Today, parent educator Hetti Wohlgemuth shares key lessons from motherhood:
“Could I write an essay -- under 1000 words -- about motherhood? What an absorbing assignment. In the recently released movie Motherhood -- which includes great actors, great Manhattan scenes, and too many New York tears shed over a life that looks terrific -- Uma Thurman attempts this very project for a magazine contest. Inspired by this task, here I share a few key lessons from the alphabet stew of motherhood, in less than 650 words.
A is for Ambivalence, a naughty word when it comes to motherhood, but a real one. How can one not feel some loss when one thinks back to our before-children freedoms and identities? But how can we not also feel enormous swelling in our hearts when we look at our babies' gorgeous faces, their plump little hands and toes, when we feel their warmth and smell their lovely sweet baby smell? I felt my ambivalence before I even had children: I had no idea if I even wanted babies. I aired my ambivalence -- even my daughters know this now -- and my ambivalence evaporated. That's what happens with negative feelings once we express them and they get acknowledged; they often disappear. I'm all for motherhood ambivalence -- it's not going to go away unless we address it.
B is for Brain Enhancing. It's counterintuitive to think of motherhood as brain enhancing, but it is and there's research to prove it. Yes, initially, moms don't feel smarter. Initially there's no time for newspapers, news, or novels. We're sleep deprived and our brains are totally absorbed with the newness of caring for an infant. But think on the totality of motherhood, instead. Katherine Ellison authored a book on this subject called, The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter. She writes that motherhood requires "efficiency, resiliency, motivation, and emotional intelligence." True, and these qualities massage the brain magnificently. Motherhood also requires diplomacy, doctoring, dietary sense, and a whole lot more. That's even more massage for the brain. Honestly, I feel smarter since raising my daughters.
H is for Humbling. Many of the edicts I proudly pronounced pre-children flew out the window before I even managed to mail my birth announcements. I remember an extended family dinner when I was in my self-absorbed college years. I actually felt annoyed at the space my young nephews were absorbing and thought to myself, I would never allow that. Then I gave birth to my two daughters and my attitude sure changed. Before children (B.C.) we liked to say that our children would not watch TV, play with Barbie, eat sugar, and that we would never ever yell at them. After children (A.C.), real life happens and we feel bad about our pronouncements. We needn't: motherhood is humbling.
W is for all those Worries that loom so large in our mothering minds. With my younger daughter, I worried endlessly about lead poisoning, probably because we were renovating our old house when she was three and possibly licking the windowsills. Now both daughters are grown (lead free, I presume) and I worry about them living in Baltimore and New York City, riding subways late at night, driving, and whatever else I can conjure up. I hear from my friends whose children are married and have children of their own that the worries never cease. Years ago I got some advice from a wise woman: give your worries a good workout every day, maybe 15-20 minutes. Then work to let them go, consciously if necessary. It’s good advice that I still use.
Z is for the Zen of mothering: Oh, to be a Zen Mother. Zen and mothering can go together like a baby in a baby carriage. Oh, to take the time to watch and feel the autumn rain with two small children without thought of what else could be accomplished at that moment (this scene actually takes place in the movie Motherhood and it's one of the better scenes)! Oh, to never covet the successes of a friend's children. Zen Mother love isn't jealous or possessive and accepts our children for who they are. Zen Mothers love without expecting gratitude or anything in return. Zen and mothering can go together like hugs and kisses. Om.”
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