There are amazing, devoted, wonderful, deliberate mothers out there, and each week we’ll spotlight one of them here at The Power of Moms. Do you know a mom who deserves a little time in the spotlight? Email rachelle.price (at) powerofmoms.com. We can’t wait to meet her.
Introducing Kristen Olsen
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
I have one inquisitive, energetic (and crawling) eight-month-old daughter, Harper Noel.
What have been your favorite parts of motherhood? How do you cultivate joy in your journey as a mother?
Perhaps the greatest joy I have found as a new mother is being able to watch my daughter view the world for the first time. Nothing has brought me more delight than poking my head into her room when she first wakes up and seeing her face light up and her beaming smile when she sees me.
Seeing her laugh for the first time when I told our dog to “SPEAK!”, taking her on her first four wheel ride at the cabin, trying a strawberry for the first time and seeing her face pucker up, going swimming for the first time, and taking her to the county fair to see all the animals have all been highlights of motherhood. She is taking in the entire world and is mesmerized by all the new sights, sounds, and smells.
Even though she can’t verbally communicate with us quite yet, it has been so neat to see how much we can still communicate without speaking. Her movements, her facial expressions, her tones, her cries, they each mean something and as her mother I know all these things best. I know her quirks, what she likes, what she dislikes.
It’s amazing to witness how content a child is with the simplest things in life and how it gets me to slow my own life down to enjoy these small and uncomplicated things with her. I feel like I have learned more about life from her than I have in all my years before. It brings me great joy knowing that as I am teaching her, she is teaching me and continually molding me as a person.
What have been the biggest challenges of motherhood for you? What are the hardest parts of your typical day as a mom? What coping strategies do you have for getting through hard times and hard days?
The biggest challenge I have found about motherhood is learning my own limits. What I can handle as a mother is different from what someone else can handle. What I find a priority as a mother may not be a priority to someone else. I wouldn’t say I live an extremely busy life full of events or that many people are depending on or demanding things of me, but my limits are mine and no one else’s. For example, right now I work as a dental hygienist once a week and once a week is my limit.
Learning not to spread myself too thin or compare my abilities to others is a constant work in progress. I find that when I focus on my own family and not what others are doing, I am healthiest. The moment I stopped comparing my lowlights of motherhood with others’ highlights is the moment I felt like I had finally found my niche as a mother. I have to remember that for as many weaknesses as I have as a mother, I have just as many strengths in other areas of motherhood.
We all have different clusters of strengths and weaknesses as mothers and ultimately all we want is for our families to be happy. There are endless possible ways to create that and to get there.
What has surprised you about motherhood?
What hasn’t surprised me about motherhood is the better question!
What have you learned from motherhood? Please share a specific story or incident that really taught you something.
I thought that I would have this huge epiphany and suddenly be “ready” to be a mom once I had completed X, Y, and Z. But what does “ready” even mean? Are we ever really “ready”? The obvious answer is no. Reading books and having hopes for what it will be like can only go so far and can even be frustrating or disappointing as a new mother when things don’t go according to what a book says or what you have perceived motherhood to be. I have learned that I had to do what works best for ME and my baby. A book might tell you the way to make your child sleep through the night at twelve weeks, but it’s merely a guideline and not something to beat yourself up about if it’s not working for you.
I have also learned that as a mother I need to give myself a little more credit. A few weeks ago, my daughter began losing interest in nursing and I had exhausted all my knowledge and resources to try to keep her nursing, but nothing was working. I was feeling guilty with the realization that I will have to stop nursing her due to her lack of interest and I had hoped to nurse longer, but I lost sight of the huge accomplishment that I had exclusively nursed my daughter for the first seven and a half months of her life. I was so caught up in feeling like I had failed that I had forgotten to give myself credit for what I HAD done. I have finally come to terms that maybe this is her way of saying that SHE is done despite how I feel. She’s getting what she needs, and maybe it’s not all up to me. So I am not going to feel guilty about it any longer!
What have you learned about motherhood that you wished you’d known sooner and would like to pass along?
I am the best mom when I am my best self. I am my best self when I continue to make the things that were important to me before I had a child still important to me today. It is okay to think of yourself and choose yourself sometimes. First and foremost, you are a person with desires, goals, ambitions, and hobbies outside of motherhood. Don’t give up your passions and hobbies because you feel you don’t have the drive or time to expend anymore. MAKE time for yourself.
Help yourself remember what was important to you before children were in the picture by setting a goal. Before having my daughter I was an avid runner. Before I gave birth, I made myself sign up for a half marathon to give me something to work toward and accomplish three months post-pregnancy. Was it my best time? No. But I’m glad I did it and continue to make running a priority in my life. It is something I do for both mental clarity and physical health. Although I don’t have near the amount of time I would like to devote to running, I now wake up before dawn if I want to run and then make up for the lack of sleep by napping when she takes a nap (or not!). I can incorporate my child into my exercise too. Sometimes I take her running with me in the stroller and do crunches on the floor by her while she’s playing.
Also, don’t always feel like you have to “get everything done” while your kids nap. Sometimes it’s okay to do nothing at all. Read a book. Go soak up the sun in the backyard. Finish some project you’ve been meaning to finish. Don’t think twice about thinking about yourself!