On yoga, leadership and motherhood on your 11th birthday
You turned 11 yesterday. You wanted a sleepover with three of your best friends. Eleven short years after you made me a mother and were completely dependent on me to survive and thrive, all you wanted was to scream and giggle in your bedroom with your friends behind closed doors. As I listened to you chat and laugh into the night, I felt my heart and my mind begin to shift again, pivoting, adapting, responding once more to the latest new change in my life. My firstborn, becoming separate from me, when once you could not sleep without your tiny warm face right next to mine.
Although I feel slightly wistful at times, I’m not sentimental about this. I embrace this development in you, this confidence to trust in others who are not your immediate family. I know this is the inevitable march of time – that you’ll withdraw from needing us, cement the friendships that will last a lifetime, meet a partner, or two, and eventually, maybe, fall in love with children of your own. It’s just that it’s another new thing, another unknown, a new phase, like when you started sprouting teeth, or walking, or needed to learn how to pee in a toilet. Your change is natural, a part of your development – it’s programmed into you. On my end, it can come as a bit of a surprise, and then recognition. Oh. Here it comes.
I always thought motherhood was the best leadership training activity because you have to be a strong leader as a mother, and you end up barking orders at small people all day long. But now I know it’s actually helping me develop some of the most important emotional intelligence skills of leadership. Self-awareness. Self-regulation. I’m learning this as your childhood extends beyond me like a veiled path – ever fluid, ever shifting, with a destination that is familiar but different all at the same time.
I’ve been doing yoga every morning for 21 days now. With my friend Adriene on Youtube. I can’t start the morning without her gentle encouragement for me to “catch a wave”, “find what feels good” and “leave everything else behind”. Yoga has taught me to be aware, and to breathe through the little, and big, shifts of everyday life. A hectic moment in the day when everything seems like it is piling up on me. Needing to meet a deadline. A difficult meeting. Disappointments. Frustrations. Laundry, endless laundry. My body seems to remember, my mind starts to recall what I practise in every morning. Check in to your body (noticing my posture – stooped; my shoulders – tense). Head up and breathe. Pause. You got this. Hang in there. As my body starts to shake during a challenging asana, I learn to breathe – staying calm, staying brave through it all. And I’ve learned to take that breath with me throughout the day, as my number one weapon against creeping stress. I’m adjusting my posture, dropping my shoulders, catching a wave. Bless you, Adriene.
It is the same with being a mother. Each new phase, each separation, each milestone, invites me to breathe and notice. And let go. I know now what my role has been as a mother. Not just by keeping you alive and well (or as we were taught in obstetrics regarding neonatal health – keep the baby pink, warm and sweet – sweet meaning having enough blood sugar). My job has been to teach you about life and love. In becoming a teacher, I’ve had to question what I know about these topics and realise I am still learning as I go. I’ve taught you that you can trust people, and I’ve shown you the beautiful, warm, safe place that is the purest love. And now you’ll go and find love with others – in your friends, classmates, future partners and children. And I’ll breathe through that process of seeing you grow and letting you go. I’ve got this. As you move on, I’ll remember to take your independence as a sign that I’ve done a fantastic job, that you’re able to trust others with such wholeheartedness.
But I will always remember, whenever I do start to feel a bit sentimental, that I was your first love.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there – including those with angel babies, or whose babies never came. X