We celebrate Mothers’ Day in our house. That’s right, it’s Mothers’ Day, not Mother’s Day. Our daughter has two mothers. Father’s Day is just another Sunday, but Mothers’ Day is one of the two days that my wife and I get each year that are about us. The other is our respective birthdays. 

We’ve been parents for more than 11 years and I’ve often thought of the saying “the days are long, but the years are short” really does accurately describe being a parent. There have been many days where my frustration with our daughter boils over and the day and my frustration seem never ending, but wow, those 11 years have flown by. How does this happen?

I’ve been reading Danya Ruttenberg’s book Nurture the Wow: Finding spirituality in the frustration, boredom, tears, poop, desperation, wonder, and radical amazement of parenting. In it, I think that Ruttenberg does a great job of explaining this phenomenon.

Sometimes parenting drains me, of course. Sometimes it’s frustrating and hard and exhausting. But when my proverbial cistern is full, I’m able to be more present, more engaged, to think more creatively, even through the hard parts. And sometimes parenting fills me up — the snuggles and the laughter and the innocent sweetness just get me, right where I need it to. And sometimes, when I am feeling most connected to my kids, most blown away by the sheer impossibility of them, I feel that wellspring open up. And that’s when blessing, or something like it, starts to flow.

Danya Ruttenberg, Nurture the Wow, page 151

What her words remind me of is childbirth. I remember that labour hurt a lot, but I don’t remember the actual pain because of all the oxytocin (the hormone released during childbirth) that was filling me up. When parenting, children might frustrate you all day long, but then you see them sleeping or they come over to give you a hug or you come across a particularly cute picture of them, that feeling of connection, of impossibility, of love flows through you and while you can remember that you were frustrated with them, you can’t feel the frustration. The day seemed long while you were in it (much like labour), but when it’s over it can seem like the blink of an eye.

Now, while there are many moments we spend with our children that bring us joy, as parents, we need to do what we can to prepare ourselves to keep up with them in those moments and to be able to get through the less joyous moments. Later in the book, Ruttenberg writes:

Mothers (and fathers) are made — again and again, through small and large acts of self-care. That’s how we become the people who are able to parent our children — filling up our own proverbial tanks of gas. The person my children get when I don’t take care of myself —- when I’m hungry, or resentful, or low on solitude or whatever it is —- isn’t the mother I want to be for them. I make myself into that person by being mindful of my own needs. It’s a gift for them — they want a happy mom who can really show up for them.

Danya Ruttenberg, Nurture the Wow, page 214

So this Mothers’ Day (or, if you insist, Mother’s Day), if you have young children, make time to do something with your them that makes you all laugh, and take time to do something just for you — meditate, nap, read a book, whatever it is, as long as it’s for you. Use this day to fill up your cistern and your fuel tank.

Happy Mothers’ Day to all you mothers out there.

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