This is a guest post from a dear friend Belinda. Belinda was my first “Surrey Hills” friend. We moved to Surrey Hills when my eldest son started grade one (5.5 years ago!). It was a huge change for me and I found trying to befriend new parents who had already known each other for a year a challenge. Belinda was someone whose company I enjoyed instantly and found that I could have stimulating conversations with. Not just about the usual school stuff, but politics, educational philosophies, feminism and stacks more. I also like that we may not always agree, but can still have a great chat about it. The chat is usually accompanied by a can of a particular diet cola product that we are both addicted to!
After 12 years at home with little ones I have just seen my youngest off to school. It is with mixed emotions that I face this point in my life – happiness that she is ready, anticipation of some new found freedom and (to be honest mostly) a sense of loss – a loss of company, a loss of noise (especially the laughter). But there is also the looming question …‘what do I do now?’
It has caused me to reflect on this ‘pre-school period’. I thought I might share some personal revelations of my mothering journey to date because I feel I have learnt so much. I hope you enjoy.
1. Children are teachers too.
As parents we teach our children so much BUT I am continually surprised by how much they teach me. Their sense of humour (they laugh so much more than adults), their wonderment (they see amazement in things we rush past) and their energy and enthusiasm each day! If I could bottle and sell it I would be a rich woman.
2. Respect is crucial.
On a number of levels – respecting myself, expecting respect from my children and having respect for them. I believe that it is at home kids learn how they can expect to be treated and how they should treat others. I also believe parenting needs to be given more respect in our society and it needs to start with the people doing it.
3. A Mum’s health and happiness is vital.
Putting everyone else first all the time is unfair and unnecessary (experience showed when I was unwell the household fell into a heap). Taking some time to make myself happy on a regular basis – whether it’s a coffee and chat with good friends or some de-stressing exercise it was always worth the effort.
Over the last 12 years I have listened to SO much advice. Everyone has strong opinions on how to raise children. I found it overwhelming for quite a while. Parenting is a constantly changing challenge and I am happy to listen, read and learn. But I found it was also important to filter advice. I (like all parents) know more than anyone else about my children.
5. The Grannies were right!
I vividly recall being stopped in the street by so many elderly women and being told how beautiful my baby was, how lucky I was and I should enjoy this time because it passes so quick. Unfortunately I also remember often wanting to hand them my baby and go home and sleep!! Confound their wisdom! They are right. It goes too quickly. I already look with a touch of envy at mums cuddling their babies. Don’t think I haven’t forgotten the days that are a nightmare but they are so outnumbered by the joy (how else can we explain having more than one child). And anyway supermarket shopping by yourself isn’t the dream I thought it would be.
6. Saying sorry.
I don’t pretend to my kids to be perfect (believe me they know I am not). But I am human, I make mistakes, I make parenting mistakes. I have lost my temper rather than calm down and speak rationally, but I apologise to my kids when I make a mistake and I expect them to do the same. It actually provides me with a sense of relief and the kids always respond so well to it.
7. Personally investing in their education.
The benefits of teaching my kids to love learning have been huge. I have loved reading with them (if only local libraries had frequent flyer points) and I have loved learning with them. They are excited sharing their new found achievements/information with me because they know I will be so impressed. I thank them for their insights and for teaching me something new. I even remind my kids how lucky they are to be at school – learning – and that not every child has that opportunity.
8. Making comparisons with other parents/children is pointless.
There will always be kids walking/running faster, reading quicker and there will always be mums back into their jeans 2 weeks after giving birth; mums who look organised and in control and mums who know everything. But parenting isn’t a competition – and I found it much more worthwhile focusing on feeling good about myself and how I parent.
9. Saying ‘I love you’ every day.
This one my husband has to take credit for. He is the king of saying to all of us… ‘Guess what?’ ‘I love you’. To the point the kids roll their eyes and say ‘we know, we know you love us’. Yes soppy, but it must feel good because the kids are now following his lead.
So much parenting is hard work and organisation that needs preparation and timetabling. Planning is not my strength but I have found that a bit of pre-organisation goes a long way! That cake baked on Sunday that turns into a treat each day for school lunches and afternoon teas for the whole week is GOLD. Thank goodness for Planning with Kids!!!
PQ again here. Personally I loved reading this post and its timing was perfect. Being in the situation where many friends have all their kids at school and I still have two littlies at home, I sometimes get the feeling that I am being left behind. Lunches or coffee mornings that are just to hard to attend with two gorgeous boys, tiredness from my 5am early morning starts with the toddler and as I am still breast feeding, the planning and logistics that goes into ensuring that I can take more than a few hours leave from the toddler all mean that my social calendar looks very different to theirs!
After reading Belinda’s reflections I was reminded that before I know it this stage will have passed and I too will have a quiet house and a sense of loss. So I am off to wipe the snot of my shoulder, pick up the trains from the lounge room floor and cherish these moments before they are gone forever!
What have you learned so far on your mothering journey?