Thriving in the Seasons of Motherhood
Surviving motherhood is hard. Thriving in motherhood is harder! Our children change, we change, the world around us changes all the time and it can be hard to keep up. Conversely, it can feel like a particular stage of development is lasting FOOOORREVVVEEERRRRR and we are waiting with baited breath for the next transition. When we recognize that motherhood has seasons, we can often relax the tightness that befalls our shoulders and let go of the stressful desire to control what we can’t. With my first child, I thought that each age and stage would never end, or the ones I enjoyed most would only last for a short time. I wasn’t yet aware that motherhood is a seasonal event. Granted, the fact that you are a mother stays true through your whole life, the particular time you are experiencing with motherhood will shift, almost cyclically, much like the cycle of the moon or annual trading of fall for winter, winter for spring, spring for summer, and summer for fall. We don’t have much control of the season we are in. Honestly, that is more determined by our children and their stage of life, as well as how much you are willing to accept and be present with the season you are in.
The season in which you are in is to be named by YOU. Right now, I have dubbed the season of motherhood I am in as the season of “enduring.” I am building endurance in my capacity to stay patient, strength to keep coming back to my values on raising my children, and developing a sense of calm within the chaos of everyday life with two young children with drastically different needs and personalities. As soon as I think to myself, “this should be easier” or the all-too-often, “I am a bad mom,” I am immediately at odds with my current season. I feel the tension rise, I want to scream, and I lose firmness of the belief that I am capable of doing hard things. I try to remind myself, with the help of my friends, husband, and band of strong women mentors, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I cannot change the season, just like I can’t change the weather. The only thing that matters is how I show up in it.
Now, that is great for my free-spirited dance naked in a field under a full moon part of me. BUT, I have another part of myself that REALLY likes structure, predictability, and at least some sense of control. Which is why I have come to the conclusion that all seasons have three stages that need to be completed in order to move on to the next one.
Each season has three sections. The first, is called “form.” The second, is called “storm.” The third, is called “norm.” It’s great because they rhyme and it is easy to recall when you are wondering why you feel like you are drowning one day and sailing the next.
“Form” is just like it sounds; you are forming yourself into the next season. This can feel like a welcome relief or a penetrating fear. Alternatively, you may not notice it is happening because the shift is slow or your child happened to wake up with the consistent personality they went to bed with. You may shape shift with tension or a feeling of dread, anxiety about what is to come (if you know), or a content smile that translates to a more peaceful state of being. Essentially, you are getting ready here. Nothing has really changed, just preparing for the next season.
“Storm” is also like it sounds. This is the adjustment period. The time you are trying to figure it out. You may feel like you are flailing or failing, as well as frustrated. This could also be a time where you feel only small hiccups. It could be a time where you are saturated in growth for yourself. It can also be a time where your own childhood or trauma shows up unexpectedly and you are presented with the opportunity to learn, love, and let go.
“Norm” is different for everyone. This is when you strike the unique balance of knowing you have it figured out, whatever “it” is, and still curious about the future and what you will learn. Maybe you solved the issue with toddler hitting, figured out how to get your baby to sleep longer stretches, or how to connect with your child through shared interest. You have a sense of trust in yourself and in your child and it feels like there is a shared wavelength. This stage is lovely….and sometimes it only lasts a blissful few minutes and you are back to “form.” If you are in a blessed time of prolonged “norm,” this is the stage of the season to cherish; like the last warm evening of the summer or the long silence after a snowfall.
When we are trying to hold onto a season, we often miss the invitation to intentionally transition to the next. If we don’t want summer to end and we are pretending that fall is just not coming, or that the bite of winter cold is something to fear, we automatically start to resist the change that will happen whether we like it or not. The more we try to control it, the more emotional turmoil we experience. Creating a welcoming space for ourselves to flow into the next season of motherhood sets us up for success to go through the three stages of each season eas(ier). Acceptance does not prevent all struggle, but it will prevent suffering.