I wonder if there is a more difficult time to write about one's strengths as an individual mother than in the early postpartum days. The truth is that this article has been started multiple times by the light of my iPhone, in the wee morning hours while I rock my newborn son. The nightlight beside me and the soft sounds of his suckling keep me on the thin edge between wakefulness and deep deep sleep, and the loneliness of these quiet hours often brings silent tears. But the sun will soon rise, and with it the demands of my sweet children which newly outnumber me three to one. So I take advantage of these quiet moments to spill out my thoughts onto the glowing screen in my hands.
Strengths as a mother...hmm...
Do I even have any strengths? The sleepy mind has gone blank.
At first I tried to write about intuition: one of the greatest strengths of any mother. I believe that the ability to trust one's intuition about the needs of our children is a strength indeed. Especially today as it puts us against the grain of the information age where it seems all others know our children and their needs better than us, the ones who carried them and brought them into the world. Yes, intuition and the ability to trust our gut in every season and in every age is a great asset for all mothers.
I tried to write about patience. Seeing as this is a great weakness of mine, and not a strength that comes naturally, I did not get very far down this road. But yes, patience must be a great strength to have as a mother. I envy those to whom this is a more natural state of being.
Then I gave empathy a good solid try. In my experience the journey to and from the darkest corners of motherhood and ultimately humanity is the only path to empathy. It is from this journey that we become fuller versions of ourselves as women and mothers. It is on this journey that we learn to fully embrace each and every emotion that comes our way in life and motherhood, from the best to the worst, all in an effort to live as more empathetic individuals. Then we are able to look our children in the eye and put ourselves in their shoes as they experience the highs and lows of each emotion for the first time. And then it points us to our Mama friends in their bright days and their dark days, coming along side them that they may not rejoice or weep alone. Empathy is a strength indeed. What kind of mothers will we become if this is not a part of our equation?
But that's as far as I got on empathy. I fell asleep and when I woke the inspiration was gone.
Many other false starts. Many other rabbit trails. Many more half written sleepy ideas about strength and motherhood.
And then, in the midst of our crazy first outing on day 10 as a family of five, which I will tell you did NOT go as smoothly as I'd planned or hoped, I took a quiet moment. I took a deep breath. I sat still for a fleeting second, closed my eyes and was still. And while this moment didn't dispense with the crazy as I opened my eyes and watched the big kids still running around like banshees, and I was still trying to get a newborn to nurse in public with little success, and my husband was still looking bewildered and overwhelmed, my mind had gone quiet. No one else could care to notice, but I noticed.
To be still then, I thought in that moment, must be thing that gives all other strengths, both natural and learned, room to breath in motherhood. Whether it is in these early postpartum days, in the pregnancy days, on the potty training days and first day of school days, and on the good days and on the bad days: to be still. To take a deep breathe. To give your weaknesses acknowledgement, and your strengths room to rise up and be seen. To quiet the crazy in our own hearts and minds, giving ourselves a little gift no matter how briefly, fleetingly, or quickly.
It is a simple thing, much like this article. It is not a long drawn out answer, or a long-term solution to the deepest woes of motherhood. It is simply, a way to get by. To let ourselves be seen, if by no one else then at least by our own inner eye. To let our intuition, patience, empathy and many other strengths come to the surface and hopefully stifle the yell that's on the tip of our tongue. Sometimes it will still escape, and I'll go ahead and give myself a freebie. For this is not an easy task, this mothering. And there are no easy answers. And no one, hear me: NO ONE, is the best version of themselves all the time. But we can all be still, just for a moment, and give our strengths a fighting shot to shine through the exhaustion, frustration and loneliness. For one moment. For one fleeting second.