Experiments In Domesticity

Marriage, Motherhood & Modern Housewifery


Be Gentle With Yourself

An on-going topic of conversation with the mothers I know is how much we are (or are not) getting done. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on mothers to be, and do, it all. Some of this pressure comes from within ourselves, some is imposed through the relentless comparison we inflict upon ourselves when we look at other women’s lives, and some is external and largely beyond our control.

We all know the woman with the fat dollar career, immaculate home, amazing figure, and perfect relationship. Or we think we do … I think it is important to remember that we do not know what goes on behind the scenes. Despite media and corporate promises, you simply cannot have it all and you cannot be perfect all the time.

The relief I feel when another mother lets down her guard and admits her imperfection is a rather sad comment on the state of motherhood these days. Trolling parenting sites, I frequently read women condemning other women’s choices. No wonder it’s so scary to open up and admit we are human. Outward criticism, coupled with the insecurity many of us feel as parents, results in a doozy of a shame complex.

Over the last year, I have been amazed at just how much time and effort caring for one little human being entails. I was formerly a gal who could get a lot done in 24 hours, and had energy to spare. I am now a mama who may still be in her bathrobe at supper time, occasionally cries as she wipes avocado from her hair, and often sleepwalks to bed at 8 PM. And, that is perfectly normal, acceptable and okay. Thankfully, every day is different, and provides new and exciting challenges.

I try to remember that Ladybug will only be a baby for a fleeting and minuscule amount of time. I want to be with her as much as I can for the few years that we have together and, most importantly, to enjoy that time. For me, that means letting go of perfection, not comparing my achievements to those around me, and having a mother’s helper come in for two hours a week to spend time with Ladybug while I catch up on things that go by the wayside (bill payment, cleaning, grooming, snoozing, etc.).

I have a magnet on my fridge that contains helpful advice from the Desiderata, which I remind myself of daily: “Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.”


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Living in the Now

A major and unnecessary part of my first few months as a new mother was spent poring over parenting books, websites, chat boards, magazines, etc. If it offered to unlock the secrets of the new world I had entered, I was willing to read it. Some of what I read was interesting, some thought provoking, some silly, and some downright scary. What did I learn from all this, you ask? Am I a certified platinum, five star mother now? Can I whisper to babies in three different infant dialects? No. I spent many nights, when I should have been sleeping, worrying. Did Ladybug have incurable reflux? Was she becoming securely attached? Did that beer I had at dinner lower her IQ?

I finally stopped and came to my senses after a conversation I had with one of the women I met at the Lucina Centre. She stunned me by telling me that she didn’t read anything, ever, about parenting. She explained that she just did what she felt was right in the moment. She used her motherly instinct. My mind was blown! I have all the tools I need to care for my baby.

What she said next cuts right to the heart of the parenting experience: it is a lesson in being present. Put down your cell phone, step away from the television, shelve your laptop and look your little one in the eye. What is he telling you? What does he need? The way to figure that out is to watch, to listen, and to feel.

There are many helpful sites and books out there, and sometimes it’s comforting to know that you are not alone in your journey. Being a new mother can be very isolating. However, it is also comforting to know that there is no one right answer, no one right way. Much like there is no one magical baby product that will solve all your problems, there is no one secret that will make parenting a breeze (if you’ve found it, though, please send me the information).

Something I have learned over the last twelve months is that, just when I think I’ve got something figured out (crying, naps, feeding, etc.), it changes. The best I can do is to try to keep up with all the changes, and stay present.