When most women begin to mother, they tackle this new challenge like a new career; they see themselves as the CEO of a new company that demands all of their attention, time and energy. I too initially saw I saw myself as the most important person in my new company called my family. I felt that I was the heart and soul of this family with everyone circling around me. I controlled the housework, cooking, laundry but most of all the children. I fed, washed, loved, taught and gently disciplined every child personally.
As I nursed, I tried to give the older children my mental and emotional attention by listening, talking, reading books to them, helping with homework and even playing with play dough with one hand. In fact, one afternoon I gave my attention to five people at once!!! I was laying down back to back while my husband read and I nursed a newborn. Claire was 18 months and she laid up at my head and played with my hair as she slowly drifted off for a nap. I was talking with my oldest daughter and simultaneously knitting as I fixed another daughter's mistakes. I could multi-task with the best of any CEO.
Slowly though, after the birth of my third child, I learned to let go of my pride and true community started to evolve. It was lovely to watch a toddler giggling as he picked up each toy tossed from the high chair by his baby brother. Or to encourage a relaxed nine-year old to entertain a two and three-year old who played in the tub for an hour to keep them clean and out of trouble before bedtime. Every seven-year old proudly read the same book over and over to a three-year old, freeing me to run the house.
I can honestly say that no one resented all the time each newborn demanded because we were all part of caring for the baby. Little ones were proud to run for diapers, clothes or blankets and older kids would choose rocking or pushing a colicky baby in the buggy over washing dishes any day.
When the kids were little, I literally had to watch the clock to make sure everyone would get a chance to hold either our baby. I think the children bonded to each other because even a toddler was given the privilege of holding their newborn sibling. With excitement twinkling in their eyes, barely containing their joy long enough to sit still while I propped up one of their little arms with a pillow so the baby was safe. Toddlers would look extremely proud and pleased as they too held the baby.
I discovered something that most people are never taught. A family can love, play and work, sharing in the leisure time but also in all the chores that are part of family living. Mothers do not have to feel drained or burn out if they let go of perfectionism and their pride to let everyone chip in.
Kids learn by doing.
So relax, ignore the mess and let real family begin.