As we travel our journeys from childhood to youth to young adult, we begin to blossom and sprout and grow. Abundance and good fortune and flowering blooms are all we know. Our bodies and minds are full of endeavour and striving and energy, and many of us have yet to suffer from catastrophe or disquiet, or even a build-up of old hurts and arthritic pains. We live the summer and spring of our life. And some time during this blooming, if we are fortunate, we are blessed with the birth of our first child. And life slows down…
For many of us, this time is a harvesting of the good seeds we have planted. This first bud holds the promise of building a twosome into a family unit, a new kind of loyal and joyful love. There may be a house that beckons us to put our imprint on it, transforming an inanimate object into a warm and loving space. There may be a garden bed or two, reminding us to pick the fruits of the season, to eat what is plentiful and store some for later. There may be opportunities for extended family bonds to grow through peaceful gatherings in the ‘babymoon’ period.
Yet, when all this abundance has been gathered, and sorted and stored, and daily life has returned to some sort of normal rhythm, a mother may find herself a little lost in the void of that lull time between summer abundance, and the lay season of winter. It is often the first time where a mother has an opportunity to sit back and observe and reflect on a life past, and the new life that is to come.
Motherhood brings change, and some of us may find that we are not too comfortable with this change. We begin to sense and grieve for freedom lost, or realise that alongside the gift, we have involuntarily given up or lost something of our inner essence. We may be awestruck by this awesome new responsibility to one outside our self, or feel a measure of jealousy that we must now share something that once did not need to be shared. This new mother-child connection can also seem, at times, to disconnect us from our beloved partners or friends, an unexpected and unnerving consequence to new parenthood. Many of us become aware of a gnawing feeling inside that is at odds with the joys of being a new mother. This change and feeling of loss might be felt even more strongly if one has left a fulfilling job or vocation. The metamorphosis from working, earning individual to ‘stay at home’ parent does not come easily for many, and like the caterpillar that must struggle to break free of her cocoon before a magical transformation, we too push against our bonds and chains.
It helps to remember that the motherhood season is like the first autumn of our life. Traditionally, many writers and poets describe the autumn season as the time past midlife when the fruits of a life well lived come into play. But seasons turn more regularly than once a lifetime. Hence, the first autumn time we may experience is more about the idea of letting go for something greater to come. It is about being willing to ‘put oneself aside’ for a time, to give up something of our old way of being whilst we wait for our own metamorphosis to occur. It is accepting our new rugged beauty, the lines and stretchmarks and those hard-to- shift roly-poly pockets on our tummies. We watch as happily as we can our bright colours (our personalities and egos) fade into the glorious subdued hues of liquid amber whilst our young children take centre stage for their turn at summer and spring. We must find a new courage and strength to be like autumn leaves, letting go of the ‘tree’ we have loved and worshipped in order to give up something of our original form to the new earth- the very soil from which our children will find their gifts and talents and grow into the very people they are meant to be. We smile because the children find every little thing a curiosity and a miracle. This charms us deeply and we revel in their joy.
But that is not meant to imply that this time is easy for mothers. It is one of life’s greatest challenges for all mothers, and fathers, to find a healthy balance. To give up just enough of the ‘old you’ (yet not everything), as you nourish and feed the growth of your offspring whilst navigating a new, as yet un-travelled road into early motherhood and beyond. We might also see that this time is full of possibility. We can ignore or embrace the fear or stretch beyond our comfort zone. If we can find a way through, to a place where our inner needs are met with different things than a pay packet, or name badge, or prestige of a title, or being known for something other than tasty lunchboxes, this autumn time will pass all too quickly and we’ll be back in the land of spring sunshine and blue skies and long summery days at the beach before we know it. Happily, and with our children and partners in tow.
I believe the key to not just enduring, but really blossoming during this time of early childhood motherhood, is to embrace the simple things in life. To build new friendships with other creative kin who have similar-aged children, to rekindle the bonds with your parents and siblings and rapture over their connection to your little ones, and to become an ‘Artist of Daily Living.’ To make a weekly habit of placing a pot of freshly-plucked flowers on the dining table, to conjure up an ability to carefully tend to a row of useful herbs on the windowsill, to take pride in a basket full of sun-dried, neatly folded towels, or share loving hours cooking and stirring and baking alongside your young ones. It is a time to cultivate our deepest artistic desires, stoke old flames and light new ones. Take an evening off each week for a chick flick video night and be inspired to write your own ‘Bridesmaids’ script, or swirl a skirt and tap toes at a flamenco class, or a wander through a bookshop in peace during late night shopping. Why not purchase a second hand guitar, borrow a ‘Learn to speak French’ course from the library, undertake a woodworking project, or actively make friends with older women? Sometimes, all we need is a nudge from wise souls to not begrudge our losses but embrace the simple joy that is parenting in the first five years. The first autumn time WILL end, a cool winter breeze will pass and you’ll soon unfold your somewhat crinkly but brightly colored, exuberant wings under an early spring sun, ready for new experiences. Best wishes for your maiden flight!
Writer and Educator Amber Greene (B. Ed, ADCC) is mama to Henrietta (16) and Ned (2). Her work provides a flash of insight and bright ideas for a variety of topics including parenting young children, eco-friendly living and artistry in everyday life. She writes daily on her blog MamaMoontime. You can contact Amber via email.