In between happy dances and giggly muddy adventures outdoors, I have moments where I do not enjoy being a mother. These moments however, do not equate to me not loving my children nor me not being grateful for the beautiful gift of motherhood. I love them with all my heart, obviously.
This applies to many women too, I’m sure. These moments of not enjoying motherhood are simply part of being human, and part of the wondrous ebb and flow of life. Nothing is constant in this life.
And I guess this is where the advice to “ENJOY EVERY MOMENT” is flawed. While it’s true that we will not get these moments of motherhood back, we are not expected to ENJOY every moment. It’s okay and natural to not enjoy the weariness from the lack of sleep. It’s okay to not enjoy not having a second to sit in peace.
We hear the words “enjoy every moment” all the time that we then become afraid in being honest with our feelings. We feel guilty each time we get hints of not enjoying certain moments of motherhood. We don’t talk about them, in fear of being judged. We brush away these feelings, and then possibly unhealthily bottle them up.
We will not get these moments back, yes. But it’s okay to not enjoy EVERY moment. Instead of enjoying them, what we could do instead is to EMBRACE every moment. Embrace our favourite moments with joy. Embrace moments of frustrations by acknowledging and accepting those feelings, and embracing the lessons they teach.
I wouldn’t have learned the true meaning of self-care, for example, if I didn’t have moments of frustrations where I did not enjoy being a mother. And I am grateful for these lessons. I do not ENJOY every moment of motherhood, but I EMBRACE every moment with gratitude.
I have to admit, throughout my journey as a mother, there have been days and moments where I wish I’m doing something else, like having my nose in a favourite book instead of attending to the same multiple demands by my children. This does not come from ingratitude, but simply from being human and feeling the occasional pain of monotony.
This phase of motherhood can be so wondrous, gifting us with so many precious moments we want to tattoo in our hearts and minds, yet at the same time be so monotonous, we’d long for our carefree, younger days.
I have thought long and hard on ways to help spice up this parenting experience for days that scream boredom and for days when monotony is the louder voice. And I have discovered that the truly best guide to help us break the monotony really is our children themselves. Yes, the secret ingredient to help spice up our parenting experience is in our children.
I have guiltily realized that all it takes sometimes is the power to stop looking at my phone and to start looking THROUGH MY CHILDREN’S LENS instead.
Everything is new in our children’s eyes. Everyday is a new day to discover new things. Everything is a new different possibility. Everyone (and anyone) can be a possible friend to them. Every distant sound can be a possible jingle played by the ice-cream man. Every stray cat and every crawling insect can be given new names. Every object is a new word to be learned. Every puddle is a new dance floor to tap dance to.
And there is nothing monotonous about new muddy dance floors. Seeing through our children’s eyes truly can be an unexpected form of self-care in our parenting journey. The ingredient needed to spice up this parenting journey simply are OUR CHILDREN’S LENS.
In my Gratitude Log entry today (not pictured), my first point was on being sad. And this was an achievement to me. Why?
Because being grateful on a bad day isn’t easy compared to when everything is going our way. You know how annoying it can be when all we want to do is bury ourselves in a blanket and cry, and then someone comes telling us to “count our blessings”.
While it’s true that there is always something to be grateful for, I believe it’s equally important to not push aside or ignore our feelings. I believe that if we want to cry, it is healthier to allow ourselves to sob our frustrations away instead of forcing ourselves to suppress those tears.
Here is an important tip I've learned on how to practise gratitude on a bad day:
ACKNOWLEDGE, ACCEPT AND LET GO OF YOUR FEELINGS FIRST.
I have learned that it is after allowing myself to feel a particular difficult emotion and acknowledging it that I then easily come out of it. I would then see it from a different perspective, consequently finding something to be thankful from it.
This relates to my earlier post on the “drive-thru” of feelings.
The 'drive-thru' was an analogy I created, but a therapist once described to me this very "drive-thru" process beautifully - imagine our difficult feelings on dried leaves floating on a river. Acknowledge them, give them names, accept them, and then watch them float away. Picturing them this way will give us some form of calmness, and will train us towards being mindful of our feelings.
Earlier this morning for example, I felt sad about being late for my Fajr prayer. The sadness bugged me for a bit, leading to anxiety as I then worried in between tears that I would not have a good day if I didn’t start it right and if I didn’t pray on time.
I named this sadness “Pergi” (a Malay word which meant “go”), representing my wish to have that lateness for prayers go away forever. I pictured Pergi on a dried leaf, on a peaceful river stream.
Pergi flowed away eventually, perhaps into an ocean of possibilities. Because I, for one, discovered the beautiful possibility of experiencing gratitude even towards sadness.
I was grateful for feeling sad about being late for my prayer this morning, because it meant that Allah is in my heart. And this gratitude instantly lifted me up.
So if you’re ever having a bad day or dealing with a difficult feeling, give it a little 'drive-thru' procedure. Acknowledge that feeling, give it a nice name, accept it, and then let it go. This may just lead to an entry in a Gratitude Log AND a smile on your face. :)