Thursday, 28 February 2019

7 years a mama

This month my eldest son turned 7, not only does it make 7 years since his own birth, but it also marks 7 years since I was born a mother.

People usually forget to consider the mother's birth-day when the children's birthdays pass but I think it's an important thing to honor, especially with the first born.

For me it is a significant moment every year as I reflect on how far I have come and who I am now as a person on this journey of motherhood and life.

Motherhood has changed me so much.  It has expanded my capacity to love far beyond anything I could ever have imagined pre-children. It has also stretched my capacity for patience and self-control and has taught me how to sacrifice myself for the sake of others.

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7 years ago I was the centre of my own world, my husband and I did as we pleased, answering to no one really.  We went on lovely relaxing holidays, we did nice things together like going on bike rides and strolling leisurely round National Trust houses and taking afternoon tea in quaint cafes. I went out with my friends and had a job where I was able to measure my success and know when I had done a good job. I had a clear separation between my work time and my own time.  I was a teacher, so the dependable school bell transported me through the day in chucks of time where I was either with children teaching or doing my own thing.  I arrived, the bell rang, the children came, it rang again and they left, I had a break, the bell range again, more children, then lunch, followed by more children and finally home time, which marked no more children till another day, and an evening where I could do my own thing (as an art teacher my marking was significantly quicker to complete than say that of an English teacher).  In my free time you'd find me working on my own art and craft projects, trying to sell through my Etsy shop, writing blog posts, doing craft fairs and entering exhibitions and competitions

Life was very predictable, I knew what to expect, what was expected of me and I knew where the rewards and treats would come in.

Very quickly after my first was born, life couldn't have been more different I went through a huge adjustment and learning curve.

The first challenge was the lack of the hourly bell.  As mad as it sounds, it threw me massively to be under the control of this tiny unpredictable human who had no time scale, deadlines or countdowns.  I longed for the predictability of the school routine, but shunned the child training guides that would have satisfied this craving, in preference of a child led approach.  This was the first step of self-sacrifice.  I was choosing what I felt was best for my child rather than what would have suited me more at the time.

Fast forward 7 years and two more children and I am in a place where my life is almost completely at the mercy of my children.  I choose activities I think they will like, my schedule revolves around them and their needs, naps, snacks, meal times, bath times, play dates, home ed groups.  Even weekends are dictated by the moods of the children and what they can or can't cope with on any given day. A trip to a playground or walk in a woods is a likely most weekend, like dogs my children need regular walks.  I have totally lost my life and given it to my children. Gone are the bike rides in favor of walks to the park, gone are the leisurely National Trust strolls, replaced by raucous romps round National Trust gardens and whistle stop tours of the house with regular cries of "don't touch that!" and "that chair's not for sitting!". Elegant afternoon teas are a thing of the past, in favor of picnics on blankets, with any restaurant experiences leaving us sweaty with the stress.

I realise I am not painting a very pretty picture of motherhood here and that it won't be like this forever, (I hope one day to eve be able to enjoy an afternoon tea with my sons!) it is hard work most of the time, and yet, I feel so much richer as a person for the experience.  I never knew how it could feel to have your heart leave your body and split into three new hearts.  My ability to experience compassion and empathy for them  is sometimes painful.  It's makes you wonder why we do it!
My ability to hold my patience is so much more than when I was a teacher, (which leads me to believe I would be a far better teacher because of this experience of motherhood.)  And my ability to sacrifice my own desires for my children sometimes astonishes me. I could not have imagined how I could have tolerated one, two, sometimes three extra bodies in my bed at night, hot and sweaty, wriggling and twitching, moaning and crying all night long, and yet I have learned to contort myself into the most unique positions in bed (sometimes even evacuating myself altogether) in order to accommodate them.  Who knew I could sacrifice my last piece of chocolate or cake for two big eyes so sweetly asking for a bite.  Or given up on nights out with the girls, restaurant meals with my husband, time to ourselves, in exchange for being there to breastfeed my babies and toddlers.  I really never knew I had it in me!

I have very little time for my own work or creativity now.  Evenings snatched here and there to write a journal article, the odd afternoon to plan a retreat or make a painting.  The great irony is that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood have awakened in me a vast and unquenchable desire to make, create and write and teach.  I have an abundance of creative ideas, but a painful austerity of time!  I think often on how I could have been so much more productive all those years ago had the ideas and motivation come to me then, when I had so much free time (though hilariously, at the time, felt I had hardly any!  Little did I know!). It's some sort of bitter twist of life that the creative urge and abundance of ideas has come so strong now when I have so little time to fulfil it.  I wonder why that is?  Will it stick around once the children get older and I have more free time again, or will it disappear along with the sweetness of toddler-hood and early childhood?

7 years a mother, wow!  I have come so far.  There are many more grey hairs now much more baggy skin, an aching tiredness like I could never have known, and a love so strong it sometimes brings me to my knees and forces tears from my eyes.

Someone once asked me if, knowing what I know now about motherhood if I would choose to do it all over again.  And I thought about this question.  Would I choose the pain and discomfort, the tiredness, the absolute invasion of privacy, the sacrificing of my body and time, the stress and the upset, the crazy-making noise and constant demands on me...

Yes I would!

I would choose it again, not just for the three amazing humans that I have helped to rise and who I get the privilege to know, but also because of the person that has birthed inside of me, the person who has grown and expanded.  I am part of a bigger thing now, it all starts to make sense, this life here on earth, my purpose has become much clearer.  I would never want to go back to that selfish, narrow minded person that I didn't even know I was before, I feel like an upgraded version of the person I was before, like I had a new update installed which is not a good way of describing this strange expanded knowing and understanding I feel now, but it is the best I can do (I really am very tired you know)

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So yes, in spite of how hard this gig is some days (most days) I would do it all again in the blink of an eye, without hesitation, for I would never have known the feeling of creativity that comes from creating life.  And although I won't get to see the results at the end of the year as I did in teaching, there will be no assessment sheet on how well I am doing as a mother, I really won't know for a good 10-15 years if I did ok at it or not, I know that perhaps the results are immaterial after all, because perhaps the results aren't the children at all, the results are me.  Did I learn from it?  Did I change and grow?  Did I become a better human because of it?  Yes, yes, YES!  I surely did, and will continue doing so and I look forward to seeing the human that I become in 10-15 years time as much as the humans that they become.  Because those 7 years ago when a boy was born, so was a mother, so I am only 7 years old after all.

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