A week (or two?) ago Mine to Command wrote a post called "10 Ways I'm Rocking Motherhood." She challenged anyone reading to post their own ten. I was intrigued, partly because 10 seems like a lot, and I thought I would have to get creative. It took me several days to write this post, partly because it is a bit of a challenge and partly due to time constraints. But here goes!
I will pass on the challenge by inviting any other parents reading to write about 10 ways you are rocking motherhood. If you don't have children, 10 ways you are rocking at life, or work, or relationships, or.....whatever.
1. My daughter thinks everything I do is AWESOME. (And everything her father does too.)
I know this phase won't last forever, but for the moment, it is quite flattering. AJ imitates our daily activities and expressions. Cleaning the house is much more entertaining because she is so excited to do chores: she wiped down every surface in the living room the other day while I was vacuuming. She role plays going shopping and taking care of her kitties and babies. She thinks the silly songs and games I make up in the moment are the best thing ever. I made shadows on the wall once with my feet and called them "fishes", and she wants to "see the fishes" every night. She thinks I can make a shadow puppet for literally anything. When she was a bit younger I made her giggle hysterically just by opening and closing my eyes. Clearly, I'm fantastic.
2. I am surviving "death by a thousand details"
I do not brag about how busy I am because frankly I avoid being busy as much as possible. I like to have time to think, read, write, and spin my observations and experiences into meaning and myth. There are actually very few things that are important enough to me that I'd willingly give up my down time. But, inevitably, I do get busy. Life is about details these days, whether it's work or family life. There are dozens of tiny tasks required just to survive each day, hell, just to start each day. They must be done in a certain order at a certain time by certain people, who are, obviously, people and not always up to the task. So there are times when I don't love the daily grind. On the other hand, I am managing, even if not always gracefully. I practice mindfulness. If I'm rushing out the door, feeling nauseous because that is how my body tells me I'm stressed, but the birds are singing beautifully, I stop and comment on it. (Usually I talk to AJ, whether she's there or not.) I talk about the sunset as I rush through the grocery store parking lot. I thank the drivers who let me into traffic after work. I praise the radio DJs for playing a song I like. I'm not perfect at this but these moments are part of what make up my day, and they matter.
3. Lots of time with grandparents
My dad only had one year with AJ, but I am grateful that he saw a lot of her in that time and was an important part of her life (she recognizes him in photos now, although I do not know if she will have any long term memories). We continue to do a lot of things with AJ's living grandparents. She sees my mom at least 3 times a week, sometimes more. She sees my FIL and his wife at least every two weeks, sometimes every week. My MIL lives on the other end of the continent, unfortunately, but we do the best we can, talking on FaceTime every week, for example. We are also planning to vacation together in the summer. It helps that I won the social/genetic/whatever lottery with my parents and in-laws. They are lovely people to experience life with.
4. I'm calm. And I'm enjoying life.
I've been a fairly anxious person all my life. I've learned to cope with it: I recognized quite young that unless I wanted to live a very limited existence, I would have to spend a lot of time outside my comfort zone. So I've gotten used to that. Nevertheless, I spent a good many years with a generalized fear that I wasn't good enough, was perpetually about to fail, owed everyone a pound of flesh, etc. Pregnancy was one of my most difficult experiences in that respect. Because I got pregnant against the odds, I assumed that every possible bad outcome was also likely to happen to me, even if it was statistically unlikely. However, through some kind of grace, and likely because I am surrounded by supportive people, I have not brought this anxiety into parenthood. Sure, I worry about things and I have painful lurid fantasies of disaster at times. But I don't worry perpetually if I'm being a good or a perfect mother. I trust my instincts and observations. If I make a mistake, I note it and do things differently the next time without a lot of guilt. I'm living a miracle, truthfully.
5. I'm a working parent and I'm doing a decent job in all my of roles.
Last year was a challenging year. I can admit that in hindsight, now that things are calmer. I went back to work as the mom of a (barely) toddler. I started a new job. My dad became very ill and died, and my mom became a widow. It was my tenth year teaching, but with all the role changes, I felt more like a beginning teacher than a veteran. Sure, I had experience and skills, but it was surprisingly difficult both to remember and apply my knowledge and to learn my new job. I felt like I had to adapt to a mild disability. This year I feel like I have regained most of my ability to to observe, learn, adapt, relate and innovate. I come up with ideas and I get excited by them. I follow through. There are challenges, but I'm doing less swimming just to stay afloat. It helps that AJ appears to be enjoying her childcare centre and thriving there. In a way, I think my independence allows me to better appreciate her growing independence.
6. Mostly I'm kind and supportive to my husband, and he thinks I'm funny.
Mr. Turtle is also negotiating multiple responsibilities and roles. More than me, actually. He works, and is a part time student, and of course a dad too. It's a lot. He has gotten much more skilled at managing his time and life over the past four years. I don't always like that his attention is so divided but I'm also happy to see him pursuing his goals and doing a fantastic job. We still have a lot to talk about (not only AJ) and we make each other laugh. There are things we sometimes neglect (like chores) but not each other. I like to think we are a good example for AJ.
7. We spend a lot of time having fun.
We have pretty simple family amusements: playing at home, spending time with family or sometimes friends, going to the playground, bikeriding, swimming, going to the zoo. But when we have time away from basic survival requirements, we spend a lot of it having fun. I also do fun things for myself: reading (though less than usual; I'm re-defining my priorities and interests in books), a weekly stepdance class, occasional blogging. When Mr. Turtle is finished his degree (soon!) we should have more time and energy to come up with family activities. I can't eliminate uncertainty or trouble from my life or anyone else's. But it's entirely possible to make fun a priority, and it's good for all of us.
8. We limit screen time.
The online world is important to our family. Hello, this blog! Also Mr. Turtle's online courses. And I use social media, maybe more than I should, to learn about what people are thinking and get a sense of the zeitgeist in the world. Lately I'm thinking that perhaps my attention has become too scattered: I would be better off deciding on an area about which I would like to learn more and seriously applying myself, rather than browsing through whatever media happens to be shared around my circles. There are things I personally could do better, but so far AJ at least is thriving without devices. She is intrigued by them, make no mistake. About the only thing we have let her watch so far are cartoon nursery rhymes on our phones. And we have to be Really Clear that there's a limit on it: one song or two, and then No Crying! otherwise she fusses when we say it's time to put the phone away. But it's a good reminder of how addictive screens can be and that we need limits. AJ has not watched a TV show or a movie in entirety. We have an iPad but only use it to talk to Grandma and sometimes to look up recipes when we are cooking. I would like AJ to get a sense of herself as storyteller/creator before introducing her to TV shows or movies. (I didn't have a TV till I was 11.) I love to watch her involved in imaginary play and see no need to interfere with what she is doing naturally.
9. Mr. Turtle and I are a team.
Since we've become parents, I have more and more appreciated the team aspect of our relationship. The only parenting task that I did and Mr. Turtle never did was breastfeeding. Well, that and fixing AJ's hair. He is baffled by her hair. But that is funny precisely because there is no other parenting task Mr. Turtle does not do. We have a routine where we share jobs: Mr. Turtle does baths, I do bedtime. One of us might play with AJ while the other does a chore. I do laundry; Mr. Turtle shovels snow and cuts grass (depending on the season). I vacuum; he cleans the bathroom. We are about even when it comes to shopping and cooking. But we can each take over and/or help the other out when needed. Who does what evolves over time, but the main point is we share and it makes daily life much more enjoyable.
10. My daily routines, my thoughts, my times of work and rest and my transitory moments, are full of love and grace.
There is no way to control everything in our lives or every outcome, but when the big and small tasks and sacrifices are done with love, it feels like our home is a safe and beautiful place. And this sense of love and security is the one thing I most want to pass on to AJ, because it is about the only thing that a person can keep with them at all times and that is very difficult (I hope impossible) to take away. My parents gave me my sense of inner worth and safety and I know from experience how precious a gift this is.