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Motherhood: a marathon, not a sprint

1
I have two children; a girl and a boy. I have always felt blessed that we were bestowed with a family featuring both genders, the chance to nurture one of each. Having a daughter is a gift; the slightly surreal experience of seeing your younger self in a whole new generation, with a whole new persona. Daily, I have to remind myself that she is not me. I have always considered her an extension of myself – when she was a baby, if I felt cold, I was convinced that she would feel cold too.

There is something about your firstborn; you produce this

SelfishMother.com
2
little human and it can be hard to see where you end and they begin. I feel that as a mother, you can have the most complex relationship with your firstborn child, irrespective of gender, because they take you to a place you never imagined. Certainly in some of those sleep-deprived, early days (nights) as a new mother I did wonder how this little bundle could have caused my life to free-fall so dramatically. The baby stage was not my finest hour!

As for my son; the sheer simplicity of having a boy is also a gift. Sons adore their mothers – and

SelfishMother.com
3
nine year old sons are full of sticky hugs and questions about outer space and what seems like an endless love. Of course, as the time ticks by, he grows and I see that he is becoming his own person, developing quirks.

His sister was the trailblazer, being the eldest she forged ahead and on the whole, life has been easy for her. She has her moments, but under that deceptive 13 year old exterior (blonde ponytail, super-fit, skinny-jean’d, converse-shoe’d) she is strong and competent. He is too but his need to keep up with her has shaped him and he

SelfishMother.com
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strives much harder than she did and equally, feels disappointment more keenly than her.

I make a hundred little decisions for them every day, I am adept. So unlike the baby stage: has he had enough milk? 7 ounces, 9 ounces? Is there a draft near the cot? Should she wear a vest under her baby-grow? Shouldn’t he be crawling/talking/eating finger-food by now? The decisions now are so much wider (reminding me again that babyhood is frankly a drop in the ocean of parenthood).

Now it’s about experiences, making sure they get exposed to enough of life

SelfishMother.com
5
for them to grow up happy and robust, with a worldliness that will equip them for later on. It is about fielding the phases that seem to sideline us out of nowhere, facing issues head on, dealing with the rough and the smooth. It is about resilience. Motherhood is a marathon not a sprint and occasionally fatigue does set in and renders me floored, tired, despondent. I have to rally myself at those times and remember what a privilege parenting is. I keep on running.

What I feel so keenly is the desire not to mess it up. It can be overwhelming trying

SelfishMother.com
6
to navigate these moments. I try to give them the best I can, as everyone does, but I admit I get a creep of doubt when I wonder why I want what I consider to be ’best’ for them. Why do I want them to be selected for school teams? Why do I want them to excel academically? Why does it matter to me that they get on well with their friends? Why am I so proud when they show gratitude or empathy or charity? I have to catch myself and wonder the extent to which I project forward my own values and my own missed chances onto their childhood?

Ultimately,

SelfishMother.com
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I try to break it down to basic elements. I want them to be able to enjoy life for what it is; to be realists when needed, but to also strive for the unobtainable – because they can and should. I want them to weather the down times (and there will be many) with grace and know deep down that things will always get better. I want them to be kind and thoughtful, but I understand that it won’t form the baseline of all of their relationships. They are only human. I want them to have their own goals – not mine or my husband’s reincarnated for a fresh
SelfishMother.com
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outing. Knowing that they will follow my example, perhaps not always my advice.

And it’s not a surprise to me that this parental navel-gazing has come now, to coincide with the fact that I have stopped working. When I was working I simply did not have time to think about all of this! My children are at an age when we are over the first hump. The going to school, first best friend, first broken heart, first grazed knee phase. This is a new dimension as I glimpse, for my teenage daughter especially, the person she will be when she is adult. And I see

SelfishMother.com
9
how much of my work is already done. Of course, to continue the analogy, in the marathon of motherhood I am in only the early miles of the race. Long may it last.

Motherhood is different for all of us… if you’d like to share your thoughts, why not join our Network & start posting?

Tweet the Editor: @Molly_Gunn

SelfishMother.com
Lou Bradford

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- 25 Feb 15

I have two children; a girl and a boy. I have always felt blessed that we were bestowed with a family featuring both genders, the chance to nurture one of each. Having a daughter is a gift; the slightly surreal experience of seeing your younger self in a whole new generation, with a whole new persona. Daily, I have to remind myself that she is not me. I have always considered her an extension of myself – when she was a baby, if I felt cold, I was convinced that she would feel cold too.

There is something about your firstborn; you produce this little human and it can be hard to see where you end and they begin. I feel that as a mother, you can have the most complex relationship with your firstborn child, irrespective of gender, because they take you to a place you never imagined. Certainly in some of those sleep-deprived, early days (nights) as a new mother I did wonder how this little bundle could have caused my life to free-fall so dramatically. The baby stage was not my finest hour!

As for my son; the sheer simplicity of having a boy is also a gift. Sons adore their mothers – and nine year old sons are full of sticky hugs and questions about outer space and what seems like an endless love. Of course, as the time ticks by, he grows and I see that he is becoming his own person, developing quirks.

His sister was the trailblazer, being the eldest she forged ahead and on the whole, life has been easy for her. She has her moments, but under that deceptive 13 year old exterior (blonde ponytail, super-fit, skinny-jean’d, converse-shoe’d) she is strong and competent. He is too but his need to keep up with her has shaped him and he strives much harder than she did and equally, feels disappointment more keenly than her.

I make a hundred little decisions for them every day, I am adept. So unlike the baby stage: has he had enough milk? 7 ounces, 9 ounces? Is there a draft near the cot? Should she wear a vest under her baby-grow? Shouldn’t he be crawling/talking/eating finger-food by now? The decisions now are so much wider (reminding me again that babyhood is frankly a drop in the ocean of parenthood).

Now it’s about experiences, making sure they get exposed to enough of life for them to grow up happy and robust, with a worldliness that will equip them for later on. It is about fielding the phases that seem to sideline us out of nowhere, facing issues head on, dealing with the rough and the smooth. It is about resilience. Motherhood is a marathon not a sprint and occasionally fatigue does set in and renders me floored, tired, despondent. I have to rally myself at those times and remember what a privilege parenting is. I keep on running.

What I feel so keenly is the desire not to mess it up. It can be overwhelming trying to navigate these moments. I try to give them the best I can, as everyone does, but I admit I get a creep of doubt when I wonder why I want what I consider to be ‘best’ for them. Why do I want them to be selected for school teams? Why do I want them to excel academically? Why does it matter to me that they get on well with their friends? Why am I so proud when they show gratitude or empathy or charity? I have to catch myself and wonder the extent to which I project forward my own values and my own missed chances onto their childhood?

Ultimately, I try to break it down to basic elements. I want them to be able to enjoy life for what it is; to be realists when needed, but to also strive for the unobtainable – because they can and should. I want them to weather the down times (and there will be many) with grace and know deep down that things will always get better. I want them to be kind and thoughtful, but I understand that it won’t form the baseline of all of their relationships. They are only human. I want them to have their own goals – not mine or my husband’s reincarnated for a fresh outing. Knowing that they will follow my example, perhaps not always my advice.

And it’s not a surprise to me that this parental navel-gazing has come now, to coincide with the fact that I have stopped working. When I was working I simply did not have time to think about all of this! My children are at an age when we are over the first hump. The going to school, first best friend, first broken heart, first grazed knee phase. This is a new dimension as I glimpse, for my teenage daughter especially, the person she will be when she is adult. And I see how much of my work is already done. Of course, to continue the analogy, in the marathon of motherhood I am in only the early miles of the race. Long may it last.

Motherhood is different for all of us… if you’d like to share your thoughts, why not join our Network & start posting?

Tweet the Editor: @Molly_Gunn

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Lou Bradford

Lou Bradford is a writer living in Sussex, England. She left the corporate world to complete a Masters in Creative Writing, and the first draft of a novel. Lou has long written a blog of musings and thoughts, many of which are themes that appear in her fiction. She lives with her husband, two children aged 16 and 12, and their dog.

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