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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Wallace, re-mom Founder

Motherhood, the second time around.

With 6.5 years between children, I learned a thing or two.



 

It's Sunday morning and I'm sitting here watching my 21 month old son watch YouTube videos while my 8 year old is on her tablet. I'm enjoying a hot coffee, taking the time to reflect on a topic I want to write about (completely guilt-free, might I add). My husband is out grocery shopping, and I'm managing the zoo while he's out...but it isn't a zoo. It's a screens-on, peace-filled scenario right now that I'm not mad about.

As I'm sitting here, about to type words on a page about another very important motherhood-related topic, I decided to write about this instead....this exact moment and the thoughts running through my head right here, right now. Why? Well....8 years ago, I wouldn't have been caught dead taking a moment to do something for me while my kid had screen time.

There's so much that has changed between having my first and second children. My kids are 6.5 years apart - a larger age gap between consecutive siblings than most, I would say, at least based on the reactions I get from people when I mention how old my kids are. There's a reason (many, actually) why the age gap is so large. And it all has to do with me and my process of learning and unlearning critical aspects of myself...and nothing to do with fertility, finances, or my career.

Unlike most posts you may read about "what I learned with my second/third/fourth kid....", this isn't about embracing the mess and letting your second born eat junk food before they're 1 (both of which I do, btw). This post is about the personal growth that occurred between my two children, and how it led to two radically different mothering experiences (and career experiences, and relationship experiences...) and a complete identity shift for me that allowed me to feel free, at peace, and happy my second time around.

 
Unlike most posts you may read about "what I learned with my second/third/fourth kid....", this isn't about embracing the mess and letting your second born eat junk food before they're 1...this post is about the personal growth that occurred between my two children, and how it led to two radically different mothering experiences...
 

There are A LOT of learnings I can talk about that took place between the two kids, but I'll highlight here my top 3. Take note though, this is definitely an oversimplification of the top three areas I've grown in, as the work is deep rooted, complex, and multi-layered. I continue, every single day, to choose to grow in these areas and in many others, to preserve my personal sense of harmony - something I now offer other working mothers to find for themselves through working with re-mom.


Judgement on myself, on other moms, and on my kid.

Oof, I'm coming out hot with this one. It's a doozy, but such an important one to understand, and un-learn, if you're guilty of it. I was guilty of this on so many levels. If you think about judgement in this context, it is comparing one thing to another and attaching a sense of superiority on the thing you identify with over others. In order for this to happen, you've got to have a measuring stick. Looking back, I can see that I had a measuring stick based on ideals of motherhood that I made up in my head based on a mix of social media representations of motherhood (motherhood influencers...need I say more), media in general (from decades of taking in information with strong gender roles and biases built into them), and the family systems I was exposed to. In addition to these, my judgements were also made up of the values I had put on things like material items based on perceived value and popularity, my own personal views of status, what I believed to be good/healthy, and my own insecurities. When it came to my baby, my judgements were based on an abundance of "shoulds" around baby milestones, and her clothing and belongings (because I viewed these things as a representation of me and my worth). This complex mix of my self-view and world-view produced a bubble of superiority around what I believed to be true vs. "others", vs. my own self and how I was stacking up to those beliefs, and vs. how my kid was stacking up against the ideals I imposed on her.

Here's what I learned: the awareness and realization that I was judging myself, others, and my baby made me question my measuring stick. Where did my beliefs come from? Did I actually believe these things? Do they align with how I truly feel, or are they satisfying my ego? This is where the work happened for me to unlearn the narratives fed to me by a multitude of sources, and reevaluate their meaning. Does this mean I don't have a measuring stick? No - it just means that my measuring stick is a lot shorter, more understanding and forgiving; it's a measuring stick of my own priorities and not "shoulds"...and I've certainly learned that my measuring stick has nothing to do with what other people are doing. I'm a lot nicer to myself, to others, and to my kids. I let go of a ton of those ideals (through lots of therapy and self development work), freed myself up to enjoy the present, spend time in gratitude and appreciation, and let go of things that aren't any of my business (like what other people think).


Where did my beliefs come from? Did I actually believe these things? Do they align with how I truly feel, or are they satisfying my ego?

Relinquishing Control.

With my first born, I had major control issues. How I fed her, what I fed her, what brands she wore, how her diaper was changed, the products used on her, her nap schedule, her bedtime routine. These were in addition to the already pre-existing things I controlled in my life and home: my career trajectory; the home schedule for cleaning, cooking, groceries and laundry; my physical appearance. I had to do everything myself, or else it wouldn't have been done correctly. I had low trust, low capacity to accept help, and high superiority issues with how I perceived I handled situations vs. others. Basically, I had lived with such a strong element of control for most of my life, that it was completely natural to extend this control to my child. But, as you parents reading this would know, you can't control a child.

The incongruence between the "shoulds" in my mind (see point #1) and the realities of an uncontrollable child led me to feel a whole lot of stress, grief, and resentment as a first time mother. I refused to give up control for the first few years of my daughter's life which, as you can imagine, led to a very strained mother-daughter relationship, and spousal relationship. I worked incredibly hard at trying to fit everything, and everyone, into a box that I had built. After experiencing burnout and anxiety, I was forced to reevaluate my life and reevaluate the why's behind my behaviour. My fear of losing control was a huge running theme in my working motherhood experience. Turns out, my fears were rooted in lack of trust, superiority issues (again - judgement rears it's ugly head), and self-worth (if I couldn't do it all, I wasn't good enough). These are deep issues that took years to work through, but understanding them and having the opportunity to work through them has made a tremendous difference in my motherhood journey. Letting go, accepting help (which is different than asking for help - I can write a whole blog on this topic alone!), and mindset shifts on what makes me valuable as a person and a mother allows for a much more peaceful and less stressful motherhood experience.


It's not a fixed situation.

I thought I was stuck. Every single phase of my early motherhood journey felt like it was perpetual: she was never going to sleep through the night; we were never going to go on vacation, she can't even handle a 30 minute car ride; I was never going to get that promotion because I keep taking days off because my baby was home more than she was in daycare; we're never going to be able to leave her with anyone because of her severe separation anxiety; I'm never going to have a social life again, etc. I look back now and see that everything is a phase. All of it. The weight of it feels tremendous when you're in the thick of it, but as a first time mom, I didn't understand the bigger picture of parenthood. I also had no concept of a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset.

I was a classic fixed mindset person - everything was black and white, "it is how it is", fatalistic mentality. Because my world didn't immediately look the way I wanted it to, when I wanted it to, I resorted to pitying myself and my situation, complaining and commiserating with other moms in a similar boat. It wasn't until I looked at my mindset about the two items above (judgement and control), did I learn to adopt a growth mindset where things can change, I do have an influence on my surroundings, and I can change my situation into a better, more comfortable outcome. Funny enough, it was during this period of my life that I began studying the science of Change Management, and shifting into the world of change both professionally at work, and within myself. Needless to say, it's done wonders for my mindset and general outlook on life, once I understood the power I had to change my world.

 

As I share the stories of my motherhood journey, one thing I want to make clear, is that I am not judging my prior self. I only knew what I knew then; being forced to turn within, rather than blame without, is one of the best lessons I've ever had to learn in life - so for that, I'm incredibly grateful for the challenges and inner turmoil I faced. All this to say, that if any of the above resonates with you (or triggers you!), it is not a judgement of you either. Offer yourself the grace to see your situation as it is, thank it for the lessons, and decide for yourself if you wish to change it (if not, that's fine too! Each mother, and motherhood journey is unique). The good news is, if you are looking to change a thing or two about your working motherhood experience, you've landed at the right place, right here with re-mom.

 

My husband just came home with the groceries and my son just ate a half eaten arrowroot cookie off the floor. I'm taking a look around and seeing that I've come a long way: accepting help from hubby doing the groceries; YouTube acting as a babysitter so I can type this in peace (yes, that's help too! It's all about how you perceive things!); I've let go of wondering what you may think about my parenting choices, because that's none of my business; and I understand this messy-house-loud-TV-cookie-crumbs-on-every-surface phase is going to pass soon enough...and I'm thinking to myself: this is my harmony, and I love it.

 

re-mom offers support for new working mothers, helping women thrive both as mothers and as working professionals. To learn more about how we can help, visit www.re-mom.com/services, or email us at hello@re-mom.com to get the conversation started.


If you want to join in on intentional conversations on the working motherhood experience, join us on instagram (@re_mom_coaching) and keep an eye out for our prompts & pauses each Friday.











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