Today’s motherhood story comes from Beth Ford Friend. Beth and I first met in seminary many moons ago. She was then and still remains a kindred soul. Beth is the mom I wish lived across the street so she could talk me down from my frustrating days with her gentle spirit and remind me to enjoy the good days with her beautiful smile. Even though Beth lives miles away, today she comes to bless us with her own journey on learning to mother from a more contemplative, mindful place. I felt calmer after just reading it. I hope you do too!
When my first son was three weeks old, I met an angel. Her name was Josie, and she was a lactation consultant. I saw her only once, but even now, four years later, her words return to me.
I said something to the effect that the day before had been a good day because our son had finally nursed for the first time. I expected her to say, “Wonderful! That’s reason to celebrate!” and she may have…but that’s not what stayed with me.
Instead, with a sense of strength and conviction that cut through the fog of those early weeks, she said, “Beth, don’t think in terms of good days and bad days. Take each day in much smaller units:
We had a good morning…
The afternoon was rough going…
The evening was so peaceful…
A whole day is much too long.”
Josie’s words stopped me…and I started to do what she suggested. (The fact that she had the baby nursing within 20 minutes somehow seemed incidental.)
By taking the day in micro units, I find I have many chances to reset, chances I need when frustrations run high. Instead of letting one unsavory experience color an entire day, I try simply to let it be and move forward. It is not always easy, but the invitation to hold and release is always there.
When I do, I see more of the small things, the moments of wonder and delight and absorption that keep these days of mothering young children from being a complete blur. I also come back to center, so to speak. I am more aware, more fully present, more connected, more the mother I want to be.
The other day, I noticed the words of a favorite prayer from the Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland forming in me.
“God of all mercy, give us grace to make a fresh start today,” it begins. “A fresh start,” I repeated.
No matter what kind of day we’ve had, I find myself rocking my children at night and singing aloud the Taizé chant, “In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful; in the Lord I will rejoice! Look to God; do not be afraid. Lift up your voices, the Lord is near. Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.” I lean into different phrases, depending on what we seem to need that night.
These prayers and others come as unbidden gifts, as Josie’s words did.
They beckon me to live in the present and pay attention.
In every day, there are moments to hold in gratitude and moments to offer to God for healing, as well as fears that lurk in the shadows. By bringing these to the light, I grow in freedom. Tomorrow, we begin anew. Sometimes even, in the next hour.
I catch my now four-year old singing, too. “Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,” he chimes. He, too, is “turning, turning” until he “comes ’round right.” And aren’t we all?
A mother of sons, Beth is a Presbyterian minister and spiritual director.