What childhood dreams did you have about being a mother?
I thought about being a mother all the time when I was a child. The main reason is that I had great (in my mind they were great) ideas about how to run a home and engage with children that my parents were not receptive to or interested in at all. They would tell me, “You can do that when you have a home and family of your own.” It triggered my rebellious side and I determined to be the best mother the world has ever known. Turns out being a mother is a lot harder than I expected! But I think all those years of preparing and that strong willed determination to show my parents they should have listened to me (lol) have really worked in my favor and helped me through some hard times.
How do you feel motherhood is viewed by those close to you? Society?
Motherhood is undervalued by our society since there’s no monetary compensation for it. We value what makes us money and motherhood does the very opposite of that. I think in a culture that valued connection and had more of a focus on the future rather than the present, motherhood would be given high status.
What are your strengths as a mother?
I’m a mother who is always learning and determined to find better ways of doing things. I think that’s my biggest strength as a mom. I also remember what it’s like to be a kid, so it’s easier to have compassion and to come up with solutions that really work.
What do you hope your children know about you? What do you hope your children know about themselves?
I hope my children know that I love them and that I’m on their side.
How have you been able to keep your identity as a person rather than it being only you as a mother?
In the first few years of motherhood I completely lost my identity as a woman. At the end of each year I would make a little movie of pictures and video clips from the year. I soon realized that these videos were all about my kids and their interests and achievements. What about my interests? My achievements? My adventures? I felt like I didn’t really have any. So after our second child my husband made sure I got a few hours a week to paint. Later I joined a gospel choir and found a lot of joy in being with those women, pushing myself to become a better singer and even stepping out of my comfort zone to perform a solo. We’ve tried to carve out time to be away from our caregiver responsibilities and spend time as a couple, I’ve formed close relationships with wonderful women in my life and spend time with them (without the kids) once a month, I’ve gone out on adventures by myself to hike, bike, and run a half marathon. My whole mindset has shifted. Instead of seeing myself solely as a mother, I now identify first with being Ellie, then a woman, a partner, and a mother. Having that order of priorities has brought me so much more joy, increased the love between me and my husband, and allowed me to relax into motherhood as an important part of my life rather than an all-consuming role.
What does it mean to you to be a woman? How do you separate motherhood and womanhood?
Asking “Who would I be if I didn’t have children?” can help you see the difference between motherhood and womanhood. At one point in my life I would have answered that I would be nothing, that I would be lost. Now I have a very different answer. To me, being a woman means having interests & desires and playing those out by going on adventures.
If you could shout something from the rooftops that everyone would hear and internalize-what would it be? Why would you share that?
Be kind. Be respectful. All the books written and talks given about being a good spouse or parent or even just a good person could really be summed up in these two rules: Be Kind. Be Respectful. Don’t treat your husband or children in any way that doesn’t show kindness or respect- basic human decency.
One of my most successful moments as a mother was when I realized that taking care of dependents and having a relationship with my kids were two separate things.
I’ve found myself telling people in front of my kids that motherhood is really hard. I’ve expressed joy at being done having kids- I want no more! But I realized that this might be sending the message to my kids that I don’t like being a mom, that kids are a drag or a burden and that they (as individual people) are the cause of my stresses.
A few weeks ago I sat at the breakfast table (my husband had been gone for a week so I was solo parenting) and near the breaking point with tears in my eyes I said to my kids “being a mom is really hard.” I turned and looked my 5 year old in the face and suddenly thought of all the fun times we have together. Having a relationship with her isn’t hard, it’s wonderful. It’s not a burden, I love it! I looked in her beautiful eyes and told her that being her friend wasn’t hard at all. That there’s a difference between the duties of a person in charge of dependents and the relationship between a mother and child. The former is tediously, painstakingly hard. The endless dishes and laundry, the eternal messes, the faces to wipe, the fingerprints on the walls, mediating fights, sleepless nights, giving everything and having nothing left but still being required to give more. It is really, really hard.
But having a relationship with my kids? Easy. Loving them, caring about them, enjoying their personalities and interests, watching them grow, telling jokes, singing songs, hearing their stories. Easy. Wonderful. Beautiful.
Making that distinction has made a huge impact on my attitude toward my children. It’s helped me to find so much more joy in being their mother because I can mentally separate it from the drudgery of taking care of dependents. And that’s good because they aren’t always going to be dependents but they will always be my children and I hope to develop a positive, loving relationship with them that is separate from their current temporary status as dependents.
You can link here to a book Ellie recently wrote Enchanted Learning.