Adapted from my blog post “Re-finding the wonder” originally published on the Mums in Cyprus website in September 2016
Parenting young children often leads to a loss of self for many parents. I know, because it happened to me. This is how I managed to re-find the wonder in my life and in the process, rediscover my sense of self.
Loss of Wonder
Last year my husband started a family tradition of writing wishes for the New Year that we would each pull out of a hat. The little wish that I drew, folded neatly at the bottom of the pile, read: “Wonderment”
My husband looked over my shoulder and whispered:
“I was hoping that you’d get that one – you’re in need of a little of that in your life!”
At first, I was angry with him. Then, embarrassed. And then struck by a terrible sadness as the realisation dawned on me that this was true.
I wasn’t aware of when it happened or how long it had taken, but in recent years I had become jaded, negative, and dullened.
I no longer gasped at nature’s wonders or the things that have always made me stop and stare in awe. I had lost my sense of connectedness with place and with the people around me. And ultimately, if I was being honest, with myself.
And so cautiously, with baby steps, I started to change how I looked at the world. I picked up my camera again and began to concentrate on the little things that had always caught my attention; a snail trail on the road under my feet on the morning walk to school, that rusty nail stuck out of the fence post in my neighbour’s yard. A pile of battered and discarded flyers blowing in the wind, and other random objects I discovered on my walks.
Slowly, the wonder began to come back. And much to my surprise (though it seems so obvious now), the more that I looked, the more easily I found inspiration in everything around me.
Finding Your Inspiration
This turning point in my current adult life by no means resolved all the issues that I’d been struggling with since becoming a parent.
Those negative issues that can affect all new parents and especially afflict stay-at-home mums; the exhaustion, oh – the constant exhaustion! The boredom. The ground-hog-day feeling of doing the same tasks over and over and OVER again. The frustrations that accompany being with little people 24 hours a day. But most importantly, the loss of our sense of self.
But it did start to relieve some of that monotony… to scratch off the world-weary lens through which I’d been viewing the world. And it did make me actively seek out the beauty in the mundane.
And in the process of doing this, in re-finding the wonder, I started to find that side of myself that had been lost under all the responsibilities and worries that had been piled up over the years and were weighing me down.
It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by parenting
The endless list of things we are supposed to achieve in our adult days – whether it is at home or work, or both – can overwhelm us. It’s so easy when caring for our children, partners and in some cases, our extended family, to leave little room for ourselves.
We can get so caught up in our daily routine, in the drudgery of the everyday.
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of using every ounce of our energy to just get through a day that we don’t leave space for the magic, nor time enough to notice those special little things out of the ordinary.
In not allowing wonder to wash over us at moments throughout the day, we can also prevent our kids from finding it in their own lives. Such a precious and yet simple gift we can give our children – the ability to see the beauty in things and to appreciate that which cannot be bought. To truly see the world around them and everything that inhabits it.
Children have an instinctive sense of wonder
A natural sense of joy, of curiosity in everything. The ability to engage themselves fully in that present moment.
All these traits are drummed out of them in the process of growing up. The ability to stop and stare, to want to leave the path and explore the unknown trail. To get caught up for hours in playing with pebbles and a plastic cup. To immerse themselves in discovery.
I have to remind myself daily that I should allow my children the space and the time to do this. To really encourage it, while they still have the time. Time, before their days get filled up with extra lessons and homework, exams, and routines.
I had to remind myself to let them jump in that muddy puddle or climb that tree. To stop to lift a snail off the path, or to study a beetle crawling on the floor. To interrupt me to tell me all about that amazing thing they just saw, and to drag me over to show me.
We have to master the art of slowing down and appreciating the moment
We, as adults, have to work hard at cutting out all the ugliness and seeing the beauty around us. To pause long enough to notice the little details of each day that make them different from the ones that came before. And the ones that will follow (my husband’s words there, not mine).
We must work that little bit harder at connecting with place, with others, and more importantly – with ourselves.
And so, every day, I am trying to take a moment to pause, to slow down, and to capture that little bit of wonder in the world around me before it whooshes past me in that all-too-quickly-passing moment and is lost. Just too as our children will grow up all too quickly… before we’ve even had a chance to catch our breath.