forward quicker.
Further to that I didn’t particularly like my youngest that much.
There; it’s out. I said it. I loved him to bits. But I really, really didn’t like him. I found him challenging and it was a massive effort to mother him. He had a way of disrupting the harmony. Most nights dinner time wasn’t a happy family affair because of his a picky eating. His tantrums were EPIC and intense and exhausting.
Until one day when I was asked what I liked about my children and I struggled to come up with something to say about him. Really struggled. And that became a turning point for me. I realised that I have been very good in other parts of my life to practise gratitude and focusing on the good only, but when it came to my own child, I could only see the bad, the tough, the challenging.
I knew I had to make some changes.
It started with me accepting that no matter which new behaviour modification I tried, I wasn’t going to change him. The only way ahead was for me to work with his personality. I had to get into the habit of having empathy with his meltdowns, trying to put myself in his shoes, understand his side of things. This felt counter-intuitive at first, as if I was enabling bad behaviour.
But I was reminded of Proverbs 15:1 that says: “A gentle response diffuses anger”. And that became my mantra.
The next thing was to start focusing on the things I loved about his personality and letting go of the negative labels I had put on him. On the days he was a little ray of sunshine I reveled in his hugs and kisses, silly jokes and intelligent questions. I stored them up, as if in a battery, to help me through the days when he was more dark clouds and thunder.
The only thing that changed since then has been my attitude, not his personality.
He remains a bit tougher to manage. It still is hard work. The difference is that now I am feeling proud of the way I mother him. We have a very special connection. He knows I am on his side. We have become allies, not enemies. I am a safe haven in a world that’s a little overwhelming for him at times.
When that challenge comes up again, I will be ready with lots of photos to share.
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Magda is a mother, budding entrepreneur and a dabbler in words. She is originally from South Africa, but Perth became home in 2015. Her happy place is spending time with her husband and two boys, all 3 of them redheads! Most of her spare time goes into washing underpants and putting down toilet seats, but if there’s any left, you will find her with her nose in a book. Other passions include coffee and chocolate and sometimes she runs too. She loves encouraging women to be authentic, ignore the opinions of others and to become the best possible version of themselves.