Well tomorrow is Mother’s Day.
Since becoming a mother, I have had a love/hate relationship with this day.
Before motherhood I always thought I was going to be a brilliant mother. I wanted to be a mother and couldn’t wait to fall pregnant. I just knew that my pregnancy would be trouble-free, I would “glow” and my labour would be pure joy…well, I was wrong (understatement). I am a horrible pregnant woman and I definitely didn’t “glow”. As for labour, well, let’s just say when other pregnant women ask me about my birthing experience, I tell them they would be advised to speak to someone else as mine was not “ideal”. So all in all, pregnancy and me, not a good combination.
But all was not lost! Surely I would be the best mother ever…what I discovered was that motherhood in no way resembled my fantasies. When I brought home my little treasure I was completely overwhelmed. I knew what a mother should do and feel, but I found it extremely hard to do and feel those things. I struggled to breastfeed, I couldn’t stay awake for night feeds and I felt so unhappy all of the time. Motherhood was definitely not turning out to be what I thought and then the guilt started to set in.
I was later diagnosed with post-natal depression and although it gave a name to what I was feeling, it made the guilt worse. Good mother’s don’t get depressed.
It wasn’t long before I felt the desire to have another child. We tried for a long time before falling pregnant again and then it all started over again. Pregnancy and me don’t go well and labour second time round was no picnic. Everyone told me I would not suffer from post-natal depression a second time and if I did, I had a good support network around me.
Well, I did suffer depression and nobody in my support network picked it up. This time I had to be medicated during my treatment. Another bad pregnancy, traumatic labour and bout of post-natal depression led to me feeling like I was the worst mother in the world.
But life goes on and mother’s are expected to carry on without complaining. During my children’s younger years, I was a stay at home mum. This was my choice and I believed that this was the way to be a good mother. But to be truly honest with you, I did not enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong…I love my kids dearly, but I did not get fulfilment out of staying home looking after them, doing housework and making sure dinner was on the table on time. I wanted to work outside the home, I wanted to achieve something for myself. This made me feel so guilty. Mother’s are supposed to be selfless and what I wanted made me feel selfish.
It all came to a head one mother’s day when I was listening to a friend of mine share how much she loved being a mother. She felt so fulfilled and complete with her three children around her and she couldn’t ask for anything more. At the time this compounded my guilt into something that completely overwhelmed me and I flipped out. It is a credit to my husband that he stuck with me through that time. I was a horrible person to be around and then I had a revelation.
All the previous words were not written to make you feel bad, but they were necessary to set the scene. You see, I had a very skewed belief about what motherhood should be. Our past experiences, the environment we grow up in and the influence of media in our lives all play a part in shaping how we see things. I could never live up to what I thought being a good mother was because that was not how I was created. Yes, my friend felt fulfilled by motherhood, but that didn’t mean that I had to be. She was created with that already in her psyche. Now that her children are grown, she is a preschool teacher and is mothering other children…that is who she is. My needing to have something outside the home to fulfil me was not an indicator of whether I was a good mother or not. Motherhood does not mean that I should put aside my own dreams and desires. Being a mother does not mean I stop being a person.
So, I have said all of this in order to say this…being a good mother can not be put in a box. Being a stay at home mum is great, if you can do it, but that doesn’t mean you are not a good mother if you go to work. Your children can thrive and grow and be well adjusted either way. You may think that homeschooling is the way to go or you may feel that homeschooling would be the death of you so you decide to send you kids to public school…both decisions are correct. You may grow and make all your own food or the supermarket may be your best friend. These are not the things that make you a good or a bad mother. Being a good mother is more than that.
Here is my check list of what makes a good mother:
- Are you happy? If you have happiness in your life, your children will know happiness
- Are your children clothed appropriately? This does not mean designer brands, it just means that they have season appropriate clothing and it is clean and in good repair.
- Are your children fed? Homemade or store bought, it doesn’t matter as long as they are getting the nutrition they need
- Are your children clean? Do they bathe at least once a day?
- Do you have fun with your kids? All work and no play is no fun for anyone
- Are you a good role model for your kids? This can take many shapes and forms but ultimately it comes down to asking yourself if you are a well adjusted, functioning and contributing member of society.
- Do you encourage your children to be the best they can be? This doesn’t mean your children have to be THE best, just THEIR best
- Do you tell them you love them? I know sometimes we don’t like our children, but they should always know that we love them.
This is not by all means an extensive list, but these are what I think are the priorities, these are the things that I try to get right. Don’t take this list and use it to beat yourself up, being a mother is not easy and doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Motherhood is always a work in progress; just when you think you’ve got it figured out, your children grow up and then the dynamic changes again!
If there is one thing that I think is the most important, it is to be present in your children’s life…indifference is the worst thing.
So be encouraged! Enjoy motherhood, whatever that means to you.