Okay, I know. Mother’s Day is past, but it has taken me a few days to get my head on straight in order to write this post.
Mother’s Day has become to be a kind of…demarcation? Benchmark? Report Card? Whenever Mother’s Day comes around I always feel melancholy and reflective, more so than on my birthday or New Year’s Day. Mother’s Day has come to be the day that I look back over the previous year and see how well I’ve done.
Unfortunately for me, this last year has been a tough one…the last few years have been tough in fact, but whereas this time last year I felt I had been making progress, this year I feel that I’ve been doing the dreaded cha-cha…one step forward, two steps back.
Anxiety and depression are hard taskmasters to live with. They are the voices that tell you you can’t, you won’t, and you never will. Some days they are the stronger voices, the ruling voices and some days they are just background noise. This last year, I have had more days of them being the strong voices.
To anyone who has not really suffered from these ailments, it might seem a bit of a cop-out to say that these voices are stronger, that they can dictate how you feel, how you act. I say that to myself quite a bit actually, because inside my head I still have a rational brain and that brain tells me that the voices lie. And then I feel guilty. Guilty because I am letting the voices win which only makes me more depressed and more anxious. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
That guilt has been the ruling emotion this year. Guilt that I am not being the mother, wife, human being that I should be, that I could be. I feel guilty that I am letting everyone down, that I am causing my children and my husband undeserved stress by my inability to function as a normal, well-adjusted person. And that guilt only does more harm. It causes me to pull away from friends and family. It causes me to think and say things like, ‘You’d be better off without me.’ But that is not the truth, that is just the guilt lying to me.
I think a lot of mothers (and fathers too) feel guilt. I think a lot of us feel that we are not doing it right, that we are, in some way, doing our children a disservice. We all want the best for our kids, we want them to become healthy, intelligent, well-adjusted humans who are successful in whatever they choose to do and we feel we are responsible for them achieving that. And we carry the guilt if they don’t.
Guilt causes us to do and say things that can sometimes have the opposite effect than the one we intended. It causes us to be overly critical, overly hard, or sometimes, overly permissive. There’s a delicate balance in parenting, the one between too hard and too soft, and we walk that tightrope every single day. And then we beat ourselves up because we think we’ve done it wrong.
I don’t have an answer for that, only to say that the only thing we can do is do our best. Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual (although there are a myriad of books on parenting available and most will contradict each other). Every child is different, every child needs different things, our only job is to love them in the best way we know how.
So, my point? Mums, give yourselves a break. We are not perfect and, yeah, we are going to get it wrong sometimes and that’s okay. Love covers a plethora of sins and if your kids know that you love them, then you will get through those mistakes together. Showing, telling and giving love to your kids is the most important thing, everything else is just set dressing.