At my Mum’s house, there’s a magnet on the fridge with the following phrase on it:
It’s called the Serenity Prayer, and it’s been around for donkeys years. Now, our family isn’t really religious, but this particular magnet has been on our fridge for as long as I can remember. We’re talking at least two, maybe three decades and four house moves – and yes, she’s had the same fridge the whole time too! They just don’t make ’em like they used to, right?
I learned this quote verbatim at an early age, sometime in my teens. But it’s something I’m only truly appreciating now that I’m a mother.
One of the biggest things about motherhood, at least for me, has been simply accepting what is happening around me at any given point. Because acceptance is not really in my nature.
But acceptance is a key factor to more meaningful motherhood.
When I was younger I thought the important part of this phrase was the “wisdom” bit. Knowing stuff is always the be-all and end-all when you’re academically minded and hell-bent on smashing your Year 12 grades (ie, a nerd). However, there were definitely times when it was “courage” that I strived for – the courage to change things. I truly LOVE change. I thrive on it, seek it out, revel in it. But there have been times when my courage needed a bolster. Like moving to the UK for two years. And then deciding not to go through with the second year because I happened to meet a nice boy when I came home for Christmas. Big changes, big courage. (ps. the boy is now my husband, so I guess that change was for the best.)
But I never, ever considered the first part – the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Because in my youthful mind, full of all that wisdom and courage, I never really had to accept ANYTHING. Didn’t like my job? Easy, I got a new one. Didn’t like my career? Easy, I went back to Uni. Didn’t like a boy? Easy, just dump his ass! I prided myself on NEVER settling, never accepting the status quo, always expecting more from myself and always believing in my ability to change the minds of others, to mould my own world and to have (almost) complete control over pretty much my whole life.
Until I became a mother.
Then things changed.
Because you can’t convince an infant to tell you in plain english why they’re crying. You can’t educate your way out of teething. You can’t brainstorm your way out of toxic nappy explosions. You can’t guarantee your toddler will never throw a public tanty.
There are lots and lots of things you simply CAN’T do or control when you’re a mother. It pains me to say that – I hate the word CAN’T – it’s never been part of my vocabulary – “There’s always a way!” I’d say. But I’ve had to change my tune in recent years.
I have to ACCEPT that my three year old CAN’T tie her shoelaces – because she simply hasn’t integrated this skill yet, so she’s dependent on me to help her get dressed, no matter how much I want her to be independent. I have to ACCEPT that my 15 month old CAN’T understand when I tell her “we’re only five minutes from home” – and that she will cry and scream for those last five minutes of the car journey until we get home and I can pick her up and comfort her. I’ve also had to accept that I no longer have the level of spontaneity and freedom in my life that I seriously cherished as a single woman. It’s simply not there anymore. At least not at the moment.
Acceptance is a bitch.
I know so many of us Mums who struggle against it daily. Especially us over-achieving late Gen X-ers who spent two decades doing and having it all before being thrust into motherhood in their mid 30s. But I truly believe it’s this battle against acceptance that’s leading us into all sorts of angst and misery in motherhood. Because we get so overcome by all the things we can no longer control, all the things we can no longer do, and when we focus on these – life starts to look pretty shitty. Especially compared to the kick-ass lives, bursting with freedom and control, that we were living up until a minute ago.
We do need to be more accepting of these things which are outside our realm of control.
But we also need to change how we FEEL about acceptance.
Acceptance which is given begrudgingly, tinged with anger and resentment, isn’t going to cut it. “This is what it’s like being a Mum – get used to it.” That tone and language doesn’t help anyone.
The Serenity Prayer asks for “the serenity to accept”. That’s the key. Acceptance should be given freely, without bitterness or disappointment. We need to be comfortable, calm and content with our acceptance.
Because when we can truly accept the things we cannot change – that’s when our experience of motherhood can change for the better.
Until next time,
Keep well, Sarah xx
ps. we delve a lot deeper into the concept of acceptance for motherhood in my “Mindful Motherhood” online program. If you’re a Mum looking for a more sustainable way to navigate the stress, guilt and overwhelm that seems to come part and parcel with parenthood, please check out the program here.
Have you seen this pic? It’s been doing the rounds on facebook lately.
Just like Mummy…
It certainly strikes a chord with me.
When I saw it last week it made me realise that it’s been at least four months since I last weighed myself. And that’s all thanks to my daughter.
Right now, I have no idea what I actually weigh. I have a rough estimate, and I know it’s still a good 10-15kg above my “ideal” weight. But I don’t know the actual number.
However, there was a time, not that long ago, when I could have told you to the 100 gram mark, how much I weighed. Unknowingly, I’d developed a nasty little habit of stepping on the scale. Every. Single. Day.
Now, I can’t say that I ever really let that number on the scale define me, but it could, and certainly did, alter my mood. If it was down I was happy. If it was up, well that just plain sucked. Even if I was having a “feeling thin” moment where I felt like I was lighter, my confidence would implode if that number was actually higher than the previous day.
My weigh-in habit had slowly but surely become a full-blown addiction. It was the second thing I did every morning – after peeing of course – that 100g less fluid weight would make a difference! At the time I didn’t feel like my daily habit was having any significant negative consequences on my health or self esteem, it was just something I did every day. As much a part of my morning routine as brushing my teeth
Until I started seeing my three-year-old daughter stepping on the scales. Every. Single. Day.
Of course she’d seen me, and my husband, step on the scales over the past three years. So she wanted to do it too – kids always want to do what the grown-ups do – right?
When she was around age two it was highly amusing when she’d step on the scale, look at the number and say “six dollars!” before tearing off to play elsewhere.
But early this year, at the age of three, she started stepping onto the scale much more frequently. She’d drag it out of the under-sink cupboard, place it on the exact spot on the floor where I would place it (to avoid the wonky tiles and an inaccurate reading), then she’d tap her toe on top, wait for the zero to appear, and step on.
Until one day I watched her do this and it clicked in my head. This was now becoming a habit for her – AT AGE THREE.
Sure, she really had no idea what she was doing. No idea that she was measuring her weight in kilograms and grams. And she certainly had no idea how much she was “supposed” to weigh – and all the social and emotional baggage that went along with that. But I knew this didn’t make it a harmless exercise.
How long did she have? At what point, what age, would she suddenly understand the concept of weight? Of “ideal” weights, “goal” weights, overweight, underweight, obese – thigh gaps. At age 5? 8? 10? Right now, she’s three. But in the blink of an eye she’ll be 13. And then she’ll be in the thick of it.
At 13, it’s highly possible that ALL she will care about is how much she weighs, what she looks like, what she’s wearing, how clear her skin is, how many boys think she’s cute. Unless…
Unless I can guide her in a different direction. Because that’s NOT the 13 year old experience I want for her, or her younger sister.
I want both of my daughters to value themselves for so much more than an inconsequential number on a scale.
I want them to understand that they have TRUE value in this world. That they have the ability and opportunity to do, have or be anything they want. That they can contribute AMAZING things to this society of ours. That their potential is completely untapped, beyond anyone’s comprehension or expectation. And that it truly doesn’t matter how much they weigh – as long as they have health and happiness.
Yes I want them to be healthy – I certainly don’t want them to be obese, or to have a life-long struggle with their weight like I’ve had. But I don’t want them to focus on their weight, to let it define and control them like it does for so many amazing, and otherwise successful, confident and accomplished women I know. Women who seem so “together” on the outside, but who can be crumpled by a simple flashing number on a digital scale. Women like me. I said earlier that I didn’t feel like my weigh-ins had a huge impact on my self confidence or self belief. But I was wrong.
That very day, after my daughter scampered off to play like a regular three year old. I picked up those scales and I put them away on the top shelf of the linen cupboard, behind a pile of towels.
I haven’t stepped on them since.
And it feels good. Since that day I’ve had freedom. Not to eat whatever I want, or to put on weight. But freedom from constantly THINKING about my weight. Even though I never let it consciously define me, I’ve now realised that on a subconscious level it truly did impact my psyche and erode my self-belief.
I know I’m not at my “goal weight”, I certainly don’t have the “perfect body” and I’m as far from a thigh gap as you could possibly get. But I don’t really care anymore. I respect my body more now. I focus on what it can do for me – how it can move me and what it can achieve.
Removing the scales from my life has meant that I can focus on my body in a much more subjective way now. I have to actually listen to it. I choose my food based on how it makes me feel. I can tell if I’ve been overdoing the wrong sorts of foods for me because I’ll feel my stomach bloat or my head get foggy or my sinuses get blocked. I no longer rely on that effing bloody scale to tell me if I’m doing the right things for my health. Because it has no idea. It never did. The really irritating thing is that I ALWAYS knew that. I knew the scale couldn’t really tell me how healthy I was, or how far along my health journey I’d come, yet still I let myself define my success by that flashing number. Do you know how infuriating that is!
So now, I’m letting my struggle go. I’m not battling with my weight, or striving to LOSE weight any more. I’m just focusing on simply being me – the best, healthiest, happiest version of me I can possibly be. I’m still conscious of what I put into my and my daughters’ bodies – but I no longer make food choices from a place of fear. I make decisions now based on health and a conscious respect for the amazing machine that is the human body. It’s taken me a long time, but I’m now at a place where I don’t really care how much I weigh – so I don’t need scales anymore.
And neither do my daughters.