Becoming a mother is one of the most challenging, rewarding, and sometimes terrifying experiences you’ll ever have. When your baby enters your life, your world expands and shrinks at the same time. Bringing home a new child, adopted or biological, is all-consuming which makes it difficult to take time for others, especially yourself.
Before I became a mother, I had a list of expectations that I assumed I would easily achieve. I wanted to breastfeed for a full year, cloth diaper my baby for the environment, and make my own nutritious baby food. I learned quickly that expectations and reality are very different, and it would be impossible to do everything, even if I wanted to.
Motherhood isn’t about perfection or meeting specific expectations, it’s about creating a family and nurturing your child.
I didn’t meet my own personal expectations after having my first child but I did not fail my daughter. All she ever really needed was her mother a mother who loved, nurtured, and cared for her. Today my children are a bit older and more independent, but they still require my constant care and attention. The requirements for caring for my kids may have changed over the years, but my devotion to them has, and will always remain the same.
Whether you’re a new mom, a mom to a toddler, or school-aged child, you’re probably familiar with the pressure to balance everything. Struggling to balance it all, on little sleep, with changing hormones, and unpredictable kids is a recipe for disaster. The dishes might go undone, laundry may be piled high, and the kids in desperate need of a bath, but none of these unfinished tasks signal a failure. Not being able to do everything is a part of adjusting to motherhood, and the adjustment continues, even as our kids get older.
As a mom with school-aged kids, I thought I would have all the time in the world. I assumed I would be able to exercise daily, excel in my career, and get on top of our household chores. Instead, I’m often missing work because of sick kids, forgetting to exercise because I’m busy rushing to appointments, and running out of clean laundry because I’ve forgotten to switch the load, again. I often feel like I’m failing at motherhood, but then I remember that motherhood isn’t defined by tasks completed.
Once I stopped focusing on my to-do list and focused on time spent with my kids, I actually found that I enjoyed motherhood more. It became less of a rat race, and more of a snail pace and I enjoy the pleasure of those calm moments with my kids. It’s still a challenge, remembering to slow down, and none of us will ever get it perfect. But it’s in those sweet moments, when we wrap our kids in a soft towel after a bath or snuggle up reading a book, that the true joy of motherhood is evident.
Stopping to enjoy and delight in every single moment of motherhood is impossible, and it’s an added and unnecessary pressure for moms. But making it a regular practice to slow down, release the expectations that are self-imposed, or societally-imposed, is a valuable practice to have. It’s in these moments of slowing down that we remember why we chose motherhood, or why motherhood chose us.
Most importantly, give yourself permission to focus on the one person who often comes last…YOU.
Brianna Bell is a mother of three and contributing editor to Contours Baby.