Even now. Words on joyful mothering.
For many months now, I have been asking God to help me be a more joyful mother— not just a good mother, a present mother, a loving mother, but a joyful mother.
In this entry, I warm up by chit chatting about these newborn days. Then I get into the message, that I hope frees you like it frees me.
I suppose I have a definitive writing style— casual and funny to begin and then WOOP, off the deep end. Almost like a platform dive. I find it so inviting as a writer, the idea of just writing about ‘right now’ or ‘today’, because then, the real marrow of what we want to say will come out on its own.
It’s Thursday arvo. My big kids are with nanna and Erik and I have just had our best attempt at a ‘date’ by watching ‘The Crown’ on Netflix while hanging with our 7 week old, Figgy. I’ve just baked a loaf of paleo bread for my fam because if I’m going to park my rear end and watch The Crown, I want to feel I’ve earned it. As if I haven’t.
This bread is their favourite one right now, besides maybe the fancy local bakery loaves. I get teased round these parts for my ‘too healthy’ baked goods. Sometimes I go overboard on trying to make it nutritious that it comes out dry and joy-less. Not for me though. The gnarlier the better for me. I whipped up some buckwheat muffins the other day with one hand as I held Figgy, because my niece and nephew were over and hungry and hooking into my ‘don’t touch that’ pantry foods. If you know me, you know I am very vigilant with my pantry inventory. I don’t like running out. Call it survival mode from growing up poor if you need to call it something.
I whipped up some muffins. One handed. Served them warm to my family. My mum was quick to tell me that they needed some ‘fruit or something’. I told her I didn’t need a trip advisor review. She laughed. I was a tad butt hurt. They were dry, but, one handed! Hilariously, Sol, being so used to my unique creations thought they were delicious. Erik said so too. A lot of the time, I nail it. Sometimes I go overboard with maple syrup, especially if the kids pour. Sometimes I make some kinda paleo cardboard and make the kids eat it anyway, lathered in butter or honey. You live and you learn.
Anyway. Bread. I’m not into sourdough baking, at least not yet. My first try was with organic spelt flour. My experienced friends told me I shot too high on my first go using spelt. I didn’t enjoy the process at all. It gave me the sh**s and so I bought a bread maker. This was in the winter of last year and a week after buying it, I got the flu. I’ve only just pulled it out of the pantry now. I’m not sure how much I’ll use it. I way prefer an oven baked loaf in a loaf tin. Gosh I love a good loaf tin. I’ve got a beautiful Le Creuset that makes me want to bake everyday, and mostly, I do.
I’ve got so many of those annoyingly home-steady bread baking friends who always happen to have just whipped up a loaf. So, I started to feel naughty/lazy buying it. The fancy healthy breads cost half a kidney these days, and I’m not so ‘hakuna matata’ that I’ll buy glyphosate or seed oil laced loaves.
My efficiency around the house has been bumped up a notch. It had to. It’s amazing what I can do in 30 mins when someone else is holding Figgy. She’s in her ‘I want to be held and only held’ era. Quite natural of a 7 week old really. She’s really in her ‘I want only mum 90% of the day’ era which is… so beautiful. In moments I forget how beautiful it is because I want to do.all.the.things and she doesn’t love the carrier yet. All she wants to do is gaze and smile at me, and it’s the best. I know this, and I still want to do.all.the.things.
Today I put her in the bouncer while I did a quick pilates workout and she was totally fine, so long as she could see my eyes. I had to do some hilarious modified moves to keep my eyes visible to her. Sometimes I feel I need to constantly entertain or feed my baby (and big kids!), and she reminds me that they just want to be with us. Big kids too. They don’t want a song and dance, they just want us there. Right there. All there.
I’ll never skip over the feeling, where someone else may be holding my baby, she gets upset and then she feels herself on me she calms down. That recognition of ‘mm, this is my mamma,’ Moments like those are one of God’s many gifts to us.
In between endless laundry, trying to give my big two kids meaningful attention (and trying not to mentally smash myself when I don’t), and picking up our seemingly never ending collection of stuffed animals around the house.... I’m feeling very creative and have been chewing my husband’s ear off about new ideas, plans etc. I’ve realized how paralyzed I’ve felt in recent years— overthinking everything. I care so much about design, branding and overall perfection that sometimes creating a banger brand is as far as I get (and very expensive). I overthink it to the point of paralysis, not to perfection.
I’m winding it all back and starting again, which excited me. I’m soon to start recording podcast episodes and take this publication to the airwaves for a season. So, I’m excited about that.
One day of the kids out with nanna and I’ve applied for a trademark and bought three new domains. Oh and I baked bread, did 4 loads of laundry, fed a growing baby around the clock, laid with her for hours as she came in and out of nap, cleaned a giant blowout on our new couch, put together a new wooden mobile for Fig, made Erik and I lunch, texted my mum to check on my big kids that I miss while also loving the quiet house, did a 15 min quickie workout, started on my ‘list of friends to get back to’, ordered things for the kids and all the other things.
Such is the life of a mum who loves her home and also has creative fire that gives her energy. More on that another day.
But back to the newborn phase. I go between softening totally into the chaos and seemingly rhythm-less phase of these precious weeks, and wishing so much for more structured days and better sleep. Third time round, I was determined to be a little more structured with sleep schedules, but I also want to trust my instinctive nature and let my style be perfectly good enough. When I let go of how it should be done, even my sleepless nights are peaceful. When I’m up analyzing all the things I’m doing ‘wrong’-- feeding too often, cuddling too long, too many contact naps, not waking her fully for night feeds, not putting her down while drowsy, but feeding to sleep instead etc etc.... I feel stressed and inadequate. I forget all the things I do oh so right. I forget how loved and cared for my kids are, how well fed they are, and the naturalness of which I mother amongst all of my shortcomings.
What I notice though is that my mind exhausts me more than the lack of sleep does. When I lay awake at night, especially in that early morning stretch where it seems like an endless feed-burp cycle, it can go one of two ways. I can get into a spiral of stressful thoughts like ‘I should be sleeping! What am I doing so wrong?!’ or I can relax into it being simply what it is— a normal part of the newborn phase and the blessing of a lifetime to have another baby to care for. No, this perspective shift doesn’t diminish or bypass the reality of exhaustion, but it does something to my body and I am sure it lowers the amount of stress hormones racing through my blood. The nights where I let it get the better of me (which, is not unwarranted), I wake up exhausted. The nights where I sit back, breathe, trust myself and actually challenge the stressful and unproductive thoughts, I wake up feeling better.
The equation of less sleep + less mental self-bashing = feeling more restful in the morning.
To sum it up— it’s my thoughts that exhaust me, more so than lack of sleep. I’ve said it so often and I know it to be true.
I want to write it in bold because it’s just so big, and freeing to realise.
It’s not the thing so much as our thoughts about the thing and our desperation for it to be different.
Sometimes it’s our impossibly high standard- whether accidentally pinched from others or whether innately in us.
I wake up feeling refreshed even if I’ve slept like crap, if I’ve let my crap sleeping be totally ok.
This is ok.
I tell myself, this is ok.
This three word mantra dissolves the stronghold of the constant, exhausting, relentless ‘you’re doing it all wrong’. Because it’s ridiculous.
This is ok— the toys on the lounge room floor. They’ll get picked up.
This is ok— that we’re still finding our rhythm. We will.
This is ok— that my sleep is broken. God replenishes me anyway.
This is ok— that Fig doesn’t love (or even vaguely like) the pram or the car yet. She will.
This is ok— that I’m not giving my bigger two the same amount of time right now that I used to. Siblings are a part of life, and I can give them more in less time, if I do it right.
This is ok— that I feed to sleep a lot of the time. With all of my babies. I can break the association anytime I choose to, and I’m obviously not choosing to.
This is ok— because this is the season I’m in. God is with me in this chaos. There is no greater work than this. What is meant for me creatively won’t evade me. This phase will go by so fast and… it already is.
For many months now, I have been asking God to help me be a more joyful mother— not just a good mother, a present mother, a loving mother, but a more joyful mother.
I pray to God specifically to have The Holy Spirit direct my days, my words, my thoughts, and those patterns which make me want to reactively erupt when a smoothie gets spilt over the floor.
He does it in ways that no one else ever could.
He does it in ways that make me turn to Him multiple times a a day and say ‘Thank You God’.
And in the moments where I erupt, or I forget, or when I’m just the fallen fleshy human that I am, my prayer becomes ‘Help me do better next time.’
The Holy Spirit cuts through like a knife. He restores calm in times where it feels absolutely miraculous that it could be there. Now? I’m calm? Now? HOW?
God, is how.
I find myself filled with a rush of energy at 6pm to tell the kids a banger story— so banger Pax tells me ‘it’s the funniest one ever, tell it again’. It’s so banger that I can’t do it again because it was a one hit wonder.
I feel energy, calm and joy in moments where it makes no sense to feel it.
I should be falling asleep standing up, instead I’m baking with my kids.
I should be snapping, but instead I’m feeling slower to anger.
I should be ravenous for a long stretch of creative time AND I AM, LOL.
I should be frustrated that I’m going to bed at 7:30, but instead I’m remembering how short this phase is.
I should be…. But I’m not. Because, God.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
“I do not give to you as the world gives”.
It’s only available through Jesus. I learn this over and over again in the many moments of motherhood where I feel mentored and grown through no ‘work’ of my own but through the generous sanctification at the hands of God.
I am not the most patient. I am fiery by nature. I can get so in my head that I am melancholic as a baseline. I am diligent and vigilant and I care so much about being a good person, mother, wife, that sometimes I forget the joy that is right there, right here. But God is changing me, not to be confused with perfecting me.
I want to be an even more joyful mother. I want to be the one who reminds my family of the joy and peace that is the gift of Jesus. I want my home to be that for whoever walks in. I want to focus less on my own needs and be even more generous with everything, remembering and KNOWING from experience that God replenishes me, God sustains me, God gives me energy seemingly out of nowhere.
This doesn’t mean I ignore the limits of the human body, of course not. I move my body everyday, I eat very well, I am a wellness nerd to my bones— I respect the operating system of the human body.
Also, I don’t need to stress when doing God’s work, that I haven’t slept enough.
It is ok.
He replenishes me.
It’s not enough to know that God replenishes me, but I have to adjust my thinking so that I no longer dwell in the stressful thoughts that deplete me.
This is ok.
The other week in church, I had my hands held out and I was asking God ‘show me how to do better right now’. I heard ‘one day at a time.’
That was it.
Don’t worry (two comical words to a chronic worrier), about whether your feeding to sleep is going to wreck your child’s sleep forever, or if your kids are going to feel like they didn’t get enough attention during this newborn phase, or if you’re not in a routine yet.
One day at a time.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I go between wanting to create ‘better’ sleep habits for my third bub (structured feeds, less feeding to sleep, according to the pros) and being perfectly happy with the naturalness of feeding on demand, feeding to sleep— how I’ve always done it.
I’ve signed up to courses, had calls, read books because I am always hungry to learn. But, I’m no textbook mum— are any of us? We all have what works for us, especially once we’ve had multiple kids. Where the goodness is, is owning that.
This is what is working for us and it is ok.
This ‘putting her down while drowsy’ idea is dreamy and also gives me low key anxiety. I know it takes many tries to get it right. But I need my husband to do those many tries. Firstly because I’m a sucker and secondly because my babies know I’m a sucker. ‘Oh you’re upset come here’. I am a ‘feed to sleep’ gal and have been for all my bubs. I first resonated with ‘The Continuum Concept’ before having kids and it’s essentially what I’ve done. Also, I know the many benefits to implementing some simple strategies to give the entire household more sleep. I’ve read and researched it all - books, courses, podcasts. And yet when I strategize too much, I lose the joy and naturalness of these days. And motherhood in general. I believe in good habits and routine- 100%, we live this. And also there is a sacredness to this time of less routine. Especially considering it’s school holidays. (On this, I wouldn’t be without chiropractic care for my babies— all were adjusted right after birth and regularly after).
There are challenges in every season and one thing I know for sure is that when I look back in my albums at photos of my older two kids when they were babies, it is astonishing how fast it went, and yet how long ago it felt.
Am I about to hit you with the most cliche motherhood related lines ever? I am.
The days are long, but the years are short.
It’s so true. So so true.
We may as well do it joyfully.
But more than that— God intended for us to do it joyfully.
“He grants the barren woman a home, like a joyful mother of children”.
When we’re not doing it joyfully, that’s when we need Him more. We’re not meant to do motherhood alone for starters, but more so, we’re not meant to do motherhood apart from Him.
We are doing His most sacred and important work— caring for His creations, raising them, discipling them. As if He isn’t right there, ready to replenish us, lift us, pour into us… just as we do our own children.
This is ok.
All is well.
I remind myself that this season is so short.
I remind myself that we’re all going to die one day and to stress less (because I am extreme like that).
I played ‘Hakuna Matata’ the other day. This is my new theme song.
Jesus asks us to lay our worries down at the cross- He died so that we could.
My medicine right now is remembering what Jesus died for— so we could live our days differently.
When I lay awake at night entertaining stressful and unproductive thoughts, I tell myself— Jesus didn’t die for this.
When I go through a day with more worry than joy, I tell myself— Jesus didn’t die for this.
When I let myself be distracted by alluring temptations of the world that don’t matter, I remind myself— Jesus didn’t die for this.
When I let exhausting thoughts take peace from my home, my children or my husband, I remind myself— Jesus didn’t die for this.
Remembering what Jesus died for, the unfathomable gifts of His life and death, I not only can live my days with more peace and joy but… I must.
Also, I play up loud ‘HAKUNA MATATA’.
“It means no worries, for the rest of your days.
It’s a problem free, philosophy,
Life is short. The newborn phase is even shorter.
Thank you God for all of your blessings seen and unseen.
May we live more moments in the remembrance of the joy and peace that is available to us…. Even now.
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My publication is based on quality over quantity, so I won’t smother you with content. My intention is to offer you milk and honey via the written and spoken word here. I know there are so many places your attention could be so thank you for being here, and for being patient as I took time to nurture my family.
Love, PK XXX