If the relationship with our children is right, all else will follow!
A friend of mine recently made this comment when we were discussing discipline and raising children. Wow, how true. The more I thought about it, the more it challenged me.
I’m a stay at home mum, I basically spend 24-7 with my son, going to groups, playing with him, talking to him, raising him, but am I always connecting with him? Of course I must be, right? Well, I think it’s perfectly possible to spend all our time with someone, and still not connect with them.
I can honestly say the last fortnight has been the hardest we have had for a while! We have had not one, not two, not three but four trips to A&E and a sickness bug to top it all off!
Two weeks ago on a lovely sunday afternoon we took Jonas to a nearby park for some family fun time. Five minutes after arriving, he fell off a roundabout and it span round really quickly, hitting him on the forehead knocking him over. The bump on his head swelled almost instantly into a lump the size of a golf ball. We of course rushed to get some ice and then drove over to our local A&E, forty minutes away! Thank God that amazingly he was absolutely fine and didn’t even have a concussion!
Have you ever felt overwhelmed as a parent? I know I have! There have been many times that I have desperately needed a situation resolved, like the time when he was still waking five times a night at eight months. Or the times that until he was about five months he didn’t consistently sleep in the day. Or there’s been times I’ve felt overwhelmed by different advice on feeding techniques, or discipline. People offer advice but they don’t know our children like we do, they don’t know what is specifically the best thing for them. There have been times I have listened to advice and tried all the methods advised and yet still seen no change. I’ve needed an answer!
Have you ever noticed just how much our mindset affects things? If we wake up thinking this is going to be a hard day, often it is! If we think today will be great, often it will!
I particularly noticed this recently. I have an incredibly active little man. He loves loves loves to explore. He is a potterer. If we go to the park, he won’t want to play on the climbing frame or swings, he will want to go to the gate. He will open it and explore outside the park. If we go to a soft play, he will only play for so long but will then explore around the soft play. It seems to me that whatever physical boundaries there are, if he can find a way to get past them and explore what’s on the other side, he will. This is part of his character and I love it. But it does mean I have to be extra watchful, it does mean I spend a lot of time wandering behind him watching as he explores and it also means that if I go to the park with another friend, I get very limited time to stand and chat to them whilst their child plays, as Jonas will be off at a great speed. My mum and sister often comment on this as their experience of their own children as toddlers was very different. They will say how active Jonas is and how tiring it must be. When they say this I find myself feeling like it is actually quite hard work! Suddenly finding myself feeling tired! But then if I chat to other friends who have toddlers that are active on the same scale, we laugh about it and share similar stories, I find myself feeling like this is hard work but normal, it is tiring but fun! I find that my mindset really affects a lot!
A very wise mother of three once said “we are not going to have the terrible two’s in our house!” We had just been discussing how there can be a lot of negativity around parents. Many parents seem to want to warn you of the hardships to come. It’s almost as if when people have had a hard experience in a certain area of parenting, they like to tell you that you will have the same.
There’s a lot of negative warnings that if we are not careful we can almost come to accept without giving it a second thought! One of these is the so called “terrible two’s”. Now this wise lady, whom is someone I have a lot of respect for, refused to have these in her house. She refused to look at the challenges of toddlers through a negative light. Now I understand the sentiment behind this “terrible two’s” statement. I appreciate there are certain things that toddlers do around the age of two which can be particularly challenging, and perhaps this is the first age where we really start to see our children willingly testing us. But the point is this, I think when we start to agree with negative statements like this we can almost find ourselves in the position of finding things hard before we even start!
I am and have always been an active person. I love doing things, going out and especially love seeing people. For me a big culture shock that I wasn’t expecting was when Jonas was three weeks old and Alan went back to work after paternity leave. I had previously been in an extremely busy job whereby I was doing things all day long and had a structured routine. I suddenly found myself alone at home with no one to talk to and no routine whatsoever. I loved being a mum but I wanted structure; I needed friends going through the same stage of life to share things with and I needed to know I had something to do each day rather than just be at home alone.
It struck me recently just how many mums feel guilty. They have said or done something that is less than perfect and end up feeling bad. This is so sad, when being a mummy and raising young children is such a special time in our lives, we don’t want to end up carrying a constant burden of guilt. I know from my own experience this is easy to do. Why? Because when we love our children more than anything, we want the absolute best for them. We never want to show them a less than perfect love, and we want every single word, action and experience we give them to show how much we love them. Although this is a good thing, a big learning curve for me when I became a mum was realising I will never be a perfect mum or get everything right. As much as I may strive for this I will never achieve it, because I’m not perfect. Being a mum is my absolute priority but I have discovered that if I strive for perfection, I am setting myself up for failure. So now I try my best, but I accept that if I look back at the end of a day and think I could have done something a bit better, I need to let it go and just ask God for grace and wisdom to do it better tomorrow.
I’ve often heard mums talk about feeling a lack of purpose. I think nowadays there’s such focus on career and the status that comes from this, that it can be a hard adjustment going from employment to raising a child. I gave up work when I had Jonas. I remember a conversation I had shortly afterwards with a mum I met in the park who had recently returned to work. When I told her I was a stay at home mum she asked how I coped, making me feel like I was doing something wrong, like it was crazy that I would even consider leaving my career, like the mundane tasks of being a mummy were so dull, how could I possibly not return to work.
Being a mummy, no one regularly tells you you’re doing a great job, we don’t have end of year reviews stating our performance, we don’t have pay rises, or any pay, to boost our confidence, so how do we stay motivated and passionate about our role? How do we feel encouraged when we’ve had a tough day?
I decided to call my blog ‘Making Space’. Why, because in my opinion since becoming a mummy I find every day’s challenge is about making space! Making space to do all those necessary baby chores: washing bottles, changing nappies, making meals, feeding meals, cleaning copious amounts of food thrown on the floor after said meals, all those things that have to happen each day. Then there’s making space for the household essentials, clearing up after breakfast, lunch, dinner, washing, hanging washing, putting away the washing, cleaning… you all know the ones! Then there’s making space for the essentials with my boy: playtime, cuddle time, story time, time to teach him, sing to him, take him out. Time to be loud, to be quiet, to laugh, time to have fun, time to discipline. Before you even realise it the day can be full of things, and you haven’t even had time for you. Now some mums may say “what’s that?” but in my opinion this is essential. I spend my day giving my all to my son, rushing around to try and squeeze in all those necessary things, none of which can budge, and I need time out too.