I spend a lot of time thinking about how best to help my children learn.
Hands-on activities, incorporating movement, accommodating sensory needs – all of this has become just a regular part of my helping them learn.
Struggling with the sound of your pencil on the paper? Let’s type instead.
Haven’t been able to memorize math facts but capable of doing algebra? Here’s a calculator.
Feel like you need to move during your phonics lesson? Let’s grab the rolling office chair so you can spin around as you make your way to the different flash cards all over the floor.
Having trouble taking that shower tonight? Here’s some wonderful smelling body wash to make it more enticing.
I expect that my children will struggle. I give them some time and see if it is something that will work itself out on its own. If it doesn’t, I find ways to make it a little bit easier to succeed.
It’s a basic part of my motherhood.
The past few weeks have been filled with one struggle after the next. My oldest has been having sensory related meltdowns again. My youngest is so anxious that he hasn’t slept more than a 2-3 hour stretch in a month (even with a sleep aid). And then he fractured his ankle at his gymnastics gym, which meant pain, more anxiety and a ton more doctors’ appointments.
I have felt understandably frazzled, overwhelmed, exhausted, and sad.
More than that, my primary response has been to feel like I am failing them, failing my husband, failing my friends, failing myself.
I just can’t keep up with all the expectations I have of my life.
I can’t even keep up with the basics. (Things like hygiene and clean laundry are up for grabs at this point.)
It occurred to me last week, as I prepped another hands-on reading lesson for my youngest son, that maybe I need some accommodation as well.
Maybe I am learning in ways that require hands-on practice too.
Maybe all the things I read in books and on the internet can’t really be mastered without making mistakes, jumping back in every single day, and extensive practice.
Maybe motherhood is more about learning on the job than I give it credit for.
When I was a training and development professional, I spent a ton of time analyzing how an employee new to a job learns and grows – especially in their first 90 days, six months, and year. The companies I worked with spent millions of dollars on ensuring that a new hire was given all the tools needed to make progress and eventually become competent. There was an expectation of making mistakes, being unsure, having to figure things out for a bit, and needing resources and mentors to fully assimilate well into the position.
On the Job Training For Motherhood
I had a baby and two days later I was on my own, trying to figure out feeding, diapering and sleep.
My child was given an autism diagnosis and two hours later I was trying to help him as he scratched himself until he bled.
I was told my youngest son might never read proficiently, and two years later I am just now purchasing the Level 2 reading program for him.
If motherhood were a profession, I could make a mint working to improve the new employee training program!
Here’s the thing – I would never, ever expect that someone new to a job instantly know how to do it.
So why do I expect this of myself?
Motherhood is a calling, yes. It is also a job that changes all the time. We find ourselves in the position of a “new hire” with every single milestone, new social challenge, developing skill that needs to be nurtured, and sometimes, with each additional medical diagnosis.
Of course I have no idea what I am doing most of the time.
Today, I choose to give myself as much grace as I would anyone learning as they go.
I choose to identify the areas in my motherhood that need “special accommodations.” My son needs to type instead of using a pencil. I need to take a nap instead of cleaning the kitchen.
I choose to see motherhood for what it is, without blaming myself for not being able to master it all.
So freaking difficult.
Just like my children, I will fail sometimes. I will make mistakes. I will need accommodation for my own strengths and weaknesses.
And eventually, I will learn.