Motherhood; that crazy rip-roaring roller coaster of an experience. At once life-enhancing, overwhelming, magic, mayhem, all consuming and sometimes even- dare I say it – just a teensy bit boring. It seems to be an all or nothing experience- when your children are young all you long for is a bit of space, a moment to yourself, a trip to the loo without an entourage, but then when you finally get space, when they are all off at school or when they – god forbid- actually flee the nest, you have nothing but space, a home gone quiet, no one in it but your lovely little self and whatever animals you might have collected along the way. All or nothing. Days so busy that you feel your head might explode and others so repetitive that the routine feels like torture. There are all the good bits, of course there are the good bits- the nuzzle of a sleepy newborn, the knuckle-less fingers of a toddler, the wide eyes, the enchanting turns of phrase, the school plays with their sincere performances that make your eyes mist over and those sunny days when you are all together and the world and its cares seems to recede. There is no doubt that the good bits really are good. Someone said recently that far from making her insane, her son had given her her sanity back. And there is no doubt that having children reminds us about what is essential in life, what really matters. We also know in our heart of hearts that we need to make a good job of it. Science is now telling us we should, but long before the scientists started dissecting our hearts, we instinctively knew that good mothering was important, and that how we mother matters.
But being a good mother is no mean feat. Motherhood is hard, and sometimes very hard. It draws on our every resource- physical, emotional and intellectual. It requires endless energy, steadfast resilience, the organisational skills of an events organiser and the diplomacy of the UN- not to mention, and this is the big one, the patience of a saint. I defy anyone to tick all those boxes on a daily basis? Twelve years in and I haven’t yet. In fact, the list alone is insanity inducing. Enough to make me give up before I even start. Or not. Because there is a little niggly part of me that knows that being good at this whole mothering thing- as well as being good for my kids- actually makes me happy too. The days – and admittedly they are rare as hens teeth- when its all going well, when the mornings are strangely under control, when three pairs of shoes are where they should be, when the swimming bag isn’t in the boot from the week before, when the animals are fed and I have held my breath when the little one has thrown a tantrum, when I havent been distracted and we have done a bike ride rather than three hours of cbeebies and at supper everyone is still smiling, myself included, then those are the best of days. The kids get tucked up happy and then I tuck myself up- usually not long afterwards- happy too. ( In the same way that if I have shouted like a ninny, the house looks like a bomb has exploded, the fridge is empty and my husband has been reduced to an irritating list if things he hasn’t done, then I go to bed frazzled, sleep frazzled and wake up frazzled, and the whole sorry cycle starts again!)
So this is my quest for the next year. How do I do it? How do I be a good mother without going insane? How do I stay on top of things without losing myself in the pile? How do I stay patient at the end of the day when I am dog tired and no one is listening to me? How do I nurture everyone else without forgetting to nurture myself? How do I make sure that the good days dramatically outweigh the bad ones? And how do I make sure that I don’t wish away what I know I will look back on as some of the happiest years of my life?
All ideas and advice very welcome!