When I was a child, I think I kind of understood Mother's Day as a day to spoil your mum and give her a rest, characterised by home-made cards, daffodils, chocolates and breakfast in bed! I think that's probably still the case, except that the gifts and money spent seem to have got more extravagant, not that that's specific to Mother's Day! Now that I'm a Mum myself I've found that I feel quite differently about Mother's Day, and use it personally for a different kind of reflection and gratitude. Of course I still spend time being grateful for my Mum and the grandmothers who mothered, loved and cared for my parents, but nowadays Mother's Day is the day when I particularly enjoy reflecting on and appreciating all the amazing things that motherhood has done for me, and here are just a few of those...
I've been a Mummy for almost six years now, and those years have been the happiest, most difficult, joyous, exhausting, emotional and wonderful years of my life. Motherhood has been a roller coaster, and very often I find that the extreme highs and challenging lows can be separated by only a few minutes! Nothing could have prepared me for the joy and difficulties of motherhood or the learning it has brought me. Its an experience I'm grateful for every day, but particularly on Mother's Day.
I didn't ever expect to be a 'Stay-at-home' Mum, and when I became one it was a bit of a shock. It felt as though many of the things that had made me feel like a competent, capable, successful person were now gone and I wondered whether now that I wasn't useful in an economic sense, if I was actually useful at all. Giving up work was a difficult decision and one that I felt forced into if I'm honest as a result of having twins. I had worked in a job that I really loved and there were times when I felt frustrated and resentful, but giving up employment has been more liberating than I could ever have imagined. Its ironic really that in giving up my economic independence I feel more 'free' but that's what has happened, and today I feel extremely grateful that motherhood (and Oliver's decent enough salary) has given me the chance to be at home.
Motherhood in the baby years took me into the private realm of the home where there was nobody to congratulate me on my triumphs and successes, not that I could define what 'triumph' or 'success' were anymore anyway! At school, University and work these things had been pretty clear and I could use 'success' to feel good about myself, but at home I found a deeper sense of purpose and worth that wasn't attached to what I was 'doing' in any given moment. It was an incredible experience to have everything that I had used to feel good about myself (career, money, independence, success) stripped away, and find that I felt worthwhile in a way that no 'thing' could take away. It isn't that I felt motherhood replaced these things and became my thing to feel good about - although motherhood does make me feel good - motherhood was simply the catalyst for appreciating myself in a different way. Neither do I live in a permanent state of feeling fabulous about myself, far from it! But I feel better about myself than I ever have before.
I remember clearly walking Joseph around the park when he was a baby and seeing him completely absorbed by something above him. I followed his gaze, and saw that he was watching sunlight sparkling through the leaves in the trees and getting very excited about it in the way that babies do! I recall another moment when he was a bit older and was picking up a ribbon and repeatedly watching it dance as he dropped it to the floor. On both occasions it felt like time stopped, and I too became completely absorbed in that moment with him. From spending time with Joseph and later Callum and Charlie, it became clear that this was their everyday way of being. Whether they were experiencing joy, upset or hunger, they were absorbed by that moment, and they wanted me in that moment with them. Anyone who has tried to get a small child back to a car while they are watching or bird or any other similar scenario will have experienced this! Taking the boys' lead and living more in the moment while finding beauty in everyday situations, has made me deeply happy. Never before becoming a Mummy did I stand beside building sites watching bulldozers and diggers, wondering at how powerful and majestic they are, but I've done that often with my boys and it was time well spent!
I'm learning different things from each boy all the time. From Callum, who is an extrovert like his daddy, I'm learning to understand Oliver better, and particularly how a person can be loud and high energy, and yet deeply sensitive at the same time.
From Charlie I'm learning to accept and enjoy my own introversion. He is a person who is very happy with his own company and really happy to assert when he doesn't wish to be around other people, while loving deeply and developing extremely important connections with people he cares about. He selects those he is happy to spend time with carefully, and I admire his ability to be so clear about his wishes. I aspire to be more like that myself!
Joseph and I share numerous similarities, and I see in him many of the characteristics I struggle to accept in myself. In loving an accepting these characteristics in him with ease, I'm slowly learning to love and accept them in myself.
I've learned how good it is to say sorry when I mess up, how wonderful forgiveness feels and how freely it can be given. I've learned that every day is an endless number of opportunities to be better. As motherhood evolves for me I'm constantly unearthing hurt bits of a little me that I didn't know existed, and allowing those hurts to be healed. I'm grateful to live in a part of the world where all of my parenting problems are first world ones, where I can enjoy my children and focus on providing a happy childhood and engaging life of learning, rather than praying for survival. Motherhood is hard, hard work, but I'm not engaged in a daily battle to keep my children alive, safe and healthy, so when Callum takes his trousers off and runs around home-ed group while Charlie pulls all the books off of a book shelf, its inconvenient and irritating but on the scale of problems that some mothers encounter, its no problem at all. I'm not as grateful as I should be for this, but on Mother's Day I make an extra effort.
I could write forever about all the things I've learned and the ways in which life has improved since becoming a mum, not that I believe for a minute that being a mum is the only way to learn or experience these things, that's just the way they have come to me. Perhaps if I hadn't become a mum I'd have learned them in different ways, or life may have taken me on an entirely different learning curve.
When the boys said "Happy Mother's Day" and "Thank You for being my Mummy" to me this morning it was really lovely, and I enjoyed my breakfast and gifts. Inside though, I was saying a huge thank you for the amazing gift of motherhood with all its highs and lows, and for all the opportunities to learn that have come with it. I genuinely feel that I get way more back from motherhood than I could ever put in, and I have these three grubby, gorgeous boys to thank for that!
Photos from Mother's Day 2014, at home and at our beach hut.