Do you recognize your invisible power?
The essence of your being?
You might be feeling at your most vulnerable and weak in this moment.
Yet, scratch the surface and I can see your strength.
You might be tired and fragile, with tears always close and yet there’s a tenderness in your heart that remains.
You might be touched out and your patience thin, but your fierce love for your little ones burns bright throughout.
Becoming a mother is not merely another chapter in your life story. It’s an event so momentous and a shift so thorough, it can be hard to recognize yourself as you wade through the raw reality which is life with young babies and children.
But there is beauty, strength and power to be found in the process.
I ask you, have you ever met anyone as tenacious and determined as a mother who feels something isn’t quite right for her babe?
Have you ever seen a person give all the time and energy she has to give? Every. Single. Day.
Even with nothing left to give, she still keeps giving her all – that night, the next day, and the next night ….
Right now, I am surrounded by mothers with toddlers and newborns and I am constantly astounded by how quickly these incredible strong, amazing women minimize their own achievements, commitment, and dedication. They never seem to feel like they can do, or are doing enough and I watch them in awe.
The work we pour into our babies and toddlers is often invisible to the naked eye – so intangible it can’t be physically measured. As a result, its value is quickly disguised by what can be seen.
All the things we did or didn’t ‘get done’ are easy to list and rattle off in our minds, as a kind of checklist of a day’s success.
But what about the invisible work checklist of all the incredibly important things done each and every 24 hours – the emotional labor? And the constant work of growing and nurturing our human infants, toddlers, and children.
It doesn’t happen just in the 12 daylight hours; these amazing women work round the clock on a seemingly endless Groundhog Day.
Here’s my checklist of just some of the emotional labor that isn’t credited or valued enough by our society and which deserves fuller recognition.
Have you ever…
- Made sure a vulnerable, dependent human being feels secure and loved?
- Ensured a vulnerable, dependent human being has rested her rapidly wiring brain and growing body in whatever way works best that day?
- Nourished that child’s body, heart, mind, and soul at your breast or with attentive alternatives?
- Seamlessly adjusted your movements, position, hold, and rhythm to suit your baby’s non-verbal cries for change?
- Spent countless hours of thought on your children’s day-to-day lives and well-being, expending mental and emotional energy on everything, from the scenarios that determine what is thrown in the nappy bag before an outing to the color and consistency of the baby’s last nappy?
- Wondered: What’s normal, what’s not? Do you need this, or maybe it’s that? You wanted to be held upright and hate going down flat; is your tummy sore? How likely is the toddler to jump in a muddy puddle where we are headed? Will a snack do or should I pack lunch? Are the snacks too processed? Maybe I should be making more home-made?
- Noticed that he baby slept til X, and the toddler slept til Y so bedtime will be roughly Z? Is there time for a bath together, or a walk with Dad? Is the room too hot and that’s why you didn’t sleep long? Maybe we should try a humidifier?
- Wondered whether your hours at work are too many? Maybe if I extend my hours I won’t have to bring so much work home and interrupt family life?
- Asked whether other people have more sleep, time, fun, time with their partners, or the chance to focus on hobbies or new opportunities?
Sound familiar? Feeling a tad exhausted just reading it? It feels like work because it is work. It’s invisible work, emotional labor – whatever you want to call it. It’s work.
Have you also …
- Soldiered on soothing a seemingly un-soothable child or called in back-up if you’ve reached your ‘tap out’ point, knowing your little person still desperately needs comfort even though nothing seems to be helping?
- Sat on the couch or lain on the bed unable to move due to a small person getting some much needed sleep while your amazing mind whirs with everything you ‘should’ be doing (grocery list, washing, filing your tax)? When really there is nothing that could ever be more important than your little one’s well-being.
- Missed your old pre-child life where you felt valued and accomplished, while you hold a precious person wrapped in your arms with the full knowledge that you are your child’s whole world?
- Been your baby’s first experience of pure love? The first model of time, patience, commitment, and strength? The rock, the glue, the bandaid, the comfort food?
- Been the one who makes eyes sparkle and giggles fall from lips and the one who little arms reach out for and cling to?
- Been the one whose very presence allows all of the fears, vulnerability, and upsets of the days to come tumbling out, with complete faith and trust? The one that’s safe to crumble on when your little one needs to crumble? You are your child’s safe harbor.
- Heard the never-ending, ‘Watch me, Mum!’ Or ‘Look at this!’ Maybe it’s, ‘Why, Mum?’ 3 billion times a day? Or are you reading their favorite book for the 58th time that day but still you must, ‘Do the voices, Mum!’
- Pushed through the empathizing, the limit setting, the guidance, the support, the encouragement, the enjoyment, the compromises, the practical solutions, the decision making, the ‘adulting’ when you feel too tired to adult?
- Realized when everything goes to pot and you seem to have lost your gentleness, you still love them hard – even in the depths of ‘Why did I ever want this …?’ kind of despair?
- Known you are only one person and sometimes it will be enough that you are doing all you can and yet it still doesn’t seem to be enough?
- Gotten up to face the day when you feel like your night never truly began, then faced the night shift not knowing whether it will be any better?
- Had all the doubts, the fears, the regrets, the tears, the faith, the trust, the grit, and the guts in the world?
We have the glorious and incredible power and privilege of having all the promise in the world for a new generation, created and borne of our bodies, within our homes, within our hearts, and within our lives.
Mama who feels so invisible right now, know that your light shines like a beacon in the night. You are seen, you are valued and you are needed more than you will ever know.
So, amidst the monotony, the stress, the exhaustion, the emotional labor, be kind and gentle with yourself, dear nurturer.
Your work right now is important.