During the summer and fall I took a Mama Renew course, or a discussion group you might call it, about adjusting to the role of being a mother, in a way. Specifically, this one was geared towards working mothers. We met every month and worked our way through The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal, one chapter a month. The chapters dealt with self-care, priorities, support networks, and understanding that sometimes good enough is just that. Discussions were always lively, sometimes tearful, sometimes intense in other ways. Each month gave me something new to think about, and not always what I expected!
At the end of the six month session, a contest was announced – not just for our group, but for all the similar groups I think. The wonderful women at Mama Renew wanted us to write about how the course had affected us; what had we taken home with us at the end of the session. The prize was the next six month course (or the first one for a friend).
If you’ve been reading here, you know already that I won!
And as promised, here is what I wrote:
It’s very easy to get caught up. There is the schedule – leave work in a rush to pick up my son from daycare, hurry home, get supper made and into both of us, bath, get him to bed, make lunch and write, and somehow go to sleep before waking up to start it all over again. Then there are the expectations of keeping a perfectly clean house, always having nutritious meals, keeping up with laundry and dishes, never losing my temper, and wondering when other mothers have the time to take their little ones to swim class, music class, gymnastics and art. It’s so easy to start comparing my mothering to what I see in others and what I expect of myself, and forget that I don’t see every moment of the other families lives, I don’t know what they’re missing that I’m doing, and maybe my own expectations are way out of whack. It’s easy as well to allow memories of having self confidence, friends everywhere, time, and a life of my own to slip into the haze.
In the Mama Renew sessions I found that I had two major battles to wage: against my own perceptions of inadequacy, and against my own reluctance to allow myself to succeed. Both surprised me. Sure, there were other minor revelations – why don’t I have a parenting support network of a hundred people like I do in my work environment – but they were all fundamentally the same questions. Why do I expect more perfection out of myself than I do out of everyone else around me? Why am I reluctant to allow anyone to see that I may just be “good enough,” instead of perfect? And why do I keep shooting myself in the foot?
The basic answer is that my self confidence went out the window at some point in the past. I’m not even going to try to lay blame anywhere, there’s no point to that. This lack of confidence has been at the root of why I stayed in an unhappy and abusive relationship, perhaps why I stayed in a job that led nowhere for so long, why my Master’s took so long to finish, and why I allow myself to get twisted into knots so easily over my expectations for myself as a parent.
The chapters we read in the Mama Renew sessions slowly helped me to see this. No, I haven’t come out of them ‘cured’ entirely. Growth, re-learning thought patterns, takes longer than that. I’m learning to turn off the ‘should’ in my head. I’m learning, though it’s hard, to ask friends for help sometimes. I’m learning to shift the impossibly large tasks into more attainable goals, with small steps along the way that I can recognize as successes. I’m learning, slowly, to take time for myself. I’m learning that sometimes good enough is good enough.
I’m learning that when I can get all of that under control I have far more time, energy, and patience to play with my son, read him stories, and cuddle him until he falls asleep.