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.
I’ve realised lately that we Mums tend to say a lot of things to ourselves. Self-talk can be a great thing, a wonderful motivator. But sometimes it can be simply unhelpful and destructive.
So this blog series is about a few common phrases I’d like all mums to take out if their vocabulary.
I WILL NEVER…
Becoming a Mum is a pretty awesome thing. It’s such an incredible responsibility, to know you now have this tiny little bundle who is completely dependent on you.
So we want to get it right. We’re going to “do it the right way” and be the best damn mother the world has ever seen, right?
But to do that we’re going to need to set ourselves some guidelines, some new Mumma rules. And they commonly start with these three words…
I will never.
How many of you have ever said these word to yourself?
I will never give my baby a dummy.
I will never feed my baby packaged baby food.
I will never use a controlled crying method.
I will never….. all of the above.
I know I told myself “I will never… ” more than a few times early in my motherhood journey.
But I did. More often that not I ended up doing the exact things I swore I wouldn’t do! But you know what? That’s okay! Truly it is.
Remember back to those early days of pregnancy? When you spent hours reading, researching and planning out exactly what sort of parenting style you would use? You consumed as many books, magazines and blog articles as you could find. And by the time your due date rolled around, you had it sorted. You knew exactly what methods you were (and weren’t!) going to use to raise your baby.
But then your baby arrived. And this teeny little bundle didn’t seem to want to fit in with your planned style of motherhood. Your little precious monkey started throwing at you a whole bunch of behaviours and challenges you weren’t expecting. And now! all that researching and decision making seems so, well, useless!
But you’re determined, right? You’ve read the research, you “know” what’s best. So you keep pressing on doggedly with you pre-conceived strategies. Even though it’s causing you stress, exhaustion and guilt. Even though you haven’t slept for three nights and your baby is screaming, and you’ve tried every settling technique you can think of… Except a dummy, because “I will never give my baby a dummy….”
So many of us make decisions when we become a mother based on what we think or know to be right.
But difficulties can ensue when things don’t turn out the way we expect. We never know what temperament our baby is going to have, and we don’t really know how motherhood is going to change us personally. Our goals, beliefs, attitudes. We may like to think that motherhood won’t change us, but it does. Often in ways we never see coming.
Raising a child is like wandering into the great unknown. While its a wonderful and enriching journey, it’s also a challenging one, dotted with stumbling blocks and unforeseen barriers that we never knew even existed. Sometimes along his journey we may have to do things we NEVER envisaged our sleeves doing.
But that’s okay, because there is no right or wrong way to raise a child. There is just YOUR way. What works for you and your little family. And this might not be exactly how your mother did it, or how your sister or best friend does it, or how the books/blogs/magazines say to do it.
So don’t close yourself off to different styles and methods of parenting. Because you never really know which one is going to be the best for you. It often takes a lite trial and error – because that’s how we humans learn best. Through experience.
What matters most is figuring out how to raise your baby in a way that suits your personality and style, and helps you work towards your own personal goals of motherhood. It’s not about hard and fast rules of “do this” and “don’t do that”.
So, do away with the “I will never”s. Instead, be flexible and open to different suggestions and parenting techniques.
Be willing to say “I didn’t intended to do it that way, but I’m willing to try….”.