In my first two years and seven months of motherhood, I had three children
I know what you are thinking… three kids, in just over two and a half years? Are there twins in the mix? Was that planned? No, there are no twins in the mix; and yes, they were all planned.
Out of 134 weeks, I was pregnant for 118 weeks.
I was four years into running my successful speech pathology company, working long hours, for six days a week. I’d worked closely, supporting thousands of mothers who had children with additional needs.
All too often I witnessed mothers were feeling like they were failing, or ‘not good enough’. My life pre-kids was somewhat structured, routine, and fairly predictable. I understood how I ‘fit’ in the world.
Then my first child was born. This opened up a whole new world of excitement, joy, and new levels of deep love. It also opened up a new world of overwhelm, anxiety, and exhaustion – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I had embarked on the steepest personal learning curve of my life, and it called for some deep soul searching.
This process of soul searching challenged so many beliefs I held about myself, others, and the world. It gave me the opportunity to break through limitations, reconnect with myself, experience great liberation, and a more deeply joyful way of experiencing life.
So when I cast the mirror back to being a first-time mum, these are the three things I wish I knew.
1. Motherhood is not about perfecting life. It is about perfecting love.*
Somehow the moment when you become a mother, there’s a gross misconception that you now automatically know everything there is to know about raising a child. And that you also miraculously develop superhuman powers that make you confident, positive, loving, patient and full of unending blissful glee.
At that moment, the quiet quest for being a close to perfect mother, may begin.
My four-year-old daughter came to me one day and asked, “Mum, why do kids have mums?”
I was a little surprised at that question. Hadn’t she noticed how much is done each day as part of the mothering role?!
“Well, kids have mums for lots of reasons: we help keep you safe, we teach you things, we help you to be able to do different things, we do our best to help you grow with healthy foods…” I trailed off and asked her the question in return.
“Why do you think kids have mums?”
She looked up at me with open simplicity, her round moon face reflecting the light while her innocent wide eyes seemed so sure.
She gently responded, “To love them”.
I paused. Not just any pause. A heart-struck pause. The kind that you feel throughout your core; that tells you to listen up and pay attention as wisdom beyond words had just been shared.
My lesson that day has carried forward – get your mind out of all the ‘stuff’ that needs doing, and simply come back to human connection. Kids have mums to love them. Full stop.
IMPORTANT! It is one thing to perfect the love we share with our child. But it’s also important to reflect on and commit to how we perfect love with OURSELVES.
2. I control my brain’s ‘compare and contrast’ button.
There is one sure way to feel down about yourself, and that is to compare yourself with someone or something else and create a false belief that you are somewhat ‘less’ or ‘not enough’.
As a first time mum, self-doubt can often creep in, and we can so easily press this ‘button’ in our brains and not even realise it!
So I practised being aware of it – and breaking the circuitry – by catching any comparison thoughts or feelings and owning them as my own stuff.
I would then send a celebratory thought to that person and/or thing that I compared myself to.
This has been an empowering life changer as it has allowed me to build myself up, and also build up others in the process.
Entering the world of motherhood is a new context, so be patient in getting to know yourself and practise celebrating the uniqueness of your motherhood journey and that of fellow mums.
3. Bin the mum guilt – especially when it comes to self-care.
The big G factor. Guilt.
It seems to consume our lives once we become mothers, as often there is the mindset or societal pressure that we now must be ‘completely self-sacrificing’ and/or ‘all about the children’.
However, if we are genuinely wanting to give our best to our children, it won’t come from giving them material objects, but rather giving them the best of us – not the rest of us.
So, motherhood called me to commit to including myself in my own circle of nurture.
I used to think self-care was all about massages, manicures, and meditation. That is just part of it. Self-care does not need to cost money, nor does it require a lot of time; and it does not have to be placed in the ‘too hard basket’.
So what is self-care? It is reconnecting to your authentic self – to YOU; underneath all the labels that others, and society may place on you.
It is deciding to create space to tune into you, and listen.
Honour yourself, acknowledge all you are, and know you matter too. You are valued, and worthy of your own self-love.
Remember that reaching out to ask for help – whether it be a family member, friend or a trusted third person – is a courageous act of self-care too.
Let go of the conditioned ‘mum guilt’. You want for your child to be happy and healthy… and guess what? Your child wants YOU to be happy and healthy. It is more than okay for you to want this for you too!
Taking measures to care for yourself is taking measures to care for those who share in your world.
Based in Sydney Australia, Sonia Bestulic is the bestselling author of Flourish for Mums: 21 Ways to Thrive with Self-Care and Acceptance. She is the founder of Talking Heads Speech Pathology, host of the podcast Chatabout Children with Sonia Bestulic, highly regarded speaker, and mum of three children (all born in about two and a half years!) Sonia is an extraordinary blend of creativity, intellect, empathy, and passionate, determined drive to empower positive change. She runs deeply inspirational and transformational self-care programs and workshops for mums; and is an advocate for honouring mothers’ wellbeing, celebrating children, and living a life powered by love.
*Excerpt from Sonia Bestulic’s bestselling book, Flourish for Mums: 21 Ways to Thrive with Self-Care and Acceptance.
(Featured in Mamamia! Found via https://www.mamamia.com.au/3-kids-in-3-years/)