“Being a mother is like trying to hold a wolf by the ears,” Gram said. “If you have three or four –or more – chickabiddies, you’re dancing on a hot griddle all the time.” (Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons) I think that holding the wolf took all my attention at first. I know I was directionless for the first years of motherhood. Keeping the chickies fed, diapered and bathed was a colossal task.
My first two kids were easy babies. They didn’t throw tantrums, they slept at night, yet I struggled to keep up with them. I did my best, but I was still stressed by the little things — toilet training, spilled milk, muddy shoes. The first years were painful, because I was growing my mommy wings.
And then after four kids, I started to relax. The tasks shifted from exceptional to ordinary. I began to hold the wolf and dance a little. I stopped worrying so much. I grew into, “a mother who doesn't worry so much about being bad or good but just recognizes that she's both, and neither. A mother who does her best, and for whom that is good enough, even if, in the end, her best turns out to be, simply, not bad.” (Ayelet Waldman) I am certain that even what I do poorly is good enough. I’ve seen my children be kind, thoughtful and polite. I’ve seen them do better at things than I expected because I know what I didn’t teach them. And each year I add a few steps to my dance. I make a new goal, I add a new project, I reach a little higher. And the more I reach, the less I do, which doesn’t make sense. Here’s how Julie B Beck puts it.
“Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.”
Some people call me patient. It’s not patience…it’s just that the little stuff doesn’t stress me out anymore. Spilled milk? wipe it. Poopy underwear? start a batch of laundry. Muddy shoes? mop. I still get stressed but it is less frequently caused by kids. Now I’m stressed because I spend so much time on others that there isn’t much “me" time. I’m getting better at taking time for “me” and letting other stuff slide.
I get tired. I often don’t have the emotional capital to keep investing in my children all the way to bedtime. It's a tricky dance that changes as they get older. I try to be a good dancer but it turns out more like ‘not bad.’
Being pregnant changes everything. When I’m pregnant I slow way down, eat more, sleep more and waddle more. I have learned to simplify down to the bare essentials. Usually, by the end, every normal routine has come to a complete standstill. I’ve learned to accept this as normal, allow it and resume life when I feel ready.
The shortest perspective you can have is the close-up view of life as the minutes tick by. The longest perspective you can have includes eternity. It’s all about perspective. The longer your perspective, the easier trials become. As you look at your situation, think about creating the life you want. Dream big. What does it look like and feel like. Break down your dreams into small incremental steps from 10 years to 5 years to 1 year to 6 months to this month. This process helps make this month part of a bigger whole and this minute a vital part of your wildest dreams.