Twenty five years ago today I became a mother for the first time. In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago and in some ways it feels like only yesterday that I was gazing at the face of my oldest son, in both awestruck wonder and sheer terror.
I was seventeen years old and I thought I knew it all, as only a teenager can believe. How wrong I was.
Motherhood is the biggest learning curve any woman can embark on and there is no right or wrong. If you love your child, can keep him safe from any major harm and bring him up to be a halfway decent human being, than I think you’re doing alright.
Then again, sometimes all the right parental steps in the world can’t prevent what life throws at us or what our children become.
The thing is, in my case, if I were to do the motherhood thing over again, I’m not sure that there’s a whole lot I would do differently. Although given a chance, I probably wouldn’t be quite so hard on myself and I’d probably take a little bit more time out for me.
As a young mother I felt like I was constantly having to prove myself, I had to try just a little bit harder, put in a just a little bit more effort, complain a little bit less – basically just suck it up and get on with the job of being a mum to prove everyone wrong.
I was my own toughest critic and at times I could beat myself up better than anyone else about how I was failing as a mother.
The truth is, I wasn’t failing as a mother, and I never did. One of my son’s girlfriends once told me how terrified she was that she wouldn’t be a good mum. I told her the very fact that she was worried that she wouldn’t be meant that she would be fine.
As a mother, you do the best you can with what you have.
I believe that no-one can say what is right or wrong about motherhood. Breast fed baby or bottle fed baby, working mum versus stay-at-home-mum. How we raise our children is our choice and that is what contributes to a world full of people with different personalities, who have a multitude of experiences and knowledge to add to the great big melting pot of people.
Yes I’m feeling slightly nostalgic as we celebrate my oldest baby’s birthday today. I consider many of my friends who now have young children and I wonder whether it would have been wiser (like them) to wait until we were better off financially and more established in our careers and life experience.
When our friends were marching up the career ladder, partying hard and taking overseas holidays; hubby and I were having sleepless nights and staying at home making our own fun and eating home cooked meals.
Then I consider the fact that my children didn’t want for the important things, they had food in their bellies, a roof over their heads and a wealth of love and good times. Yes we struggled financially and stress kept me awake on many long nights. My kids might not have had expensive toys and name brand clothes, but they grew up loving the outdoors and learning to make their own fun.
The best things in life definitely were free – money can’t buy things like imagination, sunshine, nature and water.
Now at the age of 42, I’m ready to start living my life. In the last few years I’ve had to sprint up the career ladder to catch up with others my age and that’s had its own set of challenges as well. The good thing is, my youngest baby is now 16 and I’m still youthful enough to enjoy my life and all the challenges which lie ahead.
Besides when I get nostalgic for babies, I now have my grandchildren to love and adore and the energy to still enjoy them – not to mention the added benefit of being able to hand them back.
The reality is, if I had my time to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
What about you, are there things even now, which you know you would do differently?
This is an original World Moms Blog post by Inspiration to Dream of Adelaide, South Australia. Fiona is the writer of Inspiration to Dream and can be found writing or reading in every spare moment that isn’t filled up with work and her three boys, and of course with a bit of spare time thrown in for hubby as well.
Fiona at Inspiration to Dream is a married mother of three amazing and talented MM’s (mere males, as she lovingly calls them) aged 13, 16 and 22, and she became a nana in 2011!
She believes she’s more daunted by becoming a nana than she was about becoming a mother! This Aussie mother figures she will also be a relatively young nana and she’s not sure that she’s really ready for it yet, but then she asks, are we ever really ready for it? Motherhood or Nanahood. (Not really sure that’s a word, but she says it works for her.)
Fiona likes to think of herself as honest and forthright and is generally not afraid to speak her mind, which she says sometimes gets her into trouble, but hey, it makes life interesting. She’s hoping to share with you her trials of being a working mother to three adventurous boys, the wife of a Mr Fix-it who is definitely a man’s man and not one of the ‘sensitive new age guy’ generation, as well as, providing her thoughts and views on making her way in the world.
Since discovering that she’s the first blogger joining the team from Australia, she also plans to provide a little insight into the ‘Aussie’ life, as well. Additionally, Fiona can be found on her personal blog at Inspiration to Dream.
In the Jewish religion, Saturdays are the Sabbath. Saturday is the “7th day”, the day of rest, to relax and spend quality time with family and friends. Not working or stressing – you can do that the other 6 days of the week. 🙂
I am not very religious, but I do believe that it is important to have quality time together, time to enjoy being together as a family. I enjoy taking the kids to the children’s services at the synagogue and spending time within the community there. But on Saturday a few weeks ago I managed to overbook us, and I really wanted to do all of it! (more…)
Maman Aya is a full-time working mother of 2 beautiful children, a son who is 6 and a daughter who is two. She is raising her children in the high-pressure city of New York within a bilingual and multi-religious home.
Aya was born in Canada to a French mother who then swiftly whisked her away to NYC, where she grew up and spent most of her life. She was raised following Jewish traditions and married an Irish Catholic American who doesn’t speak any other language (which did not go over too well with her mother), but who is learning French through his children. Aya enjoys her job but feels “mommy guilt” while at work. She is lucky to have the flexibility to work from home on Thursdays and recently decided to change her schedule to have “mommy Fridays”, but still feels torn about her time away from her babies. Maman Aya is not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, but has been drawn in by the mothers who write for World Moms Blog. She looks forward to joining the team and trying her hand at writing!
As I type these words, my almost four-year-old is entertaining himself playing with one of his many toy airplanes. In his mind, our bedroom is an airport and the sky is the limit. In the room next door my baby sleeps. I call him my baby but in fact he just turned two years old last week and baby is the last word I should use to describe him. My second child is now a full-fletched toddler and his chubby cheeks and legs keep slimming and he keeps transforming into a little boy. I don’t have a baby anymore.
We always said we wanted three kids, even when we were dating and testing the waters talking about our potential future families. When Evan, our oldest, turned one, we knew right away we wanted another baby soon so we got pregnant soon after. When Josh turned one, we knew we weren’t ready and now that he has just turned two we know it’s time to think about this again, but we just don’t feel ready.
We still want three kids, but it never seems to be the right time. If I could just fast-forward the 9 months of pregnancy and have a little one right here right now, I would do it. But just the thought of going through a pregnancy with two little guys to chase makes me hesitant. (more…)
Ana Gaby is a Mexican by birth and soul, American by heart and passport and Indonesian by Residence Permit. After living, studying and working overseas, she met the love of her life and endeavored in the adventure of a lifetime: country-hopping every three years for her husband’s job. When she's not chasing her two little boys around she volunteers at several associations doing charity work in Indonesia and documents their adventures and misadventures in South East Asia at Stumble Abroad.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer.
My bookshelves were bursting with myths and legends, tales of epic journeys and magical enchantments and warriors and warlocks and princesses; talking animals and terrifying villains. I read many of them over and over and would always think, when I closed the covers, how wonderful the author must have felt to have created such a thing.
I started writing my own stories, on sheets of rough paper, taped or stapled together. I would write the title first, then the author – me – beneath, then carefully index the chapters, number the pages and sometimes, if feeling really enthusiastic about the content, provide rave reviews for the back. I showed my parents, my friends, my teachers. People nodded and smiled.
I grew up, and kept writing. I studied English and French literature, and kept writing. I studied journalism, and kept writing. I got a proper job, and kept writing. Then I had a daughter, and stopped for a while. When I came back to it, I wrote furiously for several months, then realised the embarrassingly semi-autobiographical nature of the novel I had crafted, and put it aside. I got married, and got divorced, and had another child, and got married again.
There wasn’t very much time for writing, let alone for cudgeling my exhausted brain into thinking of something interesting to say.
Then my elder daughter Grace was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It had taken us years to find out what it was that was ‘off’ – what the teachers saw, and wondered about, and what her peers saw, and walked away from, and what I saw, and thought was just my eccentrically lovable child. Finding out that my daughter had autism was like discovering she had been living behind glass for 8 years and that I had been oblivious to the sound of her banging her fists on it.
We were sent off with a label, and little support. Grace started to be bullied at school as she grew older and her differences became more apparent and other children were drawn to her weirdness and capacity for combustion when they pressed her buttons. They found all her buttons.
Grace spent a lot of time crying. I spent a lot of time crying. We both felt very alone.
Then one day on the way to work, I pulled out my notebook and emptied the thoughts in my head onto the pale blue lines. I scribbled and scribbled, oblivious to the other commuters, thinking that if I wrote everything down then I might be able to make sense of it. I came home and said to Grace: “Shall we write about what’s happening to us?” And Grace said: “Yes. Please tell them what it’s like.”
So I wrote. I wrote a blog and called it Grace Under Pressure. I wrote about how it feels to be the parent of a child with autism. I wrote about the things I was learning and about how much I realised I still had to learn. I wrote about Grace’s marathon attempts to fit in and understand her own limitations and learn to cope with the limitations of classmates who had no sympathy or understanding. I wrote about running a marathon myself in order to raise awareness among those who had no sympathy or understanding of autism.
People started reading the blog. Then more people read it, and more. Eventually, someone said: “You know, you should really think about making this into a book.” A publisher called Little, Brown agreed.
My book is not the book I ever thought I would write. But it is the kind of book that I used to read. It is the tale of an epic journey, and a magical enchantment, and a courageous princess. I am very proud of the princess, and I am grateful to her every day for letting me tell her story and for taking me with her on the adventure that changed our lives.
Grace Under Pressure: A Girl with Asperger’s and her Marathon Mom, by Sophie Walker, is published in the United States by New World Library, and in the UK by Little, Brown (Piatkus).
**Enter to win a free copy of Grace Under Pressure! Comment on this post for a chance to win — we will be choosing a winner on Friday, December 13th! **
This is an original post by our writer in the UK, Sophie Walker.
Writer, mother, runner: Sophie works for an international news agency and has written about economics, politics, trade, war, diplomacy and finance from datelines as diverse as Paris, Washington, Hong Kong, Kabul, Baghdad and Islamabad. She now lives in London with her husband, two daughters and two step-sons.
Sophie's elder daughter Grace was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome several years ago. Grace is a bright, artistic girl who nonetheless struggles to fit into a world she often finds hard to understand. Sophie and Grace have come across great kindness but more often been shocked by how little people know and understand about autism and by how difficult it is to get Grace the help she needs.
Sophie writes about Grace’s daily challenges, and those of the grueling training regimes she sets herself to run long-distance events in order to raise awareness and funds for Britain’s National Autistic Society so that Grace and children like her can blossom. Her book "Grace Under Pressure: Going The Distance as an Asperger's Mum" was published by Little, Brown (Piatkus) in 2012. Her blog is called Grace Under Pressure.
As we have done on World Moms Blog before (see 10 Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day), we’re sharing some ideas for simple yet meaningful ways for your family to celebrate the rights and responsibilities that we all share as human beings.
1. Make a World Wishes Dove with your family. Cut feathers from white paper or colored construction paper. Have everyone in the family decorate and write their wish for the world on a feather. Cut out the body of a dove or other bird and glue all the feathers on it. Once decorated, your bird will be a beautiful and hopeful expression of your family’s hopes for our world.
2. Play a game that helps kids understand human rights. Blind Trust (from ABC – Teaching Human Rights): In pairs, have one child blindfold the other and have the sighted member of the pair lead the “blind” one about for a few minutes. Make sure the leading child is not abusing the power to lead, since the idea is to nurture trust, not to destroy it. The “leader” of the pair should try to provide as wide a variety of experiences as possible, such as having the “blind” partner feel things with his or her feet or fingers, leading with vocal directions or even playing a game. After a few minutes have the children reverse the roles and repeat the process so that the “leader” is now the led, and the “blind” partner is now the sighted one.
Once the activity is over, allow the children to talk about what happened. Discuss how they felt – not just as “blind” partners but their feelings of responsibility as “leaders” too. This can lead not only to a greater awareness of what life is like for people with sight (or hearing) disabilities, but to a discussion of the importance of trust in the whole community. This can lead in turn to a discussion of world society, how it works and how it can fail to work too. (teaches about Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 28; Convention on the Rights of the Child articles 3, 23)
3. Learn about how children live in other countries. For example, you can learn what kinds of food children in East Africa grow and eat from the Lessons from Africa resource created by the British non-governmental organization Send A Cow (also check out their website www.cowforce.com). You can download the powerpoint about typical East African food. You can also print out some of the recipes for things like chapatis and pepper soup to make and try for yourself.
5. Play Human Rights Twister to teach about cooperation, respect and inclusion. Make a “Twister” game in which kids spell out key human rights words using their feet and hands. Draw a grid with 6 columns and 5 rows with marker on a large piece of cloth (like an old sheet) or plastic (like a plastic tablecloth). You can also use chalk to draw it on the ground. Write the following letters in the grid:
(blank) W X Y Z(blank)
Q R S T U V
K L M N O P
E F G H I J
(blank space)A B C D(blank)
Ask the children to name some rights and list them on a large piece of paper or whiteboard. Underline a key word in each right from this list of rights in one word:
Dignity Education Equality Food Freedom Home Love (from parents) Name
Nationality Opinion Participation (in decisions that affect us) Play Protection Religion
When you have listed at least 3 or 4 rights, have the children spell out the key word in the human right from the list by placing their hands and feet on the appropriate letters of the “Twister” game. When 1 child’s hands and feet are in place and the word is not yet completed, ask another child to join in to complete the word. If the hand or foot of another child already covers a letter, the player just has to touch the child that is on that letter. When a letter is too far to reach, invite another child to join in. (This activity and dozens of others to teach about human rights values and peaceful conflict resolution are available for free download in the Canadian organization Equitas‘ Play It Fair Toolkit. )
6. Make toys and play games that children play in other countries.
You can also make and play the Sudanese game “Dala” (the Cow Herder Game). In many parts of the world, games mimic everyday life; this game mimics the Sudanese practice of bull herding. Sudanese people play it on the ground, using sticks to make the lines and pebbles or seeds as “bulls”.
7. Ask the question “What Does a Child Need?”Have your child lie down on a large piece of paper and trace their outline on the paper.Ask your child(ren) to name this paper child. Discuss and decide on the mental, physical, spiritual and character qualities they want this ideal child to have as an adult (e.g. good health, sense of humour, kindness) and write these qualities inside the outline. They might also make symbols on or around the child to represent these ideal qualities (e.g. books to represent education). Talk about what human and material resources the child will need to achieve these qualities (e.g. if the child is to be healthy, it will need food and health care); write them down on the paper outside of the outline. You can also read a simplified version of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (available in English, French, Spanish, Russian, German, etc.) When children hear an article that guarantees a child each of the needs they have listed, they can write the number of the articles next to that item. Circle any needs identified but not covered by the Convention.
9. Get creative and enter your work in a contest with a human rights theme. Local, regional or international contests are powerful activities for getting youth involved and learning about human rights. Take action by entering some of the contests listed here on the Youth For Human Rights website. (You can also learn more on the website about their educational programs, projects, awareness campaigns and human rights outreach campaigns.)
10. Make a Human Rights Day card. You can give the card to a friend or member of your family. Or you can make multiple cards to decorate your house. My eight year old daughter (that’s her self-portrait in the background) made this card for all the children of the world.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: You’re on your way to a great Human Rights Day! If you are a classroom teacher or homeschooling your kids (or if you just want to dig deeper), you can find tons more ideas through the following resources:
Jennifer Prestholdt is a lawyer and the Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights, a volunteer-based human rights organization that works locally, nationally and internationally. Her work in human rights takes her around the world, but she spends most of her time in Minneapolis, MN, where she lives with her children (two sons and one daughter), her husband, an elderly cat and a dwarf hamster.
As Jennifer’s kids are now all in school (1st, 4th and 6th grades), she is finally finding more time to do the things that she used to love to do, especially running, writing and knitting. Jennifer loves to travel and has had the dubious distinction of having been accidentally locked in a bathroom on five continents so far. Australia and Antarctica await!
In January 2011, Jennifer made a New Year’s Resolution to start writing about her experiences in order to share with her children the lessons learned from 15 years of work in human rights. The result is her personal blog, The Human Rights Warrior. The name comes from her son Simon, who was extremely disappointed to learn that his mother is a lawyer, not a warrior.