The Ups and Downs of Motherhood
The early days, early years, of motherhood are a roller coaster. Anyone will tell you that. Many reasons are given, such as:
It is because…..
..learning to care for a little person is a steep learning curve;
the needs of babies and children are frequent and relentless;
your hormones keep changing;
you are always multitasking;
you are not mindful enough;
there are so many life changes you have to make;
you are an irrational female……
And so on. I bet you can add a few to the list.
One which may not have occurred to you is that, as Michael Neill puts it, ‘we live in the feeling of our thinking‘.
You know as well as I do, that mothers do A LOT of thinking:
Are the kids/ Is the kid warm enough? Well fed enough? Clean enough? Happy enough? Stimulated enough? Do they know they are loved? Will they grow up secure? Supported? Will they find a place to shine? Will they get into university? Will they be able to afford university? Are they stretched enough? Are they too stretched?
Those dishes/ clothes/ faces need washing. What was that finger painting activity on Pinterest? You know, I really can’t face getting the paints out. There’ll be such a huge clean up. I could use a shower. What IS that on the floor?
Does the baby need a nap, a change, a feed, someone to talk to, a cuddle? We haven’t been for a walk today. Should I be doing tummy time. If I do, he’ll just cry. Will I let her self settle? She is sleepy, but awake. Oh she’ll cry I know she will. I’m so tired. It is ok to breastfeed them to sleep, isn’t it? They’ll not be feeding when they are twelve. Will they? WILL THEY?
I would love some time to myself to breathe/ sleep/ wash/ sort out my work stuff/ just not be a mum for a moment/ to get my head together/ to read that book.
I haven’t talked to my other half about anything but nappies and bedtime routines for the last two days/ weeks/ years. We should be making time for each other. How though? How?
If I the house isn’t clean, the children are unhappy, my partner is absent in person or mind, I don’t get at least 5 hours of sleep/ get out of the house/ get home early from work/ get the laundry on today/ cook a nutritious meal to be enjoyed by all, then I WILL NOT BE OK.
If I am not OK, then we are all doomed! Doomed!
Am I ringing any bells?
You know what I am going to say though, right.
You WILL BE OK. You are most certainly not doomed.
Knowing Which Way Is Up
I know not every mother has the same kind of thinking, and I would hate to appear that I am stereotyping or judging. Mothers who think like this sometimes, think in other ways at other times. I know that motherhood is not always this way.
I just notice a trend in blogs, TV shows, movies, conversations, that a lot of mothers experience this kind of noisy thinking at one time or another. I know I have.
It is this sort of chatter that creates the downward spirals of the roller-coaster.
I would hazard a guess that underneath all that thinking, something that anchors mothers is the deep love they have for their child or children, and the deep sense of connection they have with them.
I would also suggest that there is a deep sense of contentment and wellbeing that beats at the heart of every mother. Within every person, in fact. Sometimes we can see that, feel that, and other times we can’t. It is always under there somewhere though, no matter how lost the person may appear.
The contentment, the connection, and the love may all be obscured from time to time. Like when you have been holding a crying baby for a length of time, and you are exhausted, it can be easy to feel that everything is drowned out by that sound, and the need to be anywhere but here, just for a minute.
The connection is still there, and so is the love. The only thing that has changed is that your thinking is covering it up for a minute, maybe for longer. It might feel like a very long time indeed.
I promise you, it is all still there.
That is the upward climb of the roller-coaster. The one that the ride begins with, and the one that the cars always return to, no matter how many twists, turns, and corkscrews they experience on the way.
You may not be able to put it into words, but you know the feeling of being at the top of the climb. Your world looks beautiful, simple. You have a sense of clarity, of rightness.
It might happen while you are lying there, settling your little one to sleep. You might feel it when you are washing dishes. You could be at the park, the supermarket, in the bath. You could be at work or at home or at the beach. You might be with your baby, your partner, your friends, your relatives. You might be alone.
You know when you are at the top of that emotional roller-coaster. You know when you are at the bottom.
The top and bottom of the roller-coaster can happen anywhere, with anyone, in any circumstances. That is because it is not about the outside world. It is about your internal world.
Life in The Feeling of Your Thinking
We experience everything via our thinking about it. That is why you can experience holding a crying infant as ‘no big deal’ one day, and on another it can feel like something you just must get away from. That is why your toddler can offer the baby their unwanted baked beans, and one day it is endearing, while another it is annoying, or even scary.
The fact that the baby is distressed, or that your toddler might put something in their newborn sibling’s mouth is real, and there is a need for some sort of reaction. However, we experience these things from a place of secure or insecure thinking and as such, we react to them in different ways.
Sometimes, you can hold a crying baby and take time to calmly assess if they are uncomfortable, hungry, tired, freaked out, or whatever. You can accept the crying and offer the comfort of your arms, or another form of help, as it occurs. You can let your toddler know that it is dangerous to put things in a baby’s mouth. You can teach them to put those beans somewhere more useful, like the bin, or on their plate.
Other times, you can feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and at your wits end with your baby’s cries. You can feel a sense of urgency that something has to be done, but not know what to do. You can get frustrated, or upset, which the baby picks up on and becomes harder to calm. You can see your toddler offering baked bean shaped death to your youngest. You can react to the threat that the beans pose, and see your baby choking in your mind.
You do not get to choose which of the kind of thinking you get at a given moment. You cannot send back the image from your frazzled brain, and ask for a refund. Only puppies and rainbows, please. You can be sure, that when you are having easier thinking, you are having an easier time.
There Is Nothing You Have To Do
You can only ever do your best with the thinking you have in a given moment. Those thoughts look so very real, but they aren’t. It doesn’t matter if you are at the top or the bottom of the roller-coaster. Your thinking can turn on a sixpence, and with it the reality you are living in can change beyond recognition.
This is amazing, because you do not have to change yourself, your baby, your toddler, your circumstances, your life, to be OK.
You are OK. It might not feel like that. You might be having some noisy thinking, but it does not mean that you are an incapable mum.
The reason that motherhood is so often associated with the ‘roller-coaster effect’ is that bringing another person into the world, and caring for them is a profound, and blessed experience. It is also a demanding one, and there is a lot to think about, to adapt to. Everyone’s thinking has inclines and declines, but being in a place where there is a need for great mental and physical acuity, then the peaks and troughs can seem larger than life.
When you are experiencing noisy thinking, you will likely feel a sense of urgency to go out and change five things at once, and a confusion as to what and how this will work. You will see a lot of problems, and come up with complex solutions.
However, you will also find that if you attend to your basic personal needs for rest, comfort, sleep, and so on, wait around a bit, then often the problems will stop looking so much like problems. The solution will be unnecessary, because the problem dropped away, or it will be simple and obvious.
It might help to find a quiet place.
Really. When your thinking is easier, everything feels easier.
And you do not have to do anything.
And you are totally OK.
So, next time you have some noisy thinking, say ‘aha! I know what to do. Look after myself as best I can and wait.’
You will be amazed how different the roller-coaster feels when you know it is your thinking and not your life that is going up and down.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Does the truth of this speak to you?
I would love to hear from you xxx