I have been considering a lot lately what it has been like, being a mother when life feels overwhelming. In the Bochocki family we have had a lot of change lately, the least being a new puppy and the most being promotions and adjustments in our working lives. It tends to mean that we are constantly running around and just getting by, before promptly passing out on the sofa at 9pm (if we are lucky to be home!)
When I wasn't working and had all day to spend with Judah, life was still stressful but it different ways. I would worry about how to fill the day, if the house was clean enough, if I had 'done' enough in the day to justify staying home at all. I have so much respect for mothers who stay home as I know it can be incredibly mentally challenging. I wouldn't swap witnessing my little boy's growth and development in those early days for anything, but just as we began to settle into a comfortable routine a voice called me in a different direction and I found myself compromising passion with parenthood.
I have always prided myself on gentleness. From helping to raise my stepchildren, I was keenly aware of the demands of parenting on my self-control. To be able to prioritise somebody else's wellbeing while suppressing emotions of boredom or even anger, speaking in a calm tone when some part of me was stomping her feet and folding her arms in protest. If I did make a misstep and speak in anger or poor judgement, although the relief to those feelings was immediate it was then replaced by a bigger feeling of guilt and self-loathing.
Choosing gentleness reaps gentleness. The more we choose to speak kindly and wisely, we implement these patterns in our daily lives and generally become happier ourselves. I believed so fervently in this and in Judah's infancy I put my heart and soul into attending his every need and responding sensitively and intuitively. I found myself enjoying motherhood, and more importantly, enjoying life far more than I did pre-children. I truly believe this attitude towards child-rearing nourished my life as a whole.
Being gentle with a toddler is hard. When they are babies and their only need is you, you can justify meeting every need because babies do not know how to wait. With a loud, argumentative toddler who could hit you in the face or kiss you on alternate days, a toddler who is also stressed because life is changing and Mama is not always there like she always was. When your own emotional fuel tank is running on empty and you haven't slept so well. A raised voice to your little one because you haven't offloaded on anybody in a long time and he knows what he is doing---
Just because a child's language amazes you more day by day doesn't make him any less of a baby. He sleeps restlessly because of this development and wakes you up and the one reprieve from the daytime stress should be the night. We can't go on like this. I am supposed to be the adult and this is the tiny baby who I birthed and who suckles at the breast and looks to me with those wide eyes but now he can say "gorgeous mummy" and gives kisses in the morning.
When I feel anger, I...
Get down to his level.
Explain his emotions and explain mine.
Give a hug if he wants one.
Smell his head - the pheromone hit that still works
Provide a distraction or fun alternative we can do together
Gentleness begets gentleness. The days when I feel shouty are the days where I haven't attended to my own needs at all. My greatest reprieve is my family - on those rare moments I can visit my grandmother or mother and they will make me a cup of tea and a bite to eat and entertain the little one and I don't have to be or do anything. Just rest and recharge. It is hard to juggle all these different aspects of life and some days I don't for the life of me know how I am going to keep going. But I know as well that years from now the house will be quiet, no children or puppies to disturb my work, and I will long for the days of mud on the floor and spillages at the table. When I see my son become a father and see the effects our hard work had on him, I know it will all have been worth it.