Our little family is moving house in the near future. There are pros and cons to this, most of which I’ll not be aware of until moving time comes. I don’t know where we’ll be next, but the change in itself is inevitable. And because things will change I’ve been trying to be intentionally mindful and appreciative of the things I enjoy about where we are now – friends and family that live close; great local parks; a bath tub; our most excellent housemate and his most excellent dog; a lovely kitchen with a dishwasher and a matching cutlery set owned by said excellent housemate; and did I mention the bath?
Dear Mama: You need to stop thinking you are responsible when your children “ fail ”.
I still remember the first time it happened to me: right after I received and read through my oldest son’s first school report card. Or as they call it here in Western Australia: “Student Achievement Report”. You might have seen this format yourself, where your child gets scored in various categories to be either excellent or not so excellent.
There are so many words that I could use to describe my journey and the different aspects of motherhood: elation, joy, completeness, love, fulfilling, frustrating, tiring, demanding, life-giving, life sapping. But looking back on my journey so far, a phrase I would use to encapsulate all of these words is “a courageous mission”.
I wasn’t sure I would ever be ready to be a mum.
I have always loved the idea of having children. I grew up with a sister and a small group of friends with big families. We went on a ton of vacations, visited extended family interstate often, celebrated every single birthday and, as I got older, family life only became deeper and more tight-knit as we worked through the throes of adulthood together. I knew I wanted to have my own children one day: two, and preferably girls (mainly so I could forcibly pass on all of my beautiful barbie dolls to them).
These were the upgrades I signed up for when I became a mum, or so I imagined.
I like surprises. When we got married I let my husband plan our whole honeymoon and delighted in being whisked away without a clue where we’d end up or what we’d do. I really enjoy the injection of the unexpected into everyday life.
Recently my son Jackson and I were taking advantage of an unseasonally warm Sunday afternoon with one of his favourite activities; water play in the backyard. I watched, bemused, as he entertained himself with endless pouring from cup to bucket to water table, then back up into the cup to continue the cycle. The water mesmerizes him. He can play with water for hours, soaking himself from head to toe until he begins to shiver violently, and even then he screams in protest when I bundle him up in a soft towel and carry him inside to recover in a warm bath.
Two of my least favourite terms in the whole world are pre-baby body and post-baby body. Google ‘pre-baby body’ and you get an astounding 13 000 000 results. ‘Post-baby body’ is even worse, coming in at 50 000 000 results. 63 000 000 results in total, most of them dedicated to showing you the way to have a fabulous post-baby body. We live in a society where it has become a badge of honour if you can erase pregnancy from your body as quickly as possible. Celebrities lead the way of course and society follows dutifully, trying to live up to an image made possible only with personal trainers, chefs, rigorous schedules and of course good lighting, plastic surgery plus in many cases just plain old good genes.
Motherhood for me was a re-birthing into a self and a world that I couldn’t have predicted.
It is a world where everything has added significance, an importance beyond the immediate. I feel the weight of my mistakes heavier but the joys lift me higher than ever before. Even my skillset; that that in which I am strong I become stronger and that that in which I am weak becomes blaringly obvious.
I have been a mother for just over 6 and a half years. You would think that by now I have sorted through my thoughts and emotions about the biggest project I have ever undertaken. That by now I would feel confident in this enormous role and that I would be able to easily tell you what exactly motherhood means to me.