Motherhood without a manual

There’s no motherhood manual. Maybe you learn what you think you should do, or not do for that matter from watching others, from the way your were parented by your own mother, or other mother figure. Maybe you read books, or watch Supernanny even. I once knew someone who read a Gina Ford book and became an instant expert on all things baby – for about five minutes of motherhood.

Before we are mothers

Before having children we are all expert mothers aren’t we? We look at other mother’s, whether that is consciously or unconsciously and we think “well I’m not going to do it like that” or “I won’t be that kind of mum”.

We think we know. We think we have all the answers. We are smug. We know nothing.

Where’s the honesty?

Honesty towards expectant mums is rare. No one wants to pop the bubble, upset the mum to be, or make her overly anxious. Yet, we are happy to send her into battle without a weapon. Too strong? Perhaps, but my labours felt like battles. They were brutal.

Having a newborn can also feel like a battle which you’ve arrived for without your armour. We gloss over those days eventually because time passes and things begin to get easier but, for many new mums life with a newborn can be a hugely challenging period of conflicting emotions. A time of loneliness and resentment even, coupled with overwhelming love and happiness – or not. The point is that it’s different for everyone – but I’ve not met a mum yet who can honestly say those early days aren’t hard.

Owning your approach to motherhood

Like so many mums, I had an idea of the type of mum I’d be in my head. Fourteen years into motherhood I have learnt to flex and adapt my approach depending on the needs of my children. The biggest change in my parenting style over the years has been ownership of my own approach. When I was a new mum I constantly felt as if I was being watched. By other mums, family members, even just the general public. That my style of parenting was under constant scrutiny.

I imagine this is still the case – the difference is that I no longer concern myself with this. I couldn’t care less what Barbara and Steve in Aldi think about the fact that I’ve said my five year old can have a chocolate egg. I’m not interested in what the mum on the school yard thinks about my child’s hair style or the fact his shirt is half un-tucked because he wanted to do it himself this morning.

What has developed over time has been a greater self-awareness and understanding of why I parent my children the way I do and most importantly, being unapologetic for that. There is a reason for everything I do. Just like you and I are different, so are our children and therefore it fits that our parenting style will differ, as will our experience of motherhood.

Different is not wrong. Different is just different.

Hold the judgement

Anyone who says they’ve not judged another mother is a liar. We’ve all done it. What if we all offered words of encouragement and support more than looks of judgement though? Because the reality is that anyone who says they haven’t had a rough night with a newborn, is a liar. Anyone who says they haven’t struggled with a toddler, is a liar. Anyone who says they haven’t battled with their young child to get out of the door for school, is a liar. Anyone who says they haven’t struggled with their teen, is a liar. Anyone who says they haven’t cried out of sheer desperation or exhaustion since being a mother, is a liar.

Motherhood can be rough. We know that. We are constantly trying to fulfil multiple roles at any one time, we all are, yet the bulk of the criticism comes from…other mothers. It doesn’t quite add up.

The ride of your life

Some days you will feel like you are acing motherhood. All your ducks are in a row, everything is ‘in order’, you are fulfilling all your roles and everyone has eaten organic porridge for breakfast and then BOOM. Suddenly it’s a bad day. Suddenly you haven’t got your sh*t together at all and you feel like you are failing miserably at everything. To top it off, you gave your children chicken nuggets for dinner. I mean – you are the worst!

In 14 years of being a mummy, I don’t think any two days have been the same. The saying ‘4 seasons in one day’ applies in totality to motherhood.

I can’t tell you what your experience of motherhood will be. I can’t tell you how to be a ‘good’ mum, because what we all consider to be ‘good’ is very different.

I can tell you that motherhood has enriched my life beyond all expectations. I can tell you that motherhood has made me feel a strength of love and emotion I never knew was possible. I can tell you that motherhood has broadened my thinking, increased my patience and strengthened my resilience. I can tell you that motherhood has made me question everything. I can tell you that motherhood has been a radical redesign of everything I thought I knew. I can tell you that motherhood has increased my capacity for self-depreciating humour. I can tell you that motherhood has validated the importance of ‘simple’ and ‘ordinary’ things, and made them extraordinary. I can tell you that motherhood has made me wish I had been better at maths in school – with questions like “If Jenny eats 15 cookies and Josh eats 12 apples and a banana, what’s the name of their goldfish?”

I can tell you that motherhood will be the ride of your life!

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