Jen had her twin boys 1yr before I had mine. She was like my personal guardian angel, generous and kind and inspiring. I don't know how she found the time with such a busy life of her own, but I will always be grateful. And my intention has always been to pay it forward.
Jen is a truly beautiful woman, inside and out!
Here are her thoughts.
1. Tell us about yourself!
I am currently 38, have three beautiful boys, oldest 12, youngest 7 (twins). I am taking a year off work to pursue some personal interests, take better care of my children and put my home in order. These pursuits are more difficult than I had planned as other life circumstances seem endlessly in the way.
2. What were your expectations of motherhood before you had kids?
My husband and I planned to have 10 children. We had marital struggles that made me want to wait to have children so our first wasn't born until we had been married about 5 years. Marital problems worsened with first child, as is normal (but I didn't know it at the time), so wasn't sure I wanted to have more children. Struggled to get pregnant about 3 years later and planned to adopt, then came my twins.
I don't think I thought about being a mother in great detail, except for having children around me and feeling joy. I realize now that I felt an unspoken expectation from family, church and society to have children, but had unresolved issues about motherhood that I have struggled with since becoming a mother. I love my children dearly, please don't misunderstand. What I struggle with are issues from my own childhood that impact greatly on how well I mother my boys now.
3. What has been(was) your biggest surprise about Motherhood? (different than you expected? or wish someone had told you?)
I remember the first days in the hospital and how terrified I was about taking my child home, not knowing how to care for him, especially when I felt so ill. I remember days, months, years of feeling like I had died, my life was over, consumed in darkness because I was so afraid of being a mother and being alone with my child, worried that I wasn't caring for him properly, and depressed over my loss of independence and freedom. I then had guilt piled on top of it because I knew my child was beautiful and a glorious gift in my life and yet I was feeling so low. It took me years to finally get help for post-partum depression.
I now know that women are NEVER meant to bear children alone. We are meant to live in communities, close to eachother, to help eachother, not secluded in our own homes, struggling away in silence, trying to maintain the facade that we know what we are doing and are fine, when we are not. Women are so compassionate, soft and strong and we need eachother, especially when we become mothers.
4. Biggest joy?
Living life with my boys when I have taken away the guilt of being imperfect. Just watching them and listening to their amazing ideas, laughing with them when they find something funny, enjoying their views and thoughts, holding them when they cry, snuggling with them at night, trying new things with them, watching their angelic faces when they sleep, holding their soft warm hands and feeling their love.
5. Best wish for your children?
That they will learn to love themselves and love others.
6. How do you find time for yourself/what do you do?
I involve my children in caring for our home so I have more time to spend with them during daytime hours. In these times, I try to get them to help with necessary activities like cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. so we have more time to play together. But, in having them help me, we also find we enjoy our time working together as well. This happens well some days, and not so well on other days.
I quit my job so I have more time when they are at school to pursue some self-care time. I didn't find time for myself at all for the past 12 years....something I would do differently if I had it to do again.
In times when I am alone, I have started doing a lot of walking. Sometimes I walk in silence, listening to the wind and the ocean and the whisperings of inspiration that help guide me in my life. Sometimes I walk with pounding loud music that lets my thoughts drift away and I let the stresses of my life flow out through my feet.
I have also started taking up creative interests that I had put on the back burner for most of my married life. Again, if I could go back and do it again, I would NEVER have let these things go because they help me feel good inside and I am a much better mother because of them. Creative pursuits I mention include dancing, writing, painting, playing and learning music, singing etc.
7. What do you wish you had more of? Less of?
I wish I had more love and patience for myself and my children.
I wish I had less baggage from my childhood and marriage that negatively affect how I feel about myself and therefore how I mother my children.
8. What do you hope your kids learn from you?
I hope they learn that no matter what challenges you face in your life, you can always change and choose how you want to live.
9. What are some of the best things you learned from your own mother?
I learned from my mother that small acts of love and kindness make a big difference to a tender heart. I also learned that relationships go up and down, and when they are down, we need to remember the up times and hang on, doing all we can, until the down times pass.
Anything you'd like to add?
I don't know if I am the only one....though I doubt it.....but I think that we, as women, as mothers, need to let go of society's and church's expectations of us and just LOVE OURSELVES. If we love ourselves, which includes letting go of all the guilt and all the comparison and all the negative thoughts about ourselves, then we will be so much happier and as a result, more effective and loving mothers.