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Being a mom is hard work – period. Everyone’s experience with motherhood varies greatly from one another. In a world of filters and curated images, it is easy to compare oneself to another and only see the highlight reel – the tidy kitchen, the bright smiles and the beautiful child in clean clothes.
However, by missing what’s behind the scenes we often fail to realize just how tough the role of being a mother truly is. It’s days of frustration, weeks of sleepless nights and years of worrying. But, it’s also days of victory, weeks of progress and years of pride and love that one wouldn’t trade for the world.
Today, in celebration of Mother’s Day, we’re putting the spotlight on moms across the country who are offering #realtalk on what it’s truly like to be a mom, as they share their unique experiences and perspectives.
Meet Mandy Harriman, Stephanie Jhala and Pauline Chan. All mothers to beautiful children, who are raising their children their own way and doing what’s right for them and their families. Despite not having all the answers, and each tackling motherhood differently, they are aligned in their beliefs that moms need to stick together and take care of one another – a message we couldn’t agree with more.
ACE: What does motherhood mean to you?
Stephanie Jhala: “Becoming a mother is one of the most beautiful, challenging, and monumental transformations of a woman. It calls you to be greater than you’ve ever known yourself to be, because now you are responsible for another human’s life, and they look to you for love, safety and guidance. It calls you to step into your fierce confidence, nurturing nature, and compassionate kindness- because you are now not just living for yourself, you are a role model to an impressionable mind. It calls you to be humbled by the daily lessons in patience, exhaustion, forgiveness, and letting go. It expands and grows you in ways you never thought possible.”
Pauline Chan: “To me, it’s a chance to shape and guide a little life which hopefully reflects the best of you and your partner - but it really is the universe’s secret little revenge joke in a lot of ways. It feels like the greatest privilege but is also the hardest job ever!”
Mandy Harriman: “Great question. Motherhood is an opportunity, a joy, and finally, a precious gift that I was given. It’s the gift of being able to bring a child into this world. The gift of being able to walk beside your children as they navigate life. The gift of nurturing them with grace and wisdom. The gift of seeing them become curious and independent. The gift of experiencing everything all over again from a different perspective. The gift that I need to be reminded daily of.”
What is the most surprising thing about motherhood?
SJ: “That it’s WAY harder than I thought. And just when you think you have it figured out, everything changes.”
PC: “The panic attacks when my husband leaves me with either one or both of the kids and I’m thinking “Wait don’t leave, I don’t know what to do!!” It’s amazing how such seemingly minor things are suddenly the most challenging things ever; on the other hand, the things you loved most in your life that have become routine are now the MOST fun when you see it through the kids’ eyes.”
MH: “The most surprising thing about motherhood is definitely how hard it can be. I always thought that mothering would be an easy thing for me, and I guess I figured that for a few reasons. The first reason being that I’m a woman, and I assumed motherhood should come naturally, without difficulty. Secondly, I had the desire and passion to be a mom for years, so it was something I would long for and dream about. Lastly, because I had an incredible example of motherhood from my own mom. That being said, I still feel like I'm figuring it all out on the fly. It's constant learning and growing for me.”
What is the most challenging thing about motherhood?
SJ: It TRULY takes a village to raise a child. The problem is we live in a village-less society. We are doing everything alone: cooking, cleaning, groceries, planning, playing, shopping ... I didn’t know that I couldn’t do it all on my own. And so, I thought I was failing, until I started talking with other women, and realized we are all in the same boat struggling. Our individualistic society that has taught us independence has backfired in one of the most crucial areas that create the foundation of a thriving culture. This lack of togetherness fosters loneliness, erosion of self-care and ability to care for a mother’s needs. The most successful societies value mothering the mother, and bringing back that support is a quest that I am out to restore.
PC: “Constantly being torn between the what I love most. Balancing so many things means I really have to love what I’m doing, who I’m doing it with, and most importantly, it has to be with intention and presence otherwise I’m wasting time. The best me as a mom means I need to spend time on non-mom things which challenge and energize me, but this means time and energy away from my family. Every day I try for 100% and then inevitably have a moment of thinking I didn’t do enough whether it’s work or family…and then I remind myself this is the best I know how, and it’s right for me because through the good and bad, I love my life! And really there’s no time to worry about it anyway, I just have to keep doing.”
MH: “The most challenging thing for me is the comparison game. It can be so hard some days to not compare myself to other moms – from what they wear, to how they decorate their house and even to what their kids wear. It’s easy nowadays to get lost in the world of others and become consumed by their accomplishments that you overlook your own. I have found that comparison can keep you looking at the places that don't matter.”
What is the most rewarding aspect of motherhood?
SJ: “The cuteness overload, the cheeky giggles, witnessing miraculous growth and their discovery of the world.”
PC: “To be so totally and completed trusted by this tiny human with all the things in life and to have the honour of shaping and guiding a life to hopefully be all it can be. And, getting to say things I hated hearing from my parents, like ‘because I said so,’ ‘see, I told you,’ and ‘that’s reality’.”
MH: “It's so rewarding to watch your kids take on the world one challenge at a time. You have to celebrate the little wins, as much as the big wins. For example, when the years of nagging them about sharing toys with their siblings pays off and you see them with friends sharing their favourite toy. Or when they're at the play park and confidently walk up to another child and introduce themselves and ask him or her to play. In these moments, you get a glimpse into who they're becoming and the part you played in it. Those moments can make months of parenting worth it all.”
When it comes to motherhood, there is a lot of criticism and judgement that exists between moms. Have you ever felt judged/criticized by another mom? If so, how have you handled it?
SJ: “I am here to interrupt the judging and shaming, which starts with judging and shaming of ourselves. I’ve taken a stand in creating community, in honouring everybody’s stories and parenting decisions, in training women to listen to each other without judgement and acknowledging each other’s choices and experience that creates connection versus separation.”
PC: “Honestly, I haven’t felt judged or criticized by another mom, but I think it’s likely I didn’t notice if it happened because of my perspective on being a mom. I freely admit I have no clue what I’m doing so criticism isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like everyone, it would irritate me to be judged, but if I’m being honest with myself and don’t think it’s fair, then I just go on doing what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m sure the person giving criticism/judgement doesn’t either, so I’m not going to let it bother me. No mom has ever known 100% what she is doing and many kids turn out to be mostly okay; that’s a standard I can live with.”
MH: “Yes, I've definitely felt judged and criticized by other moms. It's hard and it hurts but at the end of the day, you must remember you're doing the best you can with what you have in front of you. The reality is, it's easy to criticize when you only know part of the story because you end up filling in the blanks yourself. You may have one kid or seven kids, twins or triplets. Maybe you couldn’t get pregnant so you went the adoption route or you have a blended family. Whatever your journey of motherhood is you need to own it and not let other people get you down.”
What is one thing your mom has taught you about motherhood that you hope to pass on to your children?
SJ: “Travel as often as possible, adventure across the world, meet new people, learn languages and culture, stay curious, and lead with an open heart.”
PC: “It’s a massive responsibility, but then again you can’t take it too seriously because things always work out even if the path isn’t what you thought or wanted.”
MH: “My mom was my biggest fan growing up. It didn’t matter if it was the first day of school, what sport I was playing, or if I was simply having a rough day. My mom was always encouraging me to do my best, and be my best. Whether it was with an encouraging word, a hug or one of her countless cards she’d leave on the dresser of my bedroom, I knew my mom was proud of me. Also, most importantly, my mother believed strongly in the power of prayer. She prayed for me and I'm certain this would make the difference that was unexplainable. Even to this day when I call her exhausted and complaining about my day she is always so positive and tells me I’m doing a great job. I hope that in a world full of negativity, judgment, and brokenness my kids will always hear my voice encouraging them to do their best and be their best. And when they don't hear my voice, I believe the prayers for my children will make the difference.”
From everyone at The Ace Class, Happy Mother’s Day to all the strong, fierce, beautiful, intelligent and kind mamas out there! We love you.