Project managing motherhood

A friend of mine lent me a copy of Naomi Stadlen’s book What Mothers Do – Especially When It Looks Like Nothing just at the right time. My baby was six weeks old, which felt like a lifetime at that stage, and I was starting to worry why I didn’t have my shit together yet when it felt like I should. In fact, I was a total mess but I know now that’s what mothers of six week old babies should be like.

The book was a breathe of fresh air and at times I gripped it in my hands as a source of comfort to remind myself that I was doing okay and my son had a good mother.

Project Managing Motherhood
photo credit: Sebastiano Pitruzzello (aka gorillaradio) via photopin cc

One really interesting idea that stuck with me was how a lot of modern women live in a project-based, short term goal orientated world. We’re aiming for targets all the time: finishing school, graduating from college, getting a promotion, completing a big project at work, losing x amount of pounds, training for a triathlon etc (this is not me 🙂 ). We set them in our sights, achieve them or don’t achieve them, and then move on to the next one. That’s why for many women becoming a mother is such a challenging time. We had the end goal of 40 weeks of pregnancy (tick), then the end goal of labour and birth (tick) but then there’s no more box ticking. Mothers just are. To comfort ourselves we can continue to create short term goals in motherhood but really I can see how those goals can just as easily become a source of stress and loss of confidence if they’re not met by our measurable perimeters. Sleeping through the night, first teeth, sitting up, crawling, weaning to solids, first steps, first words…these are things that are all going to happen anyway or in the baby’s own time and yet sometimes we think we’re in control or indeed failing. At the other end of the scale, when is the end of Project Baby? Is it turning out a well rounded, happy adult who ticks your boxes of child raising success?

Project managing motherhood www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby blog I do remind myself from time to time when I get caught up in my own mind and lose the run of myself that this isn’t a project with milestones to be achieved. I remind myself that being a mother is an everyday way of being. Each mothering moment is exactly that – a happening right now for its own sake rather than a smaller part of a big project with an end date. I have to remind myself because it’s easy to forget. My life has been a series of one short term goal after another. Mothering is so far removed from this I’ve had to adjust my way of thinking. Not because I think I’m not any good at it but because I try to apply the same set of rules to two completely different things. And it just doesn’t work.

It’s a really wonderful book and very unlike any other parenting book you’ll come across. There’s no advice in there on which you can fall on your mothering sword when it doesn’t work for you. It reminds you of the incredible, unseen, unrecognised work that mothers do everyday and it makes you feel good. I recommend it.

5 thoughts on “Project managing motherhood”

  1. I was so guilty of this. Looking back now, I wonder why I was so hard on myself. The sleeping through the night one was a big one for me. I guess I had soaked up that cultural assumption that “good babies = babies who sleep through the night”. I was so proud of myself when my little guy was 9 or 10 weeks old and he started sleeping solidly from 9 or 10 until 6 or 7am. So it came as quite a shock to me, when that reversed completely about 6 weeks later, and he was waking every hour. (Four month sleep regression anyone? I’d never heard of it!) After all, if I was taking the credit for his early success, surely I had to take credit for this “failure” too. It took me a long time (four sleepless months), a lot of wasted effort (trying every silly bit of advice I was offered), and finally a reality check from The No Cry Sleep Solution, for me to realise that my baby wasn’t an object I could control (or a project I could manage!). In the end, he slept when he was ready, and not a minute sooner. And I had very little to do with it! It was a hard lesson to learn. But it changed how I parent completely, so it was probably the best lesson I learned that first year.

    1. I heard of the four month regression just as four months ticked around. I’m not sure if knowing about it made it any easier!

      I too struggled with the sleep thing. It seems to be such a societal red marker it’s pretty hard not to be influenced. Literally everyone seems to be a sleep expert or have an opinion. It was a hard lesson learned alright.

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