Let Mothering Be Hard

A few weeks ago, while scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post written by a mother, publicly honouring her grown daughter, who is also a mom, by saying, “I’m always amazed by how you can do it all! You make it look so easy!” and went on to list all the many responsibilities her daughter juggles.

This bothered me. I love words of affirmation, and I think encouragement is a beautiful, life-giving thing. But I had a problem with this comment, because it’s what our culture always glorifies – doing it all, and looking perfect while we do it.

The problem is, it’s pretty much impossible to “do it all”, and not lose our sanity. If anyone is actually doing it “all”, and is able to make it look easy or perfect, they are either exceptionally gifted, or they’re faking it. If they’re exceptionally gifted, this should not be the normal standard, and if they’re faking it, it shouldn’t be praised and glorified.

Standards have been set so high, there is no room for admitting weakness, stress, or struggling.

There are a few problems I see with this:

  1. Moms who can’t do it all get the message that they fall short.
  2. It encourages comparison.
  3. It ignores the fact that each mother has a vastly different life-calling, personality, and number of responsibilities on her plate.
  4. It suggests that when women burn out and must take a break, they are “less than”, falling short of the times when they are able to do it all. It makes it hard to admit when things are hard.

Social media plays a large role in this, but it seems to be a message we communicate in a wide variety of other ways, as well. It’s an attitude which permeates our culture.

We praise the woman who can do it all, but where is the honour for the mother who goes slowly? Who dedicates her hours to the small, simple acts of caring for her family in ways which the outside world will never see? Where is our praise for women with strong boundaries, a good understanding of her personal energy levels, great wisdom and self-control when she decides not to spread herself thin by committing to too many things?

There are some women who do a fantastic job of working full-time, raising kids, and keeping the house under control, while making it all look easy, but I don’t know of very many. From what women have shared with me, a lot of these brave, hardworking mothers all have times of struggling and fighting discouragement and guilt. It seems that most of the time, something has to give. There’s guilt over hiring a cleaning lady, or guilt over not spending enough time with her kids. Always guilt about something, because she’s doing everything but doesn’t know if she’s doing it well enough.

Then there are women like me, who stay home, and feel guilty because we have the extra hours at home, so we *should* be able to keep the house cleaner, be more focused and attentive, do more crafts with our kids, and yet even with the “extra” time, we still feel like we’re falling short.

Why are so many women feeling guilty? Why is it so hard to be a good mom?

My guess is because it IS hard. As it should be.

This is the most important thing I will ever do. It should be hard.

I hope there are other important things I get to accomplish in my lifetime, but to bring a human being into this world, and to be a part of the process of them growing into mature, wonderful adults is a big deal. It takes a ton of work and growing pains of all kinds, for everyone involved. There are no shortcuts to growth and awesomeness, and yet we’ve come up with the term “Super Mom” – for the woman who can do it all, and make it look easy.

I read this quote recently which summed it up nicely:

Looking back on my childbearing years, it seems as if I struggled every step of the way. I interpreted my struggling as a sign that I wasn’t good enough. Yet now that I have the perspective of a veteran mom, I think that there are certain struggles that can’t be avoided in mothering, such as sleepless nights with a newborn or an older child getting sick the day you’re leaving for vacation. And there are others that shouldn’t be avoided in mothering — how to meet your child’s needs without negating your own, when to take charge and when to let go, how to balance getting things done with building relationships or having fun. Struggles like these serve as stepping-stones to self-development. It is through these struggles that a mother defines who she is and becomes the mother she wants to be. (MotherStyles, Janet P. Penley)

Instead of focusing on perfection, I love the idea of embracing struggles, because it is the struggle which strengthens and shapes us. It acknowledges that life is messy, and that’s a good thing. There is room for mess, pain, confusion and uncertainty. There is no such thing as a Super Mom – there are just a lot of beautiful, strong women, working hard to love and care for their kids in the best way they know how, and that’s going to look a million different ways.

Saying parenting is hard doesn’t have to be a negative thing. For the last while, I’ve been doing some physical exercise which is hard for me. There’s nothing wrong with the exercise, or with me for finding it difficult – it’s just hard because I haven’t done it before, and I haven’t built up my strength and skill, but I will.

The same thing goes for parenting. It’s hard, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the kids or the parents. It simply means we’re building character and skill, and it will come.

Hard things are rewarding. They bring wonderful truth to the surface, and show us that we can become more than we were before. Parenting does this more than anything I’ve ever done. It is most definitely rewarding and life-changing. There are such beautiful moments, there are no words to describe it. I love these children of mine deeply, in the hard times, and the good.

We will gain far more ground if we lean into the struggle, rather than wasting our precious energy denying its existence and hiding its reality from the rest of the world.

It is hard, so let it be. The struggle is right and good.

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Personality Types

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

You guys, today’s topic is my favourite of all the favourites. It’s shaped my thinking in some big ways over this last year, but it’s a huge topic, so I’ll only be able to give you a bit of an overview. If anything peaks your interest, I’ll point you to some great resources so you can dig deeper if you’d like.

Today we’re talking about personality types and the Myers Briggs tool. Most people are at least familiar with this tool, so you probably know about it, but this was the year I dug into it and got a much better understanding. In case you’re not too familiar with it, here’s how it works:

There are 16 different personality types, but this doesn’t mean each person with the same type will be exactly the same. We give our personality our own individual twist, and there are many factors playing into it, but these generalizations can be extremely helpful in exploring how we think and respond to people and situations.

Each 16 types is given a combination of four letters which stand for words describing your personal preferences – Introvert or Extrovert, Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, Judging or Perceiving. My letters are INFJ, and Ben is an ENFP, for example. Here’s what that means:

Introvert or Extrovert

Do you need to be alone to recharge, or does being with other people make you feel energized? “Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world?” (source) Although people have a preference one way or the other, people are usually a mix of the two. For example, I’m an introvert, but I really love people and don’t like to be alone for endless amounts of time. I need to be alone to recharge, and get super grumpy and overstimulated if I don’t get enough alone time, but if I’m alone for a whole day, I actually start getting depressed and feel very out of balance. Ben, on the other hand, is an extrovert, but says he would have no problem being alone for a couple of days. We are opposite in how we prefer to recharge, but because I’m an extroverted introvert, and he’s more of an introverted extrovert, we’ve found it pretty easy to find balance in this area.

Sensing or Intuition

Sensors are very present in the world around them. They take in information with their five senses and are very aware of their environment. They are focused on facts and experiences as they actually happened, while intuitives are all about reading between the lines and picking up on undercurrents. Their thoughts leap all over the place, they love new ideas, and they are more abstract. Ben and I are both intuitives, so our conversations go deep and wide, with lots of new thoughts to explore. Both of us use metaphors a lot to explain things. I find that most of my friends are intuitives, but I have great appreciation for the sensors in my life. My mom is a sensor, and there is no one like her when it comes to throwing a party. Sensors are all about holidays and traditions, and when I look back on my childhood, I can see how consistent she was with traditions that meant and still mean a lot to me. Unfortunately, I have a lot of trouble with repeating the same practice for my own family. I used to feel a lot of guilt about this – being a “good mom” meant being like my mom, but I just didn’t have the energy to do a lot of things she did. It’s been very freeing to discover this past year that a “good mom” can actually look many different ways, and when we spent Canada Day at the cabin with my parents,  I was delighted to let her decorate and make the whole thing beautiful and festive so we could enjoy the tradition without me needing to do all the work. I’m absolutely not lazy, like I used to worry about – I just have different priorities, and get excited, energetic, and motivated by different things.

Thinking or Feeling

When making decisions, Thinkers focus on facts, logic, and effectiveness, while Feelers focus more on people’s emotions, and think more about keeping everybody feeling happy, understood, and cared for. Thinkers still have feelings, and Feelers still think, but it’s their preferred way of processing. Ben and I are both Feelers, so things in our home are very focused on the deep conversations to get everybody connected. Anika may very well be a Thinker, though, because sometimes she’ll suddenly say, “Okay, I get it, can we stop talking about this now?” I used to think she was being totally disrespectful, and while I still think tone makes a huge difference, I’ve come to recognize that she reaches her limit for conversation on certain topics. Sometimes I’d feel a little shut down when she’d say it, but now I can understand that my efficient daughter is just ready to move on to the next thing, and I choose not to take it personally.

It seems that many times, hurt feelings come about because of these differences. Feelers tend to share thoughts and emotions which Thinkers don’t always connect with. Thinkers are more straightforward, and think all the fluff and emotions Feelers use to communicate are unnecessary and maybe even a waste of time. These are vastly different styles of communication, and I’ve seen (and felt!) these opposite approaches bring about misunderstanding and hurt where it was never intended. As a Feeler, I find it very helpful to have another point of view to examine when someone doesn’t respond to me in the way I expected and anticipated.

Judging or Perceiving

The easiest way for me to differentiate between these last two preferences is to figure out if someone has a “work before play” mentality, or if they just love to have fun anytime, throwing in a bit of work here and there, wherever it fits in best. Or make the work fun! I use judging, and it’s all work. I don’t want to even think about having fun until the to-do list is done, and then I can move on to the fun part feeling guilt-free and ready to enjoy myself. But Ben is the fun one in our home, and he’s all about turning on the music while we work, and thinking up ways to make it more enjoyable. Life with him has definitely made me learn to be less intense. Sometimes there’s a bit of frustration because I have a list and I’m on a mission, which is not his style at all, but it’s pretty much the only area where we have to work on things in our relationship. I read an article recently about what it’s like for an INFJ and ENFP to be in relationship, and it said we’re the perfect match, comparing us to levitating unicorns, which sounds quite magical to me. Our relationship is not perfect, but it’s pretty great! I’m very happy with my unicorn.:)

So all of that is only the beginning of the 16 personality types, and it can go in a million different directions. In the last year, I’ve used it to deepen my understanding of myself, my relationship with Ben, in parenting, extended family relationships, friendships, pretty much anywhere I interact with people. It’s been eye-opening and sometimes slightly uncomfortable, but mostly fantastic. Interestingly, not all personality types like personality typing! Some types see no use for it, while other types are drawn strongly to it. Ben’s type doesn’t like to put people in a box, but he sees some value in the tool. My type finds it a huge relief, because I finally feel understood and like I’m not completely weird in the way I respond to stuff!

If it’s something that interests you, the best place to start learning is by taking a free personality test here. I love the podcasts by Personality Hacker, which you can find here. The profile descriptions at this site are very informative, and to get a better understanding of what the difference is between Extravert/Introvert, Sensing/Intuition, Feeling/Thinking, and Judging/Perceiving, I really like the list format provided at this site.

The best book I’ve read this year is MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths (affiliate link). A lot of things started making sense to me when I read this book, like why I parent the way I do, my relationship with each of my kids, why I was the way I was as a kid, and our family dynamics. I’m just finishing it up now, and I’m eager to see how it will positively impact things in our home.

Earlier this year, I was searching for a book that would help me figure out how to survive as an introvert parent when I’m with my kids all day. I love them like crazy, but I was feeling overwhelmed because of never having enough alone time. I’d feel guilty when I took alone time because I felt I needed to be with them to be a loving, attentive mom! I couldn’t find a single book for introvert parents, which made me feel very frustrated, but then a friend mentioned this book to me, and it’s been so much more helpful than I was even hoping for! Because it covers all 16 personality types, as well as the different personalities our spouse and children bring to the home, it is very informative and useful for absolutely anybody interested in learning more about Myers Briggs. Such a great resource.

And a big favourite around here is the Myers Briggs Disney princess site, because it’s become vitally important to understand which princess everyone is most like, and it makes me Elsa, so it’s a big topic of discussion around here.

Are you a fan of the Myers Briggs tool? Bonus points to anyone who takes the test and comes back to tell me what you are! 🙂

 

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