A Spectrum of Mothering…

Through my journey of being a mama to my three beautiful little beings…there has been a significant aspect that has really stood out to me….both from the mind of a mama and the mind of a psychologist.

It has really led me to reflect many times over about how this impacts on me and my mothering belief’s, actions, choices, as well as the impact of these on the mental health and well being of myself and other mamas.

It has been something that I know has been present for me as I find my way through this mothering journey, as well as present for the mamas that I hold close and the mamas that have previously shared their journey with me.

I am calling this experience, this reflection, this barrier, this phenomena……The Spectrum of Mothering.

Spectrum…’a condition not limited to a specific set of values but can vary infinitely within a continuum’.

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What I am talking about is the variety of parenting choices we have on offer, the range of parenting approaches presented to us each and every day (some welcome and others not) and the pressure that is often linked to confining ourselves to one of these approaches and ways of mothering.

I am envisaging a football field of multiple boxes each decorated with ‘different’ approaches to mothering……each with a mama trying so vey hard to contort and squeeze herself into one…..all whilst well meaning on lookers chant from the side lines trying to persuade mamas to choose a particular box!!!!!!

Isn’t variety meant to be the spice of life???? Change is a good as a holiday???? Or some other well meaning metaphor…So why when it comes to parenting….does difference often result in either self judgment, insecurity or judgment by others??

Differences…does this imply good or bad?? Better or worse?? Right or wrong??

If we as a society and a community of mamas were to expect and accept a range of mothering and parenting approaches, ways of adjusting and coping….what would this mean for the expectations we hold for ourselves, and the wellbeing and mental health of mamas.

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What if we were to view differences exactly as they are, different but all in the spectrum of normal and how would this then effect our well being.

Never in any other area of my life, have I been faced with such difference in choice, and a sense of pressure to make the best choice possible. This pressure does not just stem from the societal view that there is right or wrong, but from an inner need and desire to provide the very best for my babies.

When I reflect back…. opinions about what choices we make as parents come as early as the positive mark on the pregnancy test!! With each choice often comes an opinion…often well meaning but an opinion non the less.

Find out the sex of baby or don’t find out the sex of baby?

Natural birth or assisted birth?

Pain relief or no pain relief during labour?

Breast feed or bottle feed?

Dummy or no dummy?

Self settle or assisted settle?

Back to work, not back to work?

Day care, no day care?

Just to name a few and the list goes on and on and on and on and on……….and on

What we know about mental health and well being of parents during pregnancy and beyond, is that the expectations we hold for ourselves have a significant impact on how we mentally and emotionally respond to the pressures of raising a tiny little being.

The messages we are given from the people close to us, the people far from us and societal messages sent through social media, magazines and more has a lot to answer for when it comes to the expectations we hold for ourselves and the parents around us.

These messages whether intentional or unintentional, obvious or subtle all play a part in whether the approach we take, and the choices we make are felt to be judged as right or wrong, better or worse, good or bad.

So I propose to all mothers…..what if instead we viewed these choices as what they are….different…but all in the range of normal. Not better than the other.

What if the first assumption we made, was that each mama was making the best decision that she could, with the resources she had, for her, her family and her baby.

What if we assumed that each mama made the choices she did based on the strengths that she had prior to becoming a mama, and that she is using all her might and power to transform these strengths into tools to assist her be the best mama she can be…….the organised mama who thrives on routines, the go with the flow mama who does exactly that goes with the flow. Different yes, but not better and not worse, all in the spectrum of normal.

Mama Being Frank……

 Would it result in mamas feeling more accepting of themselves and one another??

Would it result in a more village like approach to mothering, rather than the westernized individualized approach we regularly see??

Would it result in less ‘what if questions’ and ‘should’ statements??

Would it result in mamas feeling more able and willing to seek help??

Would it have a positive impact on well being and mental health of mamas??

 I propose yes….let us get rid of those boxes and embrace a spectrum of mothering. Accept and embrace difference and let us see where we then travel on this amazingly crazy journey of mamahood.

 

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By Rachel Bridge
Originally Published via Wonderful Mama in Inspiring Stories, Life, Wellbeing
on June 1st, 2016

 

 

 

Second Time Around…A Time of Many Firsts

 The familiarity of your homes hallways as you stumble to the bathroom half asleep in the dark to ready yourself for the day, the certainty of lefts and rights as you drive yourself to a known destination, the comfort in monotony of routine as you go about your work day, the confidence you feel as you step into your day, as you, the you before being a mum, the you before your world got turned upside down in the most splendidly frightening wondrous way.

 

When things are familiar, when things are practiced, when things are not new, not foreign, but repeated on a daily basis, hourly basis, minute by minute, 365 days of the year, the common conception is that they are shadowed with a sense of assurance, a sense of confidence, a sense of calm, a sense of ‘I’ve got this’!!!!!! Here goes the saying…..practice makes perfect, experience makes you wiser…..

 

Mama Being Frank…….Apparently this does not apply to mamahood!!!!!

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, being a Mama second time around, in lots of ways has layered me with a sense of calm and ease and as I did when becoming a Mama for the first time, I felt excitement, hope, anticipation, anxiety, uncertainty and an abundance of love for the arrival of our new baby girl ……but…….Mama Being Frank…….in many ways it has been a whole new experience, with many many new firsts, it has alleviated and amped up worries, built up and knocked down expectations, and challenged stretched and shaped my Mama Self in all new ways.

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One big bonus of being a Mama second time around is the big warm blanket of like minded mamas you seem to draw in and around you. When thinking about this, and how powerful this can be….I decided I really wanted to connect with, and share the voice of these mamas. I asked mamas of newborns and toddlers to share with me…..and with you…..because there is nothing more powerful than a collective view and nothing as normalising and reassuring as shared experience…

 

Three challenges of being a mama to two….different to being a mama to your first

Three Wonders of being a Mama to two….

Four ‘go to’ survival tools to manage the demands of mammering to two…

Three of the most significant differences….

 

Here is a snap shot of what we found…….

 

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The expectations you hold for yourself, that you are now an expert in the field of parenting, and because you have done it once, you will and should be all over it a second time can play havoc with your emotions and capacity to cope.

 

Babies have a funny way of being unpredictable and a wonderful way of being beautifully unique. One thing I have learnt is that no baby is the same, and therefore no approach to mammering can be the same. Once I let go and accepted that my bubs are oh so different….the relief and capacity to follow my instincts left me feeling much more content and at ease.

 

The expectation that you should be ‘all over it’ second time around, can also play havoc with a mamas capacity to seek help…and your support networks eagerness to offer help. Bringing baby number two in the world is the most justified and deserving reason to seek help, for you, for your partner for your toddler or child. Moving through the expectation of ‘doing it on your own’ is an empowering and important step in promoting your mental health and well being.

 

On the flip side, second time around can leave you with more realistic expectations about what parenting actually entails…you know all the finer print that the parenting manuals don’t exactly point out clearly…. The confidence you may have in following you mama instinct and reassurance that your baby will be ok whether they nap or don’t nap, make a big difference to angst of being a first time mama. It can also leave you with great knowledge about where to pull your supports from, and what areas of life mammering you need the support.

 

 

Hindsight can be a wonderful thing…it can teach you what works well for you and your family….but it can also be a mind field of emotional self torment. “If only I knew then what I know now” “If only I tried this back then” “getting out with one bub is a breeze in comparison to two, why didn’t I get out more” “And it can go on and on.

 

 

“Why didn’t sleep more”…..I don’t know abut you, but I was oh so terrible at doing this with my first bub, and looking back (yup daaangerous retrospect) I think to myself oh why didn’t I sleep more, because truth be told, there is very very very limited time to rest with a baby and toddler on board….. and if you happen to get your toddler and baby to sleep at the same time, then your too busy doing the happy mama dance to think about napping!!! But ensuring you know what your signs are is important….when its time to have a break…take it. When its time to seek help…seek it.

 

 

Balancing the needs of two babies/children/your own needs and your partners needs… becomes a whole new ball game (a fun one of course) when you welcome another little human into your world, its one that requires a whole new adjustment to family life.

 

Who would have thought that the dilemma between whether to dress your toddler to stop her from running around nudey rudey in the winter creating a game of catch me if you can, or whether to settle your bub who has reached the end of her tether and is now bordering on overtired……would be such an emotionally fuelled mental struggle. Truth be told, it is!! The guilt over your toddler potentially catching a cold, or feeling disappointed that mummy is not playing her game…over making your baby wait just a few more moments whilst you wrestle your toddler into her pyjamas…….is as real as real can be. And these moments come and go on a daily basis. Being ok with these struggles and learning how to accept and let them go (theme song from frozen plays here) is a powerful tool to practice.

 

And most importantly some tips from mamas who are mamamering two little humans…..

 

Reflect on what your expectations are about things like housework, lower them and lower them again.

Make a choice about what you are going to let go for the day….is it the washing, is it the emails, is it the groceries. Empower yourself by choosing to take these activities out of your day, relieving pressure, and avoiding ‘the guilt’ of not getting to it.

ASK FOR HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Get outside, breathe in the fresh air and soak in that sunshine.. it can turn around a bad day into a better one instantly.

Talk openly and honestly with your Mama Village

Try baby wearing your littlest buba…leaving your baby close and comforted and your hands free to engage with and play with your toddler

Rely on your partner for practical and emotional support….in times of struggle, struggle as a team not as opponents.

Relish in and prioritise what energises you….is it five minutes alone while you drink a hot cuppa, is it gathering your friends and having a good laugh….

Be prepared if it helps you feel more at ease…..a dinner time bath time bed time game plan has been a necessity in our house…….and be willing to let it go…if it doesn’t turn out how you planned….

Celebrate your ability to multi task like a pro!!!!

And most importantly…..Take time to notice the wondrous things about not having just one little love but being blessed with two…..seeing the love grow between your two babies…watching their friendship grow right from the start…..watching your toddler show their baby the love and nurturing you show them and reflecting on how the intense love you had for your first born baby has expanded, extended, grown and intensified to now hold two precious lives in your heart and hands.

A big thankyou to the mamas who took time out of their already busy days to reflect and share with me and us…readers of Wonderful Mama. Your reflections and suggestions Im sure will help many mamas and mamas of #2 to be.

 

Xx