I remember watching a friend parent her five-year-old boy. I didn't have kids yet, but I saw how he would push the limits and anger her. I was so impressed that she kept her calm and always welcomed him into her arms for a hug and moved on with a good attitude. I knew I wanted to be a parent like that. Forgiving and moving on, like I meant it.
I underestimated how difficult it would be.
Now I have three kids who are 6, 4.5 and 2.5. They seem to be passing the toddler stage and I feel like I'm edging into this new territory of parenting struggles. We are shifting from sleeplessness and physical demands to more emotional coaching, or as I have come to term it 'being an underpaid bouncer at the lamest nightclub in town'.
Now I find the struggle begins the moment I have to step in with my kids over how they are misbehaving. Sometimes it is first thing in the morning, sometimes it is a few hours. But there is a point in the day when I become a tense parent. My struggle is deciding to and knowing how to move past this initial tension rather than live the rest of the day with it building up.
Have you ever had a day like this? When you feel tense all day long, and you don't seem to be making headway with your parenting, and watching SING makes you cry, and your husband comes home and you ditch your dinner to run out to the store for eggs. and you just wish you could relish in motherhood but it isn't happening today? What do you do with that kind of day?
For me, it is so hard to keep pulling my kid into my arms and telling them their words and actions are hurting me but I will always love them, no matter how hard it is. It is hard to bring some fun into the day when my fun reserves are tapped and I don't want to give them grace. I don't want to 'make any more memories' or special moments for anyone but me and my bathtub and a glass of wine.
It is hard to have dance parties with the kids who were maybe on the back burner all day because one needed more attention. It is hard to be still with my husband at the end of the night and be a good friend to him when I feel like being a martyr. It is hard to stay in it, rather that find distractions from it. It is hard to hunt down the perfect moments in this simmering mess. It is hard to take the desires to push it all away and the obligation to pull it in nearer and reverse the currents of these.
Because here is what I'm striving to work towards: to have the desire to pull it all in and the obligation to push it all away.
I feel like I need to really pay attention to where I push away and where I pull in. I need to pay attention to what is pushing me and pulling me. The push and the pull is the hard heart work and the hard work of motherhood. It is here where the edges and the juts of our hearts are tugged and shoved and reshaped into a mother's heart.
I thought I had a mother's heart the day I decided we should try and get pregnant. I am realizing that a mother's heart is shaped by being in motherhood. Our hearts get a little bit beat up in the pushing and the pulling. Motherhood is messy. Motherhood hurts.
Loving motherhood is not the same as being good at motherhood. And neither of those make you a good mother. Being a good mother is showing up and trying, and trying again. Being a good mom is being aware of what to push away and what to pull closer and trying to find out what that looks like for you.
I wake up every morning and pray for patience. I pray for the ability to keep moving forward with contentment, instead of being stuck mourning in my current emotions. I keep trying and failing and trying. Motherhood is hard, motherhood hurts. Sometimes I question everything about it.
We can say this.
We can share this truth.
We don't have to pretend that motherhood makes us blissfully satisfied and we don't have to pretend that motherhood is a drudgery we need to drink our way through. We can say it is in the middle - it is magic and pain, it is hard and joyous, it makes us push and pull harder than before. It is breaking us down and, if we let it, rebuilding us in a new way.
Shawna is the writer of Simple on Purpose, where she shares how decluttering her house has kinda set off this whole simple life and purposeful living thing that has turned out to be pretty life-changing - even if you are the type of person who is obsessed with brunch foods and would rather Netflix that go for a run. Subscribe to Simple Saturdays for a bi-weekly email of tips, insights, encouragement and pop culture memes on all things Simple in Purpose.
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