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  • Writer's pictureAnat Ishai

What bothers me most about what I've lost this year, is my joy of motherhood

It seems absurd when you think about it. I spent five years in post secondary education, working my way to higher education so I could attain a better chance at an entry level role. When I started my first corporate job there was an employee manual, onboarding manuals, a mentor assigned to you and tutorials for everything. Conversely, when we were pregnant with our first child I researched about pregnancy and what was happening to my body every week. But nothing prepared me for our baby arrived to planet earth. It's laughable actually when you think about it. You have a baby and they actually allow you to take it home. No manuals, no training, no onboarding, just here you go!

In those early years, of my first two children I mothered mostly out of instinct. But outside noise did interfere, whether it was good intentioned family members offering unsolicited advice, or the doctor placing my children's development on a spectrum curve. I knew children, I trusted my gut. However, from time to time I felt the worry and panic and just shoved it away hoping it didn't come to the surface again.

By the time we had four children I knew what to expect in the earlier years, it didn't make it easier though. We have pairs at home, two older boys and two younger girls. We also have pairs in personalities which is always interesting to watch unfold. I knew what kind of mom I wanted to be. I wanted to stay home for the first year (one of perks of being Canadian is one year maternity leave). Then my kids would be off to daycare where they would interact with children their age, pickup viruses and colds and build their immune system, I would stay home with them when they were sick and hug them goodbye once again at the daycare or school drop off.

I liked the rhythm of spending a few minutes in the morning preparing breakfast for them and hearing what they were or were not looking forward to that day. I enjoyed seeing them come home from school famished and jumping into the kitchen chairs to eat a hot cooked meal. I liked our few precious hours during the week when I got a chance to speak to my sons one on one as I dropped them off for basketball or soccer. And, while I never really enjoyed bedtime routine, I did find myself cuddling up with my girls and their stuffies singing a lullabies and stroking their backs to sleep. These moments, these days, they feel so long ago. I'm no longer that mother.

This year changed me. How could it not? The world changed and I was forced to comply with the turns, the pivots and all the pirouettes. What bothers me most about what I've lost this year, is my joy of motherhood. I anticipated spending those precious few minutes here and there, those treasured family time on weekends. But with this overwhelming amount of "family time" I find it harder to connect to them. It has become sensory overload, I see too much of what's going on with them. I'll venture to say that I'm not alone in expressing that my children didn't see in me the best of what motherhood should be in this past year. I do think about how they see me, especially my girls. I find myself praying for "strength, patience and calmness" in those hard moments when I just want to explode. And I do explode, and I beat myself up for losing it, and I find myself on my knees again praying for "my children's forgiveness, for my own forgiveness". Us mother's hear the slogan all the time, "fill your cup first", "be kind to yourself". I'm trying, it's a mental game that I win and lose.

I remember a promise I made to myself the first time I became a mother, it has guided me in every decision I've made since. I promised myself I wouldn't fail at motherhood. To me that meant the following:

  1. That my children felt proud to call me their mother

  2. That my children felt seen AND heard

  3. That my children knew I recognized them to be unique from the other

  4. That my children knew I tried my hardest and my weakest moments were mine to own

  5. That my children knew I tried to create a hopeful world

  6. That my children knew I would fight until I was bloody and weak to protect them from harm, outside critics and even their own negative inner voice

  7. That my children knew I would love them for eternity

  8. And ultimately that I tried my best even in the most challenging times.

This is a challenging time, it's not over yet. With another lockdown looming in our area I can't help but hold my breath once again. Even those of us who carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, feel it's heaviness. We may make it look effortless but it's not. We are all struggling. What we need is to be seen and heard! What we need confidence in is that our children are still proud to call us their moms. I suppose we need to remember that we had enough confidence to walk out that hospital door with them intact. We need to channel that inner strength once more and how ever often is needed, because we owe it to them not to fail at motherhood.

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