I thought that being a mother would be easier than it is.
After all I:
had been a teacher with a class of 36 children at one time.
had taught at a couple of the best prep schools in England.
had always kept the imagination of my childhood as part of who I was.
still knew how to play.
had read countless parenting books that gave week by week updates of growth and development milestones.
had thoughtfully equipped the nursery with the non-toxic eco tools of parenthood.
had theories of learning.
had a hugely supportive husband.
was a patient person.
knew all about the perils of ‘screen-time’.
had a plan to make organic babyhood and put it in little pots.
had a dog and had learnt from looking after him – our first!
had learned to stray from ideals of perfect ‘offspring’ when my little flat coated retriever decided firmly that he was going to do the obedience classes we went to in his own way (which didn’t always involve following instructions). I still remember the perfect golden retriever, much younger than our dog, who was able to follow every command to the letter. My dog? Well, he has a lot of personality.
Mothering is a full on experience.
I discovered this soon after the birth with the trip back to hospital for her jaundice and then subsequent trips for suspected meningitis and then two ambulance trips with febrile convulsions. These are the headline dramas of motherhood.
But the challenge of motherhood is not just in the headline episodes. It’s in the little moments of choice when you realise that how you act with your child has the chance of becoming part of who they are.
It’s the time of them:
not wanting to go to bed.
having a high temperature.
learning social skills, day by day.
being tired and unsettled.
At the moment I’m reading ‘No-Drama Discipline’ by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. It’s a great read and underlines my learning from Carrie Contey’s Evolve programme on conscious parenting that I took part in for three years.
It’s hugely helpful to put your child’s developmental needs into the context of their developing brain and to have ways of disciplining that ultimately create connection, rather than division.
Just as we are imperfect as parents our children are imperfect and that imperfection is what makes us human. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do all we can to nurture kind and thoughtful members of our society. It doesn’t mean giving up on unruly behaviour. It requires of us that we aim to parent with grace and understanding, even when that’s hard.
How do we do that?
For me it’s about remembering what is important to me in the long-term – a strong, loving and respectful relationship. It’s about realising that my daughter is her own person, with a different personality to me and relating to her as an individual spirit. It’s about educating myself about child development and positive behaviour management and continuing to do so, as I have since she was a baby.
It’s about looking after myself well enough that I have the energy and positivity to deal with all the challenges motherhood brings. It’s about doing this even when that runs counter to the idea that if you work harder and run yourself into the ground more and more, that you will achieve more.
Dr Shefali Tsabary in ‘The Conscious Parent’ talks of the challenges of our children being part of our own learning as parents, that they will help bring up the old issues that we have not fully dealt with ourselves. Part of this for me is learning that I cannot be a perfect mother, no matter how hard I try. I can only be the very best mother that I can be for the child that I have. In the same way I do not expect myself to be perfect, I can’t expect others to constantly meet my expectations and I need to learn and grow from that just as my child learns and grows.
If you’d like help along your imperfect perfect mothering journey by coaching with me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up a free 30 minute chat to check that we are a good fit for coaching.