I never thought the most challenging stage of motherhood to date would be year seven. That’s right — it wasn’t the period of sleepless nights of the newborn months or even the sleepless nights of having a newborn AND a toddler and, later on, with two other children. It came three years after sleep deprivation and nipple chaffing.
The hardest stage of motherhood so far is now — my three kids at ages 7, 5 and 3.
The difficulty of motherhood snuck up on me and swiftly kicked me in the butt, knocking me flat on my face. Between therapies, tantrums and sleep regression of a 5-year-old, the hardships piled on, and here I am right in the thick of it.
I found a handful of daily exercises that help. But the last few weeks I have felt empowered by what I call my “Momtra,” looking for that sacred phrase, sound or group of words that can bring power and positivity into my life.
I decided to focus on one aspect of motherhood a week, and so far, the results have been spectacular. It isn’t to say I always follow through or perfectly live out my Momtra, but the important thing is I have a reference when I am working on a specific area of progress. In fact, those times I feel like I am failing, I can refer back to my Momtra and say to myself, “Ok, I didn’t do it this time, but I can try again.”
Here are four Momtras that have gotten me through the most challenging stage of motherhood so far.
“Just Be Better Than a 5-Year- Old” Mommas, this one is surprisingly hard! When my 5-year-old reacts like dynamite, he sets something off in me that wants to respond right back. I remind myself of this Momtra and try and breath the explosion away and remember that he is 5-year-old learning how to live life.
“Hang in There” This Momtra does it for me when I am struggling. I used this to get me through each activity one at a time, one day at a time. Sometimes all you can provide is a warm body and a hug.
“Love Radically” When my eldest child developed emotional needs that couldn’t be met by just us, his parents, we chose to see a child psychologist. I showed up with the initial assessment, a list of behaviors I felt that needed to be "fixed." After a year of therapy, I learned the list I should have brought was the one for me. Over the year of appointments, I learned my eldest needed more love and acceptance from us.
I have been trying every day to love him radically. This Momtra of love has been a catalyst and has allowed me to love myself, my child and others more deeply.
“Don’t Take It Personally” When one of my kids is screaming in my face, running from me or even kicking me in the middle of a tantrum, I tend to take it personally. I feel like I’m being assaulted, and I have failed as a mother. But I try to look at the situation for what it is — a child developing their emotions. As a full-time mom, so many reactions seem like a personal charge at me — they are not. To be more empathetic, I have been reminding myself of this Momtra to not to take it personally.
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I still feel like I’m frequently flailing, trying to get a grip on my life, but Momtras are one way I have helped myself through this hard stage of motherhood. We all deserve to have someone cheering us on our journey. May we find that in ourselves.
What is your favorite Momtra?
Amber Folkman, the blogger behind "A Momma Abroad," is a California native who spent her university years in Hawaii where she met her husband. After a few years in Seattle, her husband's work brought him to Manila where Amber and her eldest son relocated in 2009. They now have three crazy boys ages 6, 4 and 2, whom they refer to as "#3PinoyBoys" because life in the Philippines is all they know.