Friday, October 22, 2010
Lately I've been thinking a lot about mothering & children. The long drives up and down the highway have given me some space to reflect. Watching my kids growing up, and away from toddler/preschool hood, and one growing into adulthood, has also given me much to think about. Driving home late one night recently I suddenly saw two sets of eyes shining bright in my headlights, a mumma possum scurrying across the road with her baby on her back. Luckily I braked in time and they crossed safely. This brave mother was so beautiful to watch and again made me think of what an important part we play in the lives of our children.
What also prompted me to consider this major part of my life was a couple of comments from two mums I got chatting to last week. After talking of the challenges they were facing with their children both said that if they had their time over they would not have had children. If they had known how hard it would be they would not have chosen to become mothers. Could I say the same? Did I judge them or admire their honesty?
The truth is that I haven't ever felt like that, and no I don't judge them and I do think it's a good thing that they were honest about how they felt. I see what they are expressing as an indication of how hard parenting can be at times, how challenging and stressful. As a mother I've certainly had many moments where I've felt overwhelmed, out of my depth, desperate, hopeless, resentful, even bullied! But I guess these times really don't stand out as major memories, more like moments that I got through, that I coped with, that helped me to grow as a mum.
I remember many times when I had patiently got through the long day at home with three or four little ones and then losing my cool over something small. Then I would feel like a failure, a bad mum, because I yelled or said something I regretted. These little instances didn't make me a bad person, they didn't even change all the good parenting that came before. No one is perfect and we need to allow ourselves to make mistakes, to be human. Happily these kind of times are few and far between these days as my children are more self sufficient and older, and perhaps I'm more relaxed too.
Sometimes when people hear I have five children there is a sense that I am a bit of an expert, that I am some kind of super mum. Let me tell you I'm definitely not! But I guess I have learnt a lot along the way and I do have a great sense of pride & joy at my relationships with my kids. We are close but I think I also give them space to be themselves. They are loved & looked after and they are learning that they have responsibilities to themselves & others. Each new stage they go through brings new challenges but I try to roll with these, trying to find ways to adapt while helping them too.
I've been thinking about what we bring to motherhood. All the bits & pieces from our own childhood that make up who we are. The snapshots and memories, the hurts & hiccups that form us. As a child I started school at four years of age, a tiny thing who really didn't cope well with school. I'm sure this impacted on me throughout my school life, and later as well. Because of this I made sure my kids went to school when they were ready, which meant holding two of them back rather than sending them early. An excellent decision!
Then there is my friend who has an anxiety condition, trichotillomania, which is the pulling out of hair, in her case her eyelashes. Until I read her 'story', which she presented at an Anxiety discussion evening I didn't fully understand why she always stayed with her children until they went to sleep at night. She did this because she had begun her own journey with anxiety by pulling her hair out when alone in bed. Of course she worried about her own kids doing the same thing. It was a real light bulb moment for me as I realised how much this had impacted on her life and then her own children's' lives.
I'm sure all of us bring many things to our roles as mums. It's not all easy is it? From my own perspective I find being a mother to be the best thing I've ever done. The most challenging but the most fulfilling. I just love being with my gang and watching all the personalities develop. I don't, however, always love the picking up of assorted items of the floor, the cleaning of toilets, the endless food preparation & the crazy piles of school notes, and papers that pile up on every surface. But hey, sometimes it's a good thing to try and relax and not worry too much about housework or bits of paper. To loosen up and not try to control every element of life. It all gets done in the end.
As the mum of a now 18 year old it's been particularly satisfying seeing Charlotte becoming such a grounded & confident girl. She seems so sure of herself as a person and has a bright future ahead of her. I have found myself reflecting on myself at the same age, which has made me sad at times. I struggled with life when I was teenager, and looking back I can see I was probably depressed. Drugs, pregnancy, low self esteem, lack of direction & motivation and all that came with it - I was really a lost soul in many ways. I think of my own mum and how hard this must have been for her. I'm so lucky to have a mum who has always supported me along the way, for her love & care I am forever grateful.
Someone said to me recently that these kind of experiences make us who we are (if we survive them!) and I guess that's true. I am such a different person now and I hope a good mum to my kids. I really value my role as a mum, as I value all the mums. Having had four of my kids so close together I have seen how challenging it can be. Getting through post natal depression and coming out the other side to enjoy my kids & have a fulfilling life was huge. Perhaps we don't give mothering the respect it deserves, it's a BIG BIG job and most of the time we do it really well. So give yourself some love today and remember what you are doing is so important. Whether you work or at at home, or both, your job as a mum is one of a kind. What you give to your kids today they will take into their lives forever.
Looking through photo's to add to this post I have been really struck by the gorgeous colour & fun & love in my life. The happy, crazy, smiley faces that have been jumping out at me are so beautiful. What a lucky girl I am. And I'm thinking too of the funny, loving things the kids say sometimes. Last week I was so tired and grumpy in the car on the way to Ballarat. "I can't HELP being so tired!!" I ranted. Quietly from the back came Rosie's voice, "No, you're right. And you can't help being so beautiful either." It was hard to be grumpy after that!
Now I'm off to hang out some washing in the sunshine, chat to the ducks & chooks, fold a huge pile of washing, run up to school to help with lunch orders, finish a bunny for the shop, a probably a million other things as well! Hope you are having a happy day lovelies, see you soon xo