My daughter is teething right now. At least I think she is. She’s insanely grouchy, chewing on everything she can find and then there’s the nappies! Don’t even get me started on those.
Basically she’s miserable.
And all she wants is me. Just to sit on my lap and cuddle. To be held and rocked. And soothed. All the time. From the minute she wakes up in the morning.
It’s a beautiful image right. The serene mother, placidly stroking her dozing toddlers fluffy head. (Yes, my 20 month old still barely has any hair).
But the reality is. It’s exhausting, and wearisome, and frustrating.
As much as I’d love to sit with my child and stroke her head for all the time she wanted. Today I simply can’t. I have work. I have a meeting. I have non-motherhood duties to attend to.
“But can’t you just take the day off, skip the meeting, surely your baby is more important.” I can hear society asking those questions of me.
Of course she’s more important. But here’s the thing. My husband is home. He’s on holidays. He’s willing and more than able to care for our daughter. To soothe and comfort her as she needs.
But she doesn’t want him. Not today. She just wants me. She just wants “Mamma”.
And it kills me. Any mother who’s been in this same situation before will understand the gamut of emotions you feel when your child just wants you, but you can’t be there. Even if it is just for a few hours.
Here’s what we feel:
Those cries don’t fall on deaf ears. Even though I’m walking out the door with my shoulders squared and my head held high, my heart is clenching inside my chest.
I should stay. I should cancel my meeting. I should be there to comfort her. Should. Should. Should.
Why today? Of all days. The one time I have meetings I can’t get out of.
Just go to Dad. “Why won’t she just go to her father?” Why is it always me she wants?
What if it’s not teething? What if it’s something worse. I should stay to keep an eye on her.
Pain. Guilt. Frustration. Resentment. Fear.
These aren’t the words we associate with the Hallmark card version of motherhood we’re served up in the mainstream media. All those baby books we read in our nine months of pregnancy? They never mentioned these words.
And very rarely do we hear them from other mothers. There’s a code of silence in motherhood circles. It seems we don’t mention these words, because to admit to these feelings is akin to publicly announcing your failure as a mother.
Because “good mothers” don’t feel this way. Right? “Good mothers” can take it all in their stride. Not matter what motherhood throws at them, “good mothers” can get through it, because our love for our child will see us through everything. Right? In my experience, not so much.
This is not a debate about working mothers. Because even though my example today is about me going to work, this very same situation occurs every day in thousands of households. Whether a Mum is leaving the house to get her hair cut for the first time in six months, heading out to her weekly pilates class, meeting her best friend for lunch, heading out to do the groceries. These particular emotions are not reserved purely for working mothers. This scenario happens all the time. And mums feel these thoughts ALL THE TIME.
I’m not here to offer solutions today. Because as there really any solutions? We just need to be able to manage the situation and our thoughts about the situation as best we can.
But what I would like to do is open up the code of silence. To encourage mums to speak openly and honestly about how they feel, about the thoughts they have. About their pain, guilt, frustration, resentment and fears.
Because if we can break this code of silence, we’ll soon realise we’re not alone in our situation. We can do away with the Hallmark images. We can realise that when we feel this way it doesn’t make us a bad mother.
It just makes us a mother.