Parenting

Why new moms need new expectations

Expectation. What a word. To some it can bring excitement, to others it can bring exhaustion. To one, it can bring fun and to another, it can bring fear. We all have expectation in our lives, whether that is how we expect our day to pan out, or how we expect our careers to pan out, whether we expect to build a FTSE100 empire before we are 30 or build a family home.

I love having a goal, a dream, an expectation. My expectation was to get married and be a mom before I was 30. I happily achieved said expectation, but did the reality live up to the dream? Not quite. Rest assured that I am happily married and couldn’t be more grateful for the blessings that have been bestowed on me in the form of my three little ones. But that doesn’t make my long-awaited expectation of the motherhood experience any less challenging.

My first son was born (relatively) easily in a peaceful water birth, but he soon made his presence known by keeping his poor unsuspecting parents awake all hours for the first three months. I expected to cherish these first few weeks of his little life as I blissfully washed his bamboo nappies (yes, really), however, these were some of the hardest and saddest weeks as we desperately tried to fathom out our new family member and survive on next to no sleep. I vividly remember one night, around 2am, when Dave and I were literally on. our. knees. and I placed our son in the middle of the bed and stepped back, not knowing what the heck to do next. In our sleep deprived state, we had tried everything, except swaddling, and this turned out to be the saving grace for our sanity, as we turned a corner and saw our firstborn sleep for more than 2 consecutive hours.

Then came the second son. Another much loved, much planned for baby, albeit with a much larger gap than I would have liked. Surgery necessitated the long wait, and my health was more important than expanding our family, but when he came oh what joy I awaited.

Only the joy didn’t come.

Don’t get me wrong, I was head over heels in love with this little one who snuggled up to me so calmly, but my heart raced as I contemplated juggling two children. I expected to breeze into motherhood second time round, but as reality set in, my fears became nerves that grew into anxieties. I soon felt so overwhelmed that I just couldn’t face being a parent to anyone, much less the precious boys I have been blessed with. All this, despite a hands-on, supportive hubby and a fantastic network of family and friends.

After five months of juggling schedules and struggling to keep my head above water, I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. The diagnosis came as no surprise in the end, and if anything, it was such a relief to know that I wasn’t losing the plot and that I wasn’t a bad mother. I was not alone. Accepting the diagnosis was no problem. If anything, I almost wore it as a badge of honour to explain that actually, I wasn’t failing, I was a work in progress, and within 6 months I was back to my normal self.

PND is no discriminator of people or circumstance. My baby was wanted, planned for, prayed for. Yet when he came, I was so overwhelmed with the responsibility; the sudden influx of hormones, the sudden immersion into baby world, and the sudden subjection to his every need. I was an experienced parent, who knew what to expect, and my son was a relaxed little man, yet I was so completely overcome with emotion and anxiety that I could barely think straight. I thank God for the medical professionals who helped me through this difficult time, not to mention my faithful husband and my many friends who had journeyed this path before me or with me.

So onto baby number 3. She was no less planned for, prayed for, and prepared for than her brothers, if not she was more so. The nursery was decorated, the work schedules were created, the books were read and the home was ready, yet when she came I felt the old anxieties creep into my mind as my expectation stood at odds with my reality. There I was, with this sweet little one who fell into our arms with a smile and fell into a routine without batting an eye lid, yet I found myself feeling totally overwhelmed by the now enormous task in front of me. How was I ever going to juggle three children along with a writing career, keeping my home (and me) in a half reasonable style and state of cleanliness, oh and build a blog and write a book….. and manage more than 5 hours sleep in the process.

To raise another is the greatest privilege. As a mom of three, I can safely say this is the greatest, most rewarding role I have ever had, however, coupled with my expectations, it has caused the most pain, upset, anxiety, and, at times, even depression. A classic ‘achiever’, my character is such that I want to do everything to the best of my ability. This means holding it all together, at all times, having the tidy house, the contented babies, and the completed deadlines. My ambitious striving, of course, can be a strength, but for those, like me, who place too great an expectation on themselves, it can be a curse.

When it comes to motherhood, the thing I have craved, dreamed of and desired, I expect to succeed, I expect to flourish. I expect to sail through because I am a ‘do-er’, and ‘achiever’. I constantly measure myself against impossible standards, then wonder why I fall short. The advice I dish out to others I can barely swallow myself. The prayers I pray for friends are barely audible for myself.

Why? Because I expect too much of myself.

It is OK for a friend to fall apart, but I cannot. It is OK for a family member to need counselling but not me. It’s OK for a loved one to ask for help but I must march on. How ridiculous.

I recently read this quote from the inimitable William Shakespeare;

Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises or in modern day language; Expectation is the root of all heartache. 

I put too much expectation on myself, and the resulting wave of heartache that accompanies feelings of disappointment when I don’t ‘make the grade’ hurts like heck.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to succeed, with wanting to achieve, with having a dream. New mom’s do not need to cast off all their ambitions and put their lives on hold in order to raise their baby, but friends, we need to stop putting too great expectations of ourselves. Stop trying to have the Pinterest worthy house, the picture perfect family, the insta-flawless selfie. We need to embrace our flaws, our failings, and our frustrations because this is what makes us human. And I am speaking to myself before anyone else.

So next time I feel overwhelmed, fall down or mess up, rather than just painting on my face and marching on I might just let someone in. If someone texts to check in on me or taps me on the shoulder at the school gates, I might just let them know how I am really doing. I might just say, “Do you know what? Motherhood is a gift, but man is it hard work!” I might just accept the offer of a hug, a prayer, a cuppa or a meal.

Fellow parents, let’s stop being proud and start being real, and today, this starts with me.

Just sayin’.

R xx

 

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Adoption, Faith, Lifestyle, Parenting

Finding the lovely in everyday life

Nothing like quite a blog rebrand is there? My blog has enjoyed several face lifts and name changes over the years, but this current one somehow seems more poignant than ever.

Have you ever wanted to find your place? Your purpose? Your calling?

I am a self-confessed people pleaser, searching for the one true reason that I was put on this earth, wanting to hone in on that talent, that gift, that passion that I have been blessed with and run with it to the best of my ability.

Of course, the truth is we all have many talents, many gifts, many passions. I love to sing, and worship music is something that is incredibly close to my heart. I have tried to pursue this calling and advance in my ministry but have been met with a wall limiting my growth and holding me back. I love to write, and dream of writing my own story, pouring my life into the pages in the hope that my experiences could help somebody else, yet it never seems to be the right time. I love being a mother, and this lifelong desire to raise a family is now realised, yet I have found myself struggling with depression and mom-guilt.

Trying to fixate on just one gift is like trying to a child that once he has learned to walk that is all he can ever do. He shouldn’t try to run, ride, hop, skip or jump – sounds ridiculous, right?

All through my life, I have tried to please others. To get others to notice me, to recognise my giftings, to use my talents. Not in an egotistical way, but because rightly or wrongly I find my self-worth in what other people think. This applies to my blog too, to a certain extent, as I have always wanted to find my ‘niche’.

My very first blog was a craft blog, Sing Sew Write, inspired by my heroine Kirsty Allsopp following her successful series Kirstie’s Homemade Home. I documented my attempts at patchwork cushions, decoupage and even managed a crochet blanket, however, I soon ran out of ideas within my skill set, not to mention time after my second son was born.

I then thought that a mommy blog was the way forward, and Boys and Babyccinos was born. I loved documenting my adventures with my sons, but soon felt torn between wanting to share their lives and wanting to protect their identities. My husband and I agreed that in this media hungry world we needed to limit our children’s exposure on the world wide web, and so Boys and Babyccinos was no more.

After that I decided to go for a more generic blog, using my name Rachel Rae Writes and began sharing my journey with Jesus. As I was taking to time to study the Bible or spend time in God’s presence, He would drop little nuggets of wisdom into my mind and pretty soon I was writing mini-sermons that spoke into my soul. This has continued for a while until we embarked on our adoption journey and our third child, a daughter arrived.

To say that adoption rocked our world is an understatement. The assessment process itself is at best like having your home life raided by social workers with a search warrant. The approval process and eventual matching are both extraordinary and excruciating, and the introductions and birth parent meetings leave you reeling in every which way. Then there is the integration of a brand new little life into an established and, in our case, exuberant family. We have been on the most incredible journey, one that has left us elated and exhausted, delighted and depressed, complete and cautious. Yet, to protect our family we have chosen not to share the details publicly.

So where does this leave my blog? What should I write?

As a professional writer and chronic oversharer, I am rarely left without something to say, however, I feel that the focus of my blog needs to not just shift, but be removed entirely. Why can’t my blog cover many topics? Why can’t I be interested in and passionate about many things? I believe that over the past 12 months or so, I have undergone a major change in my thinking, I have found my worth in God and not in my giftings. He doesn’t want to pigeon-hole me, He wants to pursue me. He wants to see my find my feet as a daughter of the King and not be defined by a role or responsibility. He wants me to live free from restriction and restraint, to run with my imagination, to realise my dreams.

I want to share my life with you, the journey that I am on personally, both with God and with my young family. We are about to embark on a new chapter in our story and are so tantalisingly close to an exciting future as a family of five. My impatient nature wants to run ten steps ahead but my heart tells me to be still and wait. There is beauty in the waiting. There is a miracle in the middle. There is lovely in life. While I wrestle with my new normal there is much to see, much to enjoy. There are moments of pure calm and sheer bliss amongst the many moments of muddied waters and stormy seas.

As I navigate unchartered territories, I cling to the One who calms the storm, the One who created the seas, and I will seek to share a window into my world with this new blog Little Rae Life. I hope you will join me on the journey, I thnk we are in for quite a ride!

Rae x

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Parenting

Working Mom Woes

wahm

So here I am, sat in soft play, trying to bottom out some deadlines before the weekend. It is quieter than usual – possibly because most self-respecting parents don’t palm their kids off to soft play as soon as school’s out on a Friday – and I am trying to dodge the deprecating stares from moms who think I shouldn’t have my head stuck in a laptop.

Just to reassure you, I do know where my kids are. Mainly because I can hear their 100 decibel shrieks echo around the building, but also because I have placed myself right next to the exit with a full view of the entire place, so there is no way that they can escape without my knowing.

But alas, the mommy guilt is still there.

Yes, I am not playing with my boys right now, but that is because mommy has to earn to pay for their future. I also don’t want to be glued to the screen for the weekend as I firmly believe in setting aside Saturday and Sunday for quality time as a family, but in order to do that tomorrow I need to work now. The fact that the boys were ecstatic at the prospect of soft play madness straight after school is irrelevant, however, I still feel guilty. Then there is the distinctly un-homemade sausage, chips and beans dinner they have just wolfed down that gives me guilt pangs about processed food, despite the fact that I know they wouldn’t touch the Spanish paella I have planned for later.

This is not an everyday occurrence. Most days, my boys play outdoors, in parks, woods or wherever they can get to a patch of grass or puddle of mud. Most days they eat homemade food with me around the dining room table. Most days they keep me entertained for hours with Lego building and ninja battles.

But today is not that day, and that is OK too.

R

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