Mothering Seasons

A concept that I had no clue about until I was sitting in a women’s circle 4 years ago was mothering seasons. I guess having children close in age I had not really felt the ebb and flow of the changes in mothering. I had remained busy, highly needed and sleep deprived from the moment my son was born through to my third being past 12 months old. When I was sitting in circle and first heard this concept I was not even pregnant with my third, but I was trying. The season that resonated with me most was Winter. I was deep in the trenches of this season of mothering.

Winter is often associated with the baby phase. It is often the time we hunker down, keep warm, focus on slowing down and healing, eat warming foods and don’t venture out as much. For some the winter/baby phase can have moments of darkness especially if postpartum depression or anxiety occurs. This season has the beauty of delicious baby head smells, napping on mama and enjoying a milk drunk babe. In contrast there is the constant worry about what that cry means, never-ending nights, and days between showers. Each season comes with its moments of beauty and moments of hardship.

I truly felt I was mostly in winter for about 4-5 years. Not meaning that winter was a bad place to be. It just means that I was super busy, pregnant, breastfeeding, in the throws of having newborns and toddlers, and sleep deprived. After my youngest turned 1, I felt this sense that Spring was emerging I was coming out of winter. The older kids were becoming more independent, my eldest started 2 full days of kinder and it was slightly easier to get out and about.

Spring can often be seen as your season of mothering changes. Perhaps you now have a toddler who sleeps a tad more independently, doesn’t need feeds every few hours, and is really starting to engage with you in play. Springtime might mean more exploring in nature, joining classes and getting more help with childcare. It of course also comes with changes of nap schedules, toddlers finding and voicing their need for independence and maybe you return to work outside of the home. Again, not negative changes but moves forward to discovering who both of you are becoming.

Spring feels where I am at now. I had my eldest start school this year, my middle child day care and I could get out easier with my youngest. They all have great ability for moments of independent play, 2/3 are toilet trained, and I started my own business. However Covid-19 and being in Melbourne currently with some of the world’s toughest restrictions has had me swing back into days of winter. Shifting back and forth through seasons is to be expected. And hey I do live in the city that is known for having 4 seasons in a day, and I sure have felt that during lockdown. But even though my plans this year have gone out the window, I still feel overall I am in spring.

Like many mamas, we have moments of wishing or dreaming that we were in that phase of parenting where things feel less heavy, perhaps we are needed less as the kids are older and more independent, finances are more stable as kids are at school and you can work, and you can more easily have time for yourself. Summer I feel is this season of parenting. In summer, your kids may be more independent with their personal care, but still need you to run them around to be social and for sport. You can discuss deeper issues with them, but it also means moodiness and testing boundaries. Summer is fun and activity filled, but can also mean being really busy and not as much time spent at home.

Autumn I see as potentially the season of mothering teenagers. Your child is going through great change physically and emotionally. Which also means you need to adapt the way you parent. They are no longer a child and can have very intellectual conversations with you, but their brains are still not fully developed so they still need some boundaries and a lot of loving guidance. Autumn you get more help with cooking, cleaning up and possibly driving, but along with this is the grown-up worries that your teenager will be experiencing with broken hearts, juggling school and work commitments and social lives. For us as mamas its one step closer to them fully leaving the nest.

Once we are through Autumn, I wonder if we will have a moment of being back in winter. We will have the time to hunker down again, live a bit slower, have more focus on our own immediate needs. Time will tell, I guess. I love thinking about parenting as seasons, as it reminds me things are always changing. I won’t be this sleep deprived for ever. I already miss how much my babies needed me to get them to sleep. I look forward to the days when we can just go out on day trips and not worry about nap times and epic toddler meltdowns. I have enjoyed some days back in winter during lockdown just lying about with the kids watching a movie. I do not think the seasons of mothering are linear like the calendar seasons. We come in and out and return to seasons we have already been in. But it is a nice way to check in with where you and your family are at and to know like everything this too will change.

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