I became a mum for the first time in 2011 and have now been blessed with 2 wonderful daughter. They constantly amaze me and challenge me. Being a mummy has taught me so much, and as International Women's Day 2020 arrives, it feels like the perfect time to reflect on what I've learnt.
1. Uniqueness is undervalued
My eldest daughter has blonde curly hair and blue eyes. She loves reading and English is her favourite subject. She thinks deeply and takes her time to choose carefully.
My younger daughter has brown straight hair and brown eyes. She loves exploring and Maths is her favourite subject. She likes dipping her toes in new experiences and does so regularly.
They both have the same mum and dad and share the same gene pool, but wow, are they different.
Equally wonderful, equally fascinating, equally loved, but oh so different.
There are 14 months between them and having practiced feeding, sleeping, playing and discipline with my eldest daughter I thought I knew what I’d do with my second too. But, oh no. My youngest did (and still does) everything in her own way and I had to re-learn all of my parenting techniques again.
Their uniqueness reminds me every day of the wonder of life and challenges me to see and appreciate the uniqueness that is all round us. I think I am more appreciative of difference now then I was 9 years ago. I am more aware that very rarely does a one size fit all approach work when talking about people. I also now understand the real benefit that comes from putting different approaches, minds and personalities to work on the same or similar tasks.
2. Love is the most need safety net
I remember a moment really clearly from when my eldest was tiny.
I was sat on the sofa with my husband sat next to me and I had our daughter on my knee. She can only have been about 6 weeks old. I remember turning to my husband and asking if he thought other parents loved their child like I loved our daughter. He gave me that quizzical look (that I see often) that means of course they do, this kind of love is not just reserved for us.
But somehow it felt like it was. It was so big and so all-consuming that I couldn’t believe others loved the same and didn’t talk about it constantly and it didn’t consume their every word (I think my hormones may still have been settling down only 6 weeks post birth!)
I am still totally blown away by the love I have for her and subsequently the love I have for my youngest too.
But what I hadn’t then realised is that love like this changes you.
It made me realise that love is the safety net my children (and all children) need. Knowing they are loved, unconditionally loved, keeps them safe.
It means they can try and not be afraid to fail. It means they have a safety net to come back to when things are hard or hurting them.
It teaches them from the earliest age that all relationships should be loving and it challenges me to love more deeply, more openly, more honestly.
It also reminds me very much of the Care Review in Scotland, that has just been published and embraced by the Scottish Government.
One of my friends and a co-Clore Fellow, Joanna McCreadie, was co-Chair of part of the review that focused on love and the need for children who are looked after to also feel loved. We have reflected together that talking about love with professionals is sometimes difficult and uncomfortable, yet we know the impact being loved has on us.
My daughters have challenged me to be loving at work and not just at home.
3. Play matters
When my girls were younger and not yet at school, I embraced an Instagram trend called #playmatters. If you follow it you can see fantastic ideas for open-ended, collaborative, creative play. You’ll also see amazing parents and educators setting up invitations for their children to play too.
Watching my daughters play (and playing alongside them too) has reminded me of the importance of play and creativity for us all.
Play that isn’t always structured but can be led by interest, enthusiasm and discovery.
Play that lets you follow your desires and your imagination.
Play that encourages you to take delight in your surroundings and marvel at the simplistic.
I’m definitely more playful now than I was 9 years ago but I also need to remind myself regularly to play. Sometimes the day to day responsibilities of life get on top of me and I forget to play.
Play is not just for children, it’s for all of us.
4. Order is over-rated
Anyone who knows me will know how much I love order, to-do lists, tidiness and a plan. However; order, working full-time and 2 young children is not a great combination.
I am still by my very nature an ordered person and I still have multiple lists on the go at once. I still tick off my calendar and food plan every single day and I still have the most complicated cash flow spreadsheet, with multiple sheets, for our household finances.
… but I am trying and trying and trying to embrace spontaneity.
Especially when they were younger, my children had a timescale of their own. They never fit in to a nice clear pattern of naps and feeds and now they are older they can speak their own minds and what they want isn’t always in my plan.
But their spontaneity can lead to the most amazing ideas and opportunities. They can create elaborate games and shows. They write, draw, play for hours in the garden and paint for days.
Their spontaneity challenges me to let go of my plans sometimes and embrace the unexpected. It challenges me to find joy in the day-to-day and to sometimes just sit and let time slow down.
My daughters are 8 and 7 now and I know the lessons they’ve taught me so far have made me a better person.
I’m embracing love, spontaneity, uniqueness and the opportunities for play in my everyday life.
But I’m also embracing the learning of motherhood, of bringing up two girls to be strong, independent women in this world.
I’m so grateful to be a mummy to my two wonderful girls and I can’t wait for the next lot of memories we will make together and the next lessons they will teach me.