Life has thrown many challenges our way and I’ve been feeling disconnected from the lighthearted, fun loving, and whimsical side of my soul. She is still there. Every now and then I let her out to play and then quickly bottle her back up as if she were a nuisance, a distraction from more important things. You know…cleaning, cooking, keeping children in one piece and general mothering duties.
Somewhere in my experience as a mother I began listening to a gremlin in my head that tells me I’m just not a fun person. More specifically, I’m not a fun mom. The gremlin also likes to tell me that because I’m “not fun” I am wreaking havoc on my children’s social and emotional development. By nature, I am more intense and serious. I’m also an introvert. Being bubbly is not my thing and when I’ve tried to be in the past, it was painfully awkward. However, little gremlin, I am fun. I simply do fun differently. Quietly.
Therein lies the challenge. I have three sons aged five and under. They like to make noise and seem to have boundless energy and they can be so very loud. They get into things I’d rather they didn’t. The older two make messes that need to be cleaned because there is a baby in the house. They fight, cry, and whine. Though typical behavior of young children, it feels like an endless barrage on my senses. I’m often exhausted.
Still, I want to take on this adventure of raising boys and have fun doing it. I’d like to find delight and pleasure in the experience, rather than feel resentment. I want to be a fun mom in an intentional and meaningful way - without faking it. As I embrace the candor of motherhood more, I continue to learn what is necessary for me to have fun. Adopting the following attitudes has been soul-liberating to me.
Being honest with myself and others is liberating because I don’t have to pretend to enjoy everything my boys do. While my execution could certainly use some refinement, letting them know how I feel teaches them that not everyone likes the same things and that’s okay; we can still love each other. Honesty also frees up my energy to enjoy being with them without actively participating in their fun.
Being a spectator of my children’s fun is sometimes more rewarding than joining in. My baby loves balloons and it is hilarious watching him flail those things around (safely of course). And my two-year-old walking around the house in random items of clothing singing and humming never fails to lift my spirits.
I fall into the trap of being caught up in the practical aspects of motherhood often. I neglect the nurturing of their personalities in favour of cleaning the house or preparing meals, etc. If I let myself out of hyper-vigilance mode (which seems to shut me off from my family), I allow myself to really be with my children, to sink into the pleasure of being a mom. Unreserved, playful moments are not distractions, they are vital because they invigorate and energize my body and spirit.
One typical day, my two oldest were running laps around the main floor. Unlike a typical day, I joined their fun. We pretended the rug was lava and I put pillows down for us to step on. We were loud and crazy and I loved it. I also recognized when I needed to stop (a necessary skill); however, instead of getting right back into whatever chore I had been doing, I watched my sons enjoy the game for a while longer. The uninhibited delight of that moment was everything I want more of.
My greatest pleasure may very well be in connecting with another person through meaningful discussion. Despite being quiet, I like to talk under the right circumstances. I forget that I can do this with my boys. Even though their language skills are undeveloped we can still engage in enjoyable conversation. They are funny, clever, full of ideas, and so very innocent. How refreshing in these days of political and social unrest.
My oldest has a thing for Legos. Big time. He’s also amazing at making his own creations. Many times, he has asked me to play with him and I’ve declined because it’s not my favourite thing. Also, I’m usually busy. I’ve realized, though, that I can sit with him while he creates; by connecting in this way, we’ll both have fun.
As I mentioned earlier, I tend to be serious. I also struggle with anxiety which is exacerbated by my need to feel in control. Or vice versa. However, I cannot control my children in all things. So instead of wasting energy trying to enforce my kind of fun, I can be a facilitator for theirs by getting out of the way and taking deep breathes as needed, as well as being on hand to prevent things from going too far or to provide hugs and Band-Aids when it does.
Recently my two oldest were running around, yelling, and having a great time together. I didn’t want to discourage them even though it was too much for me in that moment. I suggested they go upstairs to play their game so that they could be loud without giving me a headache and, surprisingly, they did. It was a mutually satisfying solution that I'll be proposing more often.
Taking care of myself is essential, which includes ensuring I get some quiet solitude everyday and that I take the time to do what I enjoy, even if only for a few minutes. I need quiet fun to balance out and recover from the loud, high energy fun my boys like to engage in. It’s that simple.
When I was pregnant with my youngest, I had a ritual of reading and drinking tea while my boys had snacks after nap time. I gave myself time to read one chapter every day. It was very fulfilling and pleasurable. During this mental solitude, I knew they were safe and could call me if they needed me, and I could enjoy that time. (Now that I've had the baby, I think it’s time to bring back that ritual.)
Trying to pretzel myself into a mold of what I think a fun, lighthearted mom should look like would be a disservice to my boys. (Also, painful). I am my own entity, a person of many facets, and I want them to know me as I am. If I am more intentional in protecting my foundations for fun while honoring theirs, they will grow up knowing that they are empowered to experience enjoyment and pleasure in the way that is truest to them, as is everyone else.
On those inevitable days when I feel like the least fun mom in the history of moms, it helps to take a moment to remind myself of who my children are, what makes them unique, that I love them so very fiercely, and will express that love in the best way I can. What could be more fun than loving on the people who matter the most?
A self-proclaimed dysfunctional perfectionist, Sarah Bachelder is learning to accept and embrace life as is. She seeks the beauty and vulnerability of living in daring imperfection. After watching her oldest son battle Leukemia, Sarah believes passionately that we humans are capable of thriving in all circumstances.Connect with her at SarahBachelder.com.
Blog Images by Tangerine Photography.