If you’re a mama, I’m like 90.99% certain that you’ve felt it.
It creeps in slowly on the coattails of sleep deprivation, overwhelm and stress… it coaxes you with story wrapped around the heady notion that there’s some proverbial textbook/mother code that you skipped class on.. missing not only chapters of stories about these whimsical magical mother faeries… you missed the whole fucking mythical book!
And you kinda jumped in all starry eyed with your rose coloured glasses on and romantic ideals about what rearing children was going to be like… of course YOU would have it all figured out!
Quite adamant in protest to the seasoned mothers who have a certain smirk and twinkle in their eyes when you share your romantic ideals, and they politely nod in agreeance with your naivety.
And then the harsh reality hits when you make the transition from Maiden to Mother, with a pulsing little breathing being… laying so helplessly in your arms… and even though your maternal instincts start to kick in.. there’s a part of you that’s like,
“what the fuck do I do now?”
And so it begins…. Lets face it your first child is your biggest initiator, your teacher, but also your experiment, your little guinea pig. As you fumble your way through listening for cues to respond. If something doesn’t work then you try something else, or you walk the floor in a zombie state wondering what the fuck happened to all those sweet ideals you envisioned…all the while, you are bombarded with marketing of the perfect mother.
and in it creeps… Mother Shame
You start to doubt yourself. Your journey as a mother. Maybe you’re not quite cut out for this… you ask around and everyone seems to have a well, and not so well formed opinion about what you should or should not be doing… in the silent recesses of your mind, you begin to feel like you’re a terrible mother. You question if you’re really cut out for this gig… you poetically lost your braincells whilst you were growing someone else’s…but you can’t go back to how things were.
You’re tested time and time again, feeling like you’re not good enough… that you’re failing or damaging your kids in some way, not giving/doing/being enough and so you give and give and give as your reserves start to deplete and then you question yourself even more… We place so much pressure on ourselves to reach an abstract concept of peak perfection, that we forget to enjoy the subtle nuances of the moment..
You feel shame at your perceived shortcomings… for not being able to be ‘the ALL’ to respond to your child… and you know why?
COS YOU’RE NOT MEANT TO.
One of the biggest gifts we can offer our children is the cultivation of sovereignty early on… doing so creates healthy emotional intelligence and boundaries.
I have noticed this Mother Shame in me so many times, especially as a solo mama who is developing a service based business to help provide a healthy lifestyle for my children. I believe whole heartedly this shame comes from our disconnection to the mother journey… by physical and vicarious experience.
As a young girl I didn’t experience many pregnant mothers around me, I never really saw newborns or breastfeeding mothers… the fullness of sleep deprivation, colic and teething… sure I saw glimpses but I never saw the raw and real experience of parenthood. It was just not something that was socially acceptable. Even as a young woman, it was all so foreign to me and so I didn’t have a language to shape meaning around this journey into motherhood. So I created this story of ideals in my head about what it was going to be like… based around what little I had been exposed too, majority of that being through distorted views of reality that the media portrays. Focused on all the fun and joy of sentimental moments… the kind you seen on huggies commercials!
The mothers I saw were immaculate well groomed, smiling, pleasant and even tempered. A little over protective but also very social with their mum clubs and play groups.
Truth is, I’ve felt like I’ve done most of this gig alone… and I remember looking at my first born at 2am one morning, with projectile vomit all over me, screaming out to a partner that wouldn’t wake, thinking…
“It’s just you and me bubba… just you and me”
I have felt like a failure so many times I’ve lost count. I have felt like the biggest fuck up as a mother and wanted to run away from it all. I’ve compared myself to other mother’s that appeared to just be a natural at this gig.
Being a mother of multiple children, you dabble with themes of neglect… sometimes the needs of one child are prioritised over the needs of the other… especially when there is a big age gap. It’s a challenge!
I have felt like my dreams and goals had to be sacrificed in order to honour my duty and role of mother…
I didn’t know that I could find balance between the two.
That’s one way I’ve tried to do my part in bridging the gap… especially as a young mother who became pregnant years before my friends did. I made a point to be open and honest… to be transparent with my experience… to give voice to the realities of pregnancy and birth… sharing comedic insight into the aftermath your bits endure after giving birth… showing friends the changes in my body, my darker areola… what colostrum looks like and why its super important (one friend even wanted to taste it) i’ve been super open about my struggle with colic, oral/nipple thrush, mastitis… of bedwetting and emotional meltdowns when your child is being aggressive and all you can do is hold them. I’ve been open about the time I completely lost my cool and smacked Auruara.. the only time it ever happened and I was so guilty and ashamed of myself.. only to have her wake and slap me across the face… which made me laugh cos I deserved it.
I let my children see the very human side of me… when my buttons are pushed and i’m not coping… when I haven’t slept well from a bed full of limbs that kick you in the night… I let them know so that they can monitor my behaviour also, just like I do them… cos we are family… and we’ve got each others backs
But sometimes the shame is still there, sure it comes and goes.. usually marked with questions such as “did I just do the right thing?” how will this affect them long term? What is the emotion behind this behaviour and how am I contributing to it?
When you realise that you are responsible for shaping another person’s world view, their imprints and belief constructs… suddenly the pressure becomes paramount and such an enormous task to navigate clearly.
You begin to realise that you can only strive to do the best you can at the time.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” – Maya Angelou
You begin to realise that your role as a mother is to raise your children with a sense of trust, safety and also giving them the freedom to explore and make mistakes. To develop a strong sense of autonomy. You can’t protect them from the world, your job is to prepare them with tools to help them navigate through their journey as best that they can, whilst being kind and caring to themselves and others.
You realise that children will perceive the world through a different lense, and that no matter how hard you try… sometimes they do not see or experience life the way you had hoped or intended… sometimes things that seem so insignificant to you as an adult, have deep and profound meaning to a child… and so all you can do is listen and respond with presence… even if it bores you completely. Knowing that sometimes you will not be able to help them… you are not their everything…
Sometimes your children will hurt and if they let you, you can hold them with your nurturing embrace
Sometimes your children will hurt others, and you will be a pillar of strength, a role model of discipline whom they look up to to decipher what is morally right and wrong.
I write this from the perspective of a pregnant mother, with an 8year old and a 2year old at home… I listen to my peers who have navigated the hormonal teenage years and I wonder what those seasons will bring…
I hope and pray that the foundational work I have invested in my children sets them up to be responsible young individuals. I hope they love fiercely and live courageously to fulfill their dreams, and support others in theirs.
I have claimed my own style of mothering, and I know that it is different to how my mother parented me, and how other family members and friends parent their own children. Journeying with women over the years in my facilitated Sacred Circles, Red Tents and Womb Temples, I have made peace with my own expression of motherhood by listening to the stories of other mothers.
I am not perfect and I do not wish to be.
I just want to be real.
I am not the fully domestically organized, baking from scratch ‘crunchy’ mama goddess with an exceptionally neat home, manicured yard etc. nope…
My home life has not been one that boasts the stability of a nuclear family. My children all have different dad’s and I’m not ashamed of that at all.
Sorry not sorry!
My kids aren’t extremely well mannered children, but they do mean well. They are a little wild, loud and curious… asking lots of questions… they are weird and quirky, they push boundaries and talk back. They are also incredibly sensitive, respectful, sweet and well adjusted to change. They are learning their world from many different teachers.
I am not their everything, and nor do I wish to be.
It truly does take a village to raise a child, but it also takes a tribe to raise a parent… and a family.
May we all learn from each other, may we all share our vulnerabilities and struggles with other so that we may learn and inspire each other to grow.
There have been times where I have isolated myself out of fear of being judged. and mostly, I judged myself harshly… super critical at all my faults, I left no space to celebrate what I was good at.
Hiding in shame serves no one.
Now, I openly embrace my raw and messy motherhood journey. I admit that most of the time I am winging it… with our best interests at heart, I still have blindspots. I make mistakes, and I learn and implement new ways.
I treat the journey of mothering with curiosity… who knows where this journey leads or what is to come. I do know that I love my children dearly. They add a deeper sense of purpose to my life and the courage to rise… to be the best version of myself.
For that I am eternally grateful.