my practices of mothering

This is a series called My Practices of Mothering.Basically, this is the stuff that I do (or try to do) to enjoy and love motherhood.

As a mother, I have a few practices. Is sharing them incredibly pretentious? I hope not.

My heart is not to be pretentious or to act like I know more than anyone else or dole out advice. This isn’t about “advice” at all.

Mothering is very, very hard work. It’s constant. It’s tiring. Mothering will expose the parts of your heart that you can keep politely hidden from general society. It will break you in the morning but by evening, you feel like you’ve never been happier or more fulfilled in your life. It can also be monotonous (that’s something not too many people will tell you – me? I’ll tell you.) And do you have any idea how many loads of laundry a family of five can generate? (Hint: EPIC AMOUNTS OF LAUNDRY.)

But the truth is: I enjoy mothering. I enjoy it a lot. In fact, I love this which surprised me. Even the daily quotidian rhythms of it are good, good, good.

Not because I have it all figured out and do things right all of the time (I don’t).
Not because I’m the best mother in the world (I’m not).
Not because my tinies are absolutely perfect and the gold standard of childhood (they’re not - trust me).
And not because every day is filled with rainbow-and-unicorns-and-cupcakes (I wish).

No, the reason I enjoy mothering on the day-to-day grind is mainly because I do this stuff.

And it helps me. I call them Practices because that’s what us Jesus-people like to call spiritual disciplines but really they’re just things I do over and over again, kneading them like yeast into my life. Everyone has them.  Most of mine come from my own parents but I picked up a few others from books or friends or mentors or people-that-I-thought-were-doing-it-wrong.  And mine may not work for you and your family. After all, this is just what works for me, right now, in this season.

So take what works, and give me what works for you, and we’ll keep figuring it out together.

Sound good?

The practice of speaking life.

I can’t get away from the truth that is this: Words Matter. The words that we speak about ourselves, about our children, about our life matter.

The practice of attachment.

Here’s why it helps me love mothering: attachment parenting works. … See, I want their hearts. I want their hearts so connected to mine and to my husband’s that the love between us will be stronger than any thing else that comes along. So, I do these “things” not because they make me a good mother but because they help me to capture their heartsAnd once I have their hearts – and I do – I can lead and direct and train them with their full trust and confidence.

The practice of routine.

Sure, a routine makes sure that I can get done what I need to get done for myself and for my family, but it also helps me find room for those things that are truly life-giving like prayer, meditation, reading, being outside, writing, reaching out to friends and neighbours, helping others, advocating for others, being present in our community and so on. By establishing a loose routine, I enjoy motherhood more because it feels intentional and restful, simplified and life-giving for all of us.

The practice of the big picture.

You have to “Big Picture Parent” because sometimes the details, man, the details will grind you down.  Things do come up, opportunities to train them to do better and know better abound.  This is our job, after all. They aren’t born knowing this stuff so that is what I am here for: to teach them, to love them, to raise them up.  They are delightfully normal. And so am I.  

The practice of worth.

I enjoy mothering because I don’t expect to find my worth and my value here. So when I fail or make a mistake or my tinies do, I can deal with the matter at hand instead of turning into a life crisis of epic proportions around my own issues.   This is freedom. The freedom of living loved extends into every aspect of parenting because I can release my death-grip of control.

The practice of gentle discipline.

But gentle discipline goes beyond not-spanking to a way of life - for me, it means being a gentle voice in the home, leading rather than bullying, allowing for mistakes, and especially the belief in the value of each opportunity that arises to, not only teach the better way, but also to make a deposit of love and grace in the heart of my child. 
But the reason why gentle discipline is here in my practices of mothering is because of how the lack of it affects me.
When I have given place to anger in my life, particularly directed towards my tinies, I feel like crap. Not just as a mother but as a follower of Jesus and someone dedicated to a peaceful life.

The practice of being a person.

So I try to find the time and space in my life to do the things that are life-giving for my own soul…. It’s so vital for me to find these pockets of my own personhood in the midst of the daily work of life together to ensure that I enjoy mothering. And I like to share these things with the tinies.

On using play for connection and for discipline. Part of me wonders if almost every kid’s love language is Quality Time. Because when we play – even if it’s just for 15 minutes – their little love tanks are full to overflowing. And somehow they behave better, listen better, sleep better, love each other better when they feel connected to one another and to me.

In which I make a big deal out of sleep: Sleep for you, sleep for the tinies. Everyone is happier when we’re all getting enough sleep.

The practice of the vine.

Without abiding in the vine – having a real intimate and organic relationship with God – I don’t know how to parent. Hell, I don’t know how to be a person.  I don’t know how to love well – when to say yes, when to say no, when to be creative, when to lay down the law, when to hold to the rules, when to let go.

The practice of community: In which we are affirming flames

You need an affirming flame in your life, mama. We all do. Mothering is hard work and we all know it but it is holy work, joyful work, sacred and messy work when done in community.
This may seem an odd thing, I know, coming from an introvert like me, one that craves solitude and quiet. But it’s true: I need my village desperately to enjoy mothering.

The practice of space on the margins

There is only a bit of space in the margins. And so I try keep that open and blank for God to move there.
I don’t do well in this mothering thing if every square inch of white space in my life is full.  If I fill my days with scheduled activities, with obligations, I am not available physically, emotionally or even spiritually to respond to the pull of the Holy Spirit for my self, my husband, my family, my friends and the world around us. I want to have the freedom that if a friend needs me, I’m available. If I know I need to read or walk or hold a small, sick one, I am there to do it without worrying about being late for small group.

The practice of assigning positive intent

The practice of assigning positive intent is, as Fancy Nancy would say, just a fancy way of saying “believe the best.” I try to make my starting point for the day a belief in their goodness, in their love for each other and for our family, in the work that we have already done together towards wholeness.
So when things go pear-shaped, instead of assuming that they are manipulative little buggers out to get their way and rule us all, I choose to believe that their heart is as much for me as mine is for them.

The practice of realistic expectations

I don’t expect to be a perfect mother. But sometimes, I can act like it. I can be so discouraged by my failings or the times when I don’t do well that one would think I did have that expectation of Perfect Shining Mother. So I try to be realistic about mothering in three ways: with myself, with the tinies and with the end game.

The Practices of Parenting Carnival
In February 2012, I put out the call for a carnival of sorts. I wanted a few of us to write and share our own Practices of Parenting. And I was overwhelmed by the goodness. My heart felt like it would explode. I was a crying, commenting, heart-exploding, reading fool for the entire week.
Here is the link up for the full Carnival. There are nearly 125 links of sheer brilliance for you to read there. AMAZING.

Here is the featured Guest Post from Erika at The Life Artist on her Practice of Mama-Art. I also made some space for the non-bloggers among us to share their Practices here.

My own Mum wrote her Practices of Mothering post and I cried. It’s so beautiful.

Then I featured five of your posts here and another ten here. These were my favourites but it was so hard to narrow them down.

And here’s the final wrap up for the Carnival, in which I attempt to say thank you for the whole experience.