Motherhood 101: The Class We Never Got

class

Instead of having a good idea of what motherhood entails, most of us learn the ropes of motherhood while we live it out.

We’re already in the role by the time we realize we’re almost entirely unprepared for it. This often leads to stress and anxiety for new moms as they not only take on the hardest, most selfless job in the world, but they do it while having not been well-prepared for it. The modern mother faces massive amounts of postpartum stress, and a lot of it is due to the fact that it’s the hardest job we’ll ever take on, that we’ve never really learned anything about or been prepared for.

When we moved overseas, someone shared with us a basic approach for language learning, and I think it applies beautifully to motherhood, in all stages. While it’s not “Motherhood 101,” it’s a really useful, simple tool that can help you assess where you are, and what you need to do to make progress.

Our friend called it “The Barefoot Method” of language learning.

So we’ll call it “The Barefoot Method” of learning MOTHERHOOD.

The acronym for it is “GLUE”:

G- GET WHAT YOU NEED.

Overseas, that looked like (for me) starting with the basics of grocery item names; that was what I needed most when we arrived on day 1 in a new country.

In motherhood, that often looks like tackling the thing that’s the most pressing/out of control. What do you actually need today? 

  • A laundry system?
  • Encouragement to go the distance in breastfeeding?
  • Insight into how to bring sex back into the marriage relationship alongside the demands of a new baby
  • An effective approach to tantrums?
  • What do you need today? THAT’s the thing you need to focus on getting… other things may be chaotic, but if your marriage relationship is falling apart, THAT’s the thing you need help with. Reach out to your husband. Talk to an older woman with a strong, godly marriage.

Whatever you’re facing that’s most challenging, seek input from wise, godly people who can help you get what you need. Don’t look to people who complain about the same things you do. Choose to learn from people who are STRONG in the area where you are weak. 

L- LEARN WHAT YOU GET. 

Really pay attention to what the wise, godly people tell you. Rather than having an attitude that your children “can’t” do what she’s suggesting, LISTEN to the mom who has obedient, pleasant children. Instead of acting like that couple has a marriage you could never relate to, determine that you’ll learn anything and everything they share with you.

(Also: beware of adapting it before you try it the way she does it– you may find she has good reasons for doing it the way she does!)

Don’t let the lessons people share with you fritter away and go unheard. Take them to heart and learn what you get. 

U- USE WHAT YOU LEARN.

Try to implement it right away. Commit yourself to the advice you’ve been given. USE this new method of communication, or tantrum-stopping, or approach to meal-planning.

Don’t fall back into old habits and patterns. Use what you’ve been given!

E- EVALUATE. 

Ask yourself— has this been fruitful? What has come from following this advice? Overseas, we would ask ourselves, “is my method getting me to where I can communicate better in this/that situation?”

In your life, you should be asking yourself questions like,

  • Are we communicating with each other more clearly than we were before we started meeting with the pastor?
  • Now that we’ve implemented that family/book’s advice, are we sleeping better than we were a month ago?
  • Is this meal planning approach taking stress from my life, even if it means a few days a month of careful planning?
  • Do I feel stronger today than I did before I regularly started exercising?
  • etc.

And then consider— WHAT do I need now? (Then the whole cycle starts again.)

This was the non-stop pattern for the whole first 6 years of my mothering journey… I felt like I literally would get one thing under control before it was time to tackle another:

  • Learning breastfeeding,
  • figuring out our approach to healthy sleep habits (even for babies)
  • learning how to pack & move,
  • facing tantrums,
  • how to give effective spankings,
  • reaching out for community with other women,
  • learning to cook from scratch,
  • meal planning,
  • a good laundry approach,
  • learning hospitality,
  • house cleaning norms,
  • getting the kids’ schooling to a place where it worked for us,
  • finding a better system for storing clothes,
  • coming up with a workable chore chart the kids could follow, etc.

It was just non-stop.

And it still is like that in some ways. I’m still learning stuff about teens. And occasionally one of the little guys will come up with a new tactic or sin area and I’ll have to learn new approaches for that.

Additionally I’ve got a ton of things I know are on the horizon:

  • navigating social media with teens
  • figuring out our approach to car/phone rules, as that becomes an issue
  • when/how/where we’ll allow them to take jobs outside the home
  • preparing them for college
  • sorting out what career things they might want to pursue
  • handling adolescence with a daughter for the first time
  • etc.

On top of that, I’ve still got all the old cycles still going.

Adding more people means the chores increase from time to time (and that new little people need to be added to the chart!). I currently re-evaluate the chore chart about once a year. At least twice a year I have to do “the great clothing switch out”, for seasonal clothing changes… but with younger babies, it’s often more than that. So that’s still the case in our house. Here in Washington, the changing of seasons means that for about half the year, we’ve got rain boots & jackets galore by the back door…. but then, in the spring, that gets swapped around for tennis shoes and flip flops (that’s when I implement the rule that each person can only have ONE light jacket hanging at the back door).

In motherhood, the cycles never end. There is always something new to tackle, refine, reconsider, and do better. Re-evaluation is always needed. We never get to the end of the need for tweaking and making things better.

IN THE COMMENTS: So what is most pressing in your life? What do you need? Let me encourage you: reach out to someone today to start the cycle: GET what you need. 

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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6 Responses

  1. Annie McCartney says:

    I love this post! Perfect timing :)

    I feel like as a new to be mom, I am searching for the motherhood 101 class & it just doesn’t exist. Everyone has advice & they feel like their opinion is the best, everyone has MUST haves, we go to register for baby items and its so overwhelming. What all does my baby need to survive? I don’t feel equipped for a newborn, how can I be a good wife & give my baby what they need, having a career and trying to find time to do things I love, do I go back to work full time or part.. and the list is long. I love what GLUE stands for, it is very helpful to keep my focus on what matters most.

  2. Diana says:

    I love this post. YES!

    I think that I can say that this is my one strength as a mother – realizing my weaknesses (which include just about everything except compulsive organizing), looking around and finding someone who IS good at it, and arranging to meet/talk/email with her to get the details. I’ve done this with chores, with history curriculum, with parenting toddlers, with just about everything.

    Many of us today are coming to motherhood with ZERO of the essential tools/skills that we need – tools that we should have gained growing up, but due to birth control, daycare, etc., we have grown up isolated away from learning these skills. I think that’s why parenting skills are sliding down the drain in this country. But for those of us who are absolutely determined to do the best we can, despite starting out badly, finding what we need is essential, and this is how to do it.

    Thank you for sharing. Your posts always hit on something that I need to hear! :)

    Diana

    • Jess Connell says:

      Haha! Diana, that’s it!! I need YOU! I need someone to come in and compulsively organize my compulsively disorganized life. :)

      You’re so right… we’re all guinea-pigging so much of the time.

      Motherhood 101 has been, for me, exactly like you describe in the first paragraph… a series of learning from women I admire in one way or another… and it’s still going.

      The hard thing about the teen years is that very few people are vulnerable/frank enough to share the nitty-gritty details of what it’s really like with teens. (Partly for completely valid reasons: that it’s not only the parents’ story– it’s also the teen’s story.) But it definitely makes it more challenging to see the full picture, than it was with toddlers and tantrums when it was all on fully-visible display.

  1. June 8, 2016

    […] On our own part, we have more ability than perhaps any people in the history of the world to reach out and SIEZE the knowledge we desire. We can be committed to lifelong learning. We can grow in the areas of our weakness and deficiency.  […]

  2. June 27, 2016

    […] The other day I read this article: Motherhood 101:The Class We Never Got. […]

  3. October 5, 2016

    […] Motherhood 101: The Class We Never Got […]

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