The evolution of motherhood is something you never realise is happening until you are far enough ahead in the marathon to be able to look back and see how far you have come. How, so far, you have survived.
Back when I was in the trenches of early motherhood, the days with the demanding toddler, sleep deprived, a tiny baby, when we had just moved to a new country where I knew no one. Back in those trenches, I used to look at women who had “stopped” having more kids. I would think to myself – what on earth do you do with your days? I couldn’t imagine my life any farther in the future. The next nappy change or feed, the next nightmare trip to the grocery store with two little girls. Or the next tantrum.
It was like living in a haze.
At that stage, your body isn’t really yours and hasn’t been for about three years due to pregnancy, breastfeeding and clinging children. You can’t remember the last time you had an adult conversation about anything other than children – yours or those of the other sleep deprived mums at baby group. You don’t calculate time by day and night, you calculate it by how many hours the kids slept, or how many hours until daddy is home.
In those days your whole word is consumed by the needs of your children. You literally surrender yourself to them. At least for a few years.
When you reach a milestone in parenting.
Now here I am. My youngest turns four tomorrow.
I never refer to her as ‘my baby’, maybe as my ‘last-born’ (an African term I love), but never as, “My baby”. She hasn’t been a baby for years now.
She is constantly frustrated by the fact that she is the youngest and smallest. Yet, she tries her hardest always, fighting any and all barriers and obstructions in her path in order to do and experience everything her big sister does.
Smart, so kind and so loving, she is the cheekiest, cutest little fireball ever. And despite being almost polar opposite to her sister in looks and character, she idolises her big sister (my first-born). Their bond constantly amazing me, especially when I see it shine through even on the days when their fighting is at an all time high!
You know when you’re done!
I knew soon after having my last-born that she was in fact going to be our last child. I just knew. Our family was complete. I didn’t have that urge, that craving, that inexplicable desire to have another child that I had experienced prior to conceiving both my girls. It was gone. I think I was just too tired. Too overwhelmed. I was all tapped out. I’m glad we made that decision, it was certainly the right one for us.
The wheel has turned, and the inevitable evolution of motherhood has happened. And now I am one of those women I used to watch, the one’s I wondered about.
“What do they do all day?”
Well, I’m still needed, despite their claims to the contrary and the constant “I can do it myself”. However, their needs have changed.
Other than the obvious needs such as the feeding, dressing, bathing, driving around etc, I feel their emotional needs are so high right now. I am constantly having to evaluate situations to determine the best way to emotionally support them in a million little ways during their day.
I have to read their mood in the morning so I can tell if they want me to walk them to the door of their classroom that day, or if I must leave them at the gate instead.
When I fetch them from school, I have to read their behaviour as a way of determining whether they had a good day, or a bad day at school without asking them. I could ask them, but there’s no guarantee I’ll get an answer.
As mother’s we can tell in an instant what kind of emotions our child is dealing with – it’s our mumstinct! It is our responsibility to manage those emotions so we can teach them how to do it for themselves. Many a toddler tantrum can be put down to them being unable to process their emotions. As they get older, it does get better, but so much of that depends on us, their parents.
This job of mothering, of parenting, is constantly evolving. We are constantly required to adapt to meet their needs. Every stage or phase requires something more, something different. We grow and adapt as much as they do.
So to my last-born, Happy Birthday sweetheart. Be blessed and stay as sweet as you are always; a little less sass would be nice, but otherwise we’re good!