Acceptance comes first

IMG_2120This past Wednesday, Saren, April, and I met with 65 wonderful mothers in Salt Lake City to celebrate the launch of our first Power of Moms bookDeliberate Motherhood. We self-published the book last year, but it wasn’t long before a national publisher picked it up, updated the cover, and launched it again on September 3rd to booksellers all over the nation, including Barnes & Noble.

While publishing a book is an accomplishment we are proud of (April wrote about the processhere), I think I speak for all of us at Power of Moms when I say the thing we’re most excited about is getting this material into the hands of as many mothers as possible. As Saren said during her wrap up on Wednesday night, the ripple effect of 65 women trying to be deliberate mothers is huge. And with the help of this book, we hope there will be hundreds–if not thousands–of women who will be strengthened to be better mothers. Those mothers will in turn strengthen their families, and those strong families will strengthen our society as a whole.That’s the big picture for us!

For those of you who couldn’t make the event (most of you, obviously), I thought it would be nice to post my remarks on The Power of Acceptance, the first chapter in the book:

I was so happy when April and Saren asked me to write the main essay for the chapter on acceptance, because that’s really the only power I feel qualified to write about. I like to try to articulate the struggle so many of us experience as mothers, and since I’m both a little bit of a pessimist (or realist, if that sounds too harsh) and somewhat lazy, I really do love the power of acceptance. It’s the only power that is less about trying and more about letting go. Letting go of expectations, perfectionism, and absolutes in motherhood. It’s both liberating and comforting to set all that aside, just accept what is, and allow you and your family to be who you really are.

I wrote this essay from my perspective as a brand new, first time mother. There is so much we have to learn to accept when we first become mothers: body changes, lack of sleep and alone time, and the frustration of dealing with an inconsolable baby. But just like all of the other powers, acceptance isn’t something you figure out once and then you’re done. The face of acceptance is constantly changing. Now that I have teenagers instead of babies (but still a kindergartener to munch on, thank goodness!), I am trying to learn to accept other things, like how I can’t control my children or make them into someone they aren’t. Can I guide and influence? Of course! But control? No. I also have to accept that my children and I are getting older and if I haven’t done certain things by now, those doors are probably closing. (Yes, others open, but it’s still hard to see certain doors close.)

For instance, my youngest child is turning six in a few weeks, so I think I’ll probably never have that cute, color coordinated baby nursery with the gliding rocking chair I aways wanted, and I’m also never going to have those precious mother and baby photographs taken. We never had the money for either of those things when our children were babies, so that door is closed. It’s a silly thing, really–a first world problem as my teenage daughter would say–but it’s something important to me, so it makes it difficult to accept.

There are bigger things too, like learning to accept that that same teenage daughter and I are very different people, and she will never be the “mini me” I had expected. But learning to accept her for who she is and putting to rest my ideas of who I wanted her to be is very freeing and brings a great deal of peace to our relationship.

And then there are much, much bigger things, like learning to accept the death of a marriage, or the death of a child. The list of potential challenges we have to deal with as mothers is never ending, so no, acceptance is not something we will ever master; it’s just something we will have to do over and over and over again. The only constant in life is change, and that is never more true than in motherhood. We change, our children change, and learning to accept that reality is the first step to peace.

As much as we strive as an organization to provide very concrete tools for mothers to feel more peace, purpose, order, and joy through the mothering process, and as much as we talk about this book as the handbook on motherhood that they forgot to give you in the hospital, motherhood isn’t something that can be figured out, mastered, or checked off as “done” either. We are always standing on new ground, and that ground is always shifting beneath our feet. As mothers, we’re constantly trying to figure things out, constantly re-evaluating, constantly changing our expectations, constantly adapting to the new normal.

As mothers, absolutes allude us. What is right for one child might be wrong for another, and what is wrong for the family across the street might be right for your family. And that’s hard. And that’s why we’re attracted to writing about these powers–or principles–that help us to be better mothers. We want to be able to make sense of it all, to be able to put it under a nice, pretty book cover. But again, none of us will ever get it all figured out. All of us will most likely get to the end of our lives and wish we had done certain things differently. But instead of wishing, hoping, regretting, whining, or even praying that things were different, we can simply accept them for what they are.

Acceptance is not about giving up or resigning ourselves to something undesirable. Acceptance is about getting okay with the idea that all we can ever expect of ourselves, our families, and our lives is to do the best we can with what we’ve got when we’re in the moment–and to know that’sgood enough.

And this is why acceptance comes first in the book–because it’s the foundation for everything else. As soon as you can accept that motherhood is hard–really hard–and that you’re not going to get it all figured out and do it all perfectly all of the time, then you are in a position to become the best mom that you can be.

QUESTION: What are the hardest things for you to accept in your stage of motherhood?

CHALLENGE: Consider writing these things down and figuring out which ones you can control and which ones you can’t. Work on accepting the ones you can’t!

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