What is strength?
Do you feel strong? DO you? Are you a tough mother? On the hard days? Where does your strength come from? I often wondered if I was strong. I was made to feel very weak at times in my younger days. As a mom of a newborn, I usually felt some confidence due to my many years in the daycare field. As I have mentioned before, seeing other mom's "mistakes" and having a sage guide in a very smart older mom and co-worker, I learned quickly how I wanted to parent and what resonated with me. That confidence was very surface though and only lasted through my so called expertise with newborns. As any mom knows that is a very short lived stage.
One particular time, with my first-born, when she was a toddler, I was able to identify that I had suddenly run out of experience, like you identify a Mac truck after it hits you. I was attending a Bible study group in a childless home. The hosts were newly married and all the lovely things they had gotten as gifts were on display, all of them breakable and all on end tables which, oddly enough are exactly toddler height! Also, they were pretty and shiny and my girl could not help but be attracted to them. Well, I was not able to study much of anything that night except how to outwit my daughter. I also saw how lacking I was in the ways of an energized toddler. My own strength had given out.
Strong is "showing up."
But, did you know that a strong mom keeps showing up? That should be one of the definitions of the word. An actual definition of the word is "having the power to perform physically demanding tasks" And "able to withstand great force or pressure." Ah! There is where all moms lie (HA! Moms hardly get to lie anywhere for long). Every mom I know is withstanding great pressure. It comes at us from every side, inside and out . We are pressed, but not crushed. I find my strength often in Scripture. I also find it in reaching out to those who are in my circle who can lift me up and remind me, this is hard and listen to my struggles and keep on encouraging me to "show up." They help me to get back in there and be a mom to my kids. Strong is often remembering that your style might not be the same as another mom you are comparing yourself to. It is a super power, in my humble opinion, to go the way you know your kids respond best and not the current parenting direction.
Strong is smart.
So in that way, strong is also smart. Being a detective, It means studying your children and course correcting your tactics to fit the child. I had one young child who would sit up and pay attention when I got stern, a different daughter took that as a challenge to press harder. I had to learn this and make different decisions based on my new knowledge. That is strong, that is brave! It is counter-cultural because there are moms who only do what current research says is the right way. They spent pregnancy and each hour of nap time honing a one-size-fits-all parenting method. It may have even worked for her first child but when the rule breaker comes, she is left fighting tooth and nail for the title of mom who won out (child who had to conform) or she was left feeling failure (which no mom who loves her child ever is). The former might have a false sense of strength while the latter feels defeated. The truth is the mom who "shows up" is the strong one. Playing detective is hard! Being a mom who makes mistakes and then apologizes and tries again....really freakin' strong!
What makes you feel strong?
Again, I ask, do you feel strong? Have you been down to the dregs and are still standing? That is crazy strong. Do you know who to message, what to read, what self-care to practice when you are feeling weak and worn and oh! so weary? That is a super power. Take some time today to help identify what makes you feel strong. Do that thing even when you are not down. Take that time. If there is a nap during the children's day, do it then. Dishes can wait, email can too. If they are too old to nap, make that bedroom a safe place where they can be and tell them it is one hour of quiet time. My Grammy who was my caregiver while my parents worked had this rule all through the years she took care of us. I suspect it was for her sanity but I know it has helped me as an introvert find my rest. Sometimes she had to vehemently enforce it, but we got the message, loud and clear, no negotiation on "nap time."
Strong is not putting on the mask of "I've got it all together" and telling yourself, once more into the breech. It is often in the backing off and seeing the places you need help. Super strength is asking for help in those places. It is vulnerable and awkward but if you can do it you are helping others to feel empowered to do it too. Like I learned from Grammy, I share with my children as I take a quiet break myself. Be different. I am counting on you to share your gifts with those around you. I am counting on you to be authentic. I am counting on you to be strong in these ways.
Paula is a wife and mother of 3. Follow along on her journeys of motherhood and her fulfilling work as a postpartum doula